Bain Capital Ventures
Bain Capital Ventures is tapping a Facebook and Quora veteran to become its first female investment partner, the latest in a tide of venture capital firms to make such a landmark hire.
The bicoastal VC firm’s new partner is Sarah Smith, a former Facebook sales manager and more recently a vice president of advertising sales and operations at Quora, the popular questions-and-answers site. Smith joins Bain Capital Ventures’ growing West Coast office, investing primarily in consumer internet, advertising tech, workplace software and marketplace startups.
Smith joins BCV after a few months of meeting with multiple firms to discuss fulltime investment roles. “When I thought about the next steps in my career, it seemed the best way to work with multiple companies,” she says. “It felt like the Bain team was thoughtful and data driven, so I could learn a lot and have a very powerful platform.”
Founded in 2001 as the venture capital arm of Bain Capital, BCV first operated in Boston and New York before adding its West Coast presence in 2011. Those operations now include about half the firm’s headcount, says Ajay Agarwal, a managing director heading up the California practice. The firm raised a $600 million fund in 2016 and similar funds slightly larger in 2014 and 2012, giving it about $3.8 billion in assets under management. Agarwal says the current fund isn’t fully called but declined to comment on the obvious: given the cadence of its raises, BCV is likely to raise another fund later in 2018.
“In our interactions with Sarah but also with the network of folks we back-channeled with, she’s got what we think are extraordinary people skills,” says Agarwal. “The quality of her network, the depth of her network and the way she interacts with founders all stood out.”
The role at BCV won’t be the first investing experience for Smith. She spent the last three years investing part-time as a partner at Graph Ventures, a seed-stage firm of active operators, many of them Stanford business school friends, for which she sourced and invested in more than 20 seed and Series A deals including BetterUp, Motion, Strive and Winnie.
Smith’s appointment is the latest in a string of hires across venture capital that are putting women in investment roles of power for the first time. Big-name firms such as Union Square Ventures, First Round and FirstMark added female partners late last year, as did BoxGroup in January. In April, Redpoint added Annie Kadavy as its first female partner; earlier this month, Twitter executive Jess Verrilli returned to Google-backed firm GV as a general partner. And just earlier this week, Greylock promoted Sarah Guo to be its youngest and only female GP.
While Smith is joining BCV’s senior investment team, she is not coming in at a managing director level, the firm’s rough equivalent to a GP role. Bain Capital Ventures has eight managing directors including Agarwal, seven of them investors, and three investors with partner titles including Smith. Its investment team is about 25 people overall.
Agarwal says that BCV made having a strong group of female candidates in its partner pool a priority, soliciting advice from leaders from women-led companies such as Rent The Runway and from standout female investors such as multiple members of All Raise, a group of several dozen female VC partners who are helping to lead efforts to improve diversity among funded founders and investors and the subject of Forbes’ April cover story.
“It’s an exciting time for all the partnerships in Silicon Valley to grow their diversity,” says Smith. “I do hope that this means VC can seem an awesome career for women to be pursuing. And that in 10 or 15 years, it’s a discussion that’s more in the rearview mirror.”
More Info: www.forbes.com