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JUNE 30, 2000

Working to Create an Old-Girls Network

A former top P&G exec backs women with venture capital, as other female-centric firms get into the act


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Few women in the venture-capital community understand the power of branding better than Isabella Capital founder Peg Wyant, a former general manager for Procter & Gamble. Now, Wyant wants to brand Isabella Capital the top venture-capitalist firm led by women, specializing in women's startups.

Introduced to the VC world in 1980 by her venture-capitalist husband, Jack, Peg Wyant joined him in 1992 in launching Blue Chip Venture in Cincinnati. However, she grew dissatisfied with Blue Chip's efforts to reach out to women and decided to start Isabella CapitalWHEN?, also in Cincinnati.

"Some people say you don't need a gender-specific firm, but I think it's like Wellesley and Radcliffe -- if it hadn't been for them, Harvard wouldn't have admitted women in 1975," says Wyant, who graduated magna cum laude from Smith College and was the highest-ranking female at P&G for 15 years. "I hope eventually there will be no need, but right now it serves a great purpose."

SHE'S NOT ALONE. Wyant isn't the only woman VC focusing on women-owned businesses. At least four other funds are managed by women that would like to do the same: Triton Ventures in Austin, Tex.; International Venture Fund in Menlo Park, Calif.; Axxon Capital in Boston; and Inroads Capital Partners in Evanston, Ill. (Solera Capital in New York is managed by women, but its investment strategy doesn't have that focus.)

Three women-owned firms are backed by the U.S. Small Business Administration: Capital Across America (CXA) in Nashville; Women's Growth Capital Fund in Washington, D.C.; and Viridian Capital in San Francisco.

While Wyant's $6 million fund is already bigger than some of the others, it's dwarfed by Viridian and CXA, which each manage $25 million or more. That could change, though: Wyant says she'll put together a $100 million fund by next year.

By Kevin Ferguson


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