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The Helm: Backing Female Founders and Fostering Female Investors

It’s a rare bio that includes both “women’s rights activist” and “venture capitalist.” Yet, Lindsey Taylor Wood says those two roles need not be at odds.

On the contrary, a passion for empowering women was precisely why she founded The Helm, a venture capital firm and investment community focused on female-led companies. And those unique strengths have already led to significant results: The New York-based firm’s first fund invested $1.5 million in 11 companies, and a $25 million second fund is in the works.

We sat down with Lindsey to talk about the importance of backing female founders and making it easy for women to invest in women.

How would you describe your background?

My professional background is in the women’s rights space, and I’ve worked in a number of different industries, including NGOs, media, early-stage technology companies and philanthropy. But the throughline for me has always been empowering girls and women.

What inspired you to make the leap to venture capital?

The "aha!" moment for me was around 2016. The data was showing that while a lot of money was going into the women’s rights space, we weren’t seeing the social returns I would have expected. In many areas, we were flat-lining or even going backward.

It made me ask: Why is philanthropy the only way we invest in women? And from there, how do we work toward proactively ensuring that these patterns don’t continue?

The Helm’s mission is to make it easier for women to invest in women. Why is this important?

Before I founded The Helm, I consulted with high-net-worth individuals and families to help them develop philanthropic strategies focused on empowering women. What I realized was that many women are confident about making decisions about their philanthropic dollars, but that isn’t the case when it comes to investing, especially in early-stage companies.

It struck me that men invested and women gave their money away. While philanthropy plays a major role, there is still a tremendous amount of wealth that women control, and that could be deployed in other ways.

How can women invest in empowering other women?

There are many ways women can participate in the economic success of other women. Being a conscious consumer is one great way to do it, and that’s why we launched our e-commerce site — to give female-founded companies, products and services a platform.

For other women, it may be  through membership in our investor community. Our focus is on finding a number of different ways we can invite women into the conversation, and then it’s sort of a "choose your own adventure."

How does The Helm's membership model work?

We launched our Investor Community Membership on March 8, and the goal is to build a community of women interested in supporting other women, as well as demystify angel investing and venture capital. Anyone can apply to be a member. While our focus for membership is early-stage, technology-enabled companies, we are looking forward to experimenting with investing in other sectors, like film or art.

The point is we want to create an environment where women — and that includes anyone who identifies as a woman — can become more financially literate, can ask questions and can then decide how they want to participate.

Does The Helm focus on any specific themes for venture capital?

By design, there isn’t one theme other than they are game-changing companies led by visionary women. We’ve invested in companies that range from plant-based foods to the sharing economy, wearable technology, women's healthcare and workforce management.

I’m really excited about this company, Realworld, and the founder, Genevieve Ryan Bellaire. It’s a platform that uses short, impactful education modules to help young adults make better “real world” decisions about such things as opening a bank account, getting insurance or applying for a mortgage. They then provide a curated list of service providers that fit specific criteria.

Will your members drive investment decisions in the future?

Absolutely. Everything my partners — Julie Weber, Megan Ananian and Olivia Fleming — and I have done at The Helm has been a collaborative effort. You build a great company by listening to what people want. And we want to be a place where people can not only ask questions but also bring their own ideas.

What is your long-term vision for The Helm?

A while ago, I decided my goal is to raise and invest a billion dollars in women before I die. At the time, it seemed like a reach, but now everyone is talking about female founders, and larger venture capital firms have gotten on board. Now, a billion dollars feels very achievable. I guess now I should say, "at least a billion."

Learn more about The Helm's Investor Community Membership.

The views of the interviewee of this article do not necessarily represent the views of First Republic Bank. This information is governed by our Terms and Conditions of Use.

First Republic Bank is not affiliated with and does not endorse The Helm or its investment program.  Potential investors should conduct their own diligence.  Investments in securities are not issued, guaranteed or endorsed by First Republic, are not bank deposits, are not insured by the FDIC or any other government agency and may lose value. 

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