To Seeing More Women on Cap Tables

Jana Iris
5 min readNov 4, 2022

I woke up this morning feeling so inspired.

Last night, I attended the Modern Angels Summit hosted by Robby, a partner at Cowboy Ventures. I was surrounded by 100 incredible women and non-binary angels and investors. I felt like crying. I was overcome with joy seeing so many people like me building successful careers in a field I never thought was a path available to me.

I shared a story last night about being at Nasdaq during the HashiCorp IPO and how nervous I was to talk to the early investors we invited to attend this special day. In my mind, they were these legendary, untouchable figures. Who was I to talk to them even though I had helped build an iconic company? I remember one of the investors coming up to me that morning and telling me after Mitchell and Armon, I was one of the most influential people at the company. I shrugged them off. They still made me nervous!

Ten months later, I’ve built genuine relationships with those investors realizing they’re just like us, but have more years of experience and had great outcomes, and I’ve co-invested in deals with them. I’ve made 14 angel investments in companies, including Spacelift, Charm, SuperTokens, and CloudQuery. I’m about to switch from being an angel and advisor to investing full-time at a small but mighty firm called TQ Ventures. We’re a team of four that raised our third fund of $500M in February of this year, which we split across an early and growth fund. We’re approaching venture our way by building deep relationships, being as helpful as possible to founders, and creating our own rules. I’ve had the chance to become friends with and be mentored by people in this industry I deeply respect. I feel utterly grateful. (Thank you Amit Kumar, AZ, Grace Isford, Michael Stoppelmen and Oana Olteanu)

I’m in no way an expert, and I’m just getting started, but here’s how I approached breaking into the investing world and some resources I found helpful. If there are other resources I should add, please let me know!

Helpful Tips

I’ve been working in tech for 15 years, having had the opportunity to be a part of six early-stage startups. I never paid attention to the investment side of the industry. It wasn’t a path I thought was available to me. In January, I made my first investment in a company called Gabbi founded by Kaitlin Christine. A mutual friend connected us. This sparked my interest in this world, and I dove in head first.

  • I treated this time as getting an MBA in venture.
  • The barrier to entry has gotten a lot lower or is more attainable than I initially realized. You don’t need to invest $100k; it’s ok to ask to put in a smaller check, even $1k.
  • Set aside a specific $ amount that you feel comfortable with potentially never seeing a return on.
  • Develop your own investment framework. This means the criteria for how you evaluate which company you want to invest in.
  • I set aside my ego. I would reach out to people I admired on LinkedIn and Twitter to see if they’d be willing to talk to me. I tried to meet with as many people in venture as I could.
  • Never be transactional. Always try to be as helpful as possible.
  • Build a personal brand. Learn how to tell your story, and clearly articulate what makes you different. What experiences have you had that could be of value to early-stage startups?
  • Join as many angel lists, Slacks, and investment groups as you can. The Modern Angels group is a great one to start with.
  • Seek out mentors. Don’t be afraid to ask. The partners at TQ Ventures have taken me under their wings and have been slowly teaching me everything they know about investing.
  • Become a sponge. Dedicate time to learning.
  • Once you’ve made your first investment, add that to your social profiles. You can now call yourself an investor. More will come. (This advice pains me, but it’s important to put that out there.)
  • Keep going even if you feel frustrated or intimidated at times. Never forget that you have value and deserve to be on that cap table.

Resources

Books

Blogs and newsletters

Podcasts

It has become my mission to continue sharing my story in hopes that it inspires other women to realize they can have a successful career in tech as a founder, exec, partner at a VC firm, or whatever role they want. I’m not technical, I’ve never been the smartest person in the room, I still deal with imposter syndrome, but I keep driving forward. I want to wake up every day feeling inspired and excited by the work I get to do and the people I connect with. I’ve never compromised on that. I spent 15 years becoming a successful community builder, and now I can’t wait to spend the next 15+ years becoming a legendary investor at TQ Ventures.

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Jana Iris

Builder of developer communities. Ex-HashiCorp, from tenth employee thru IPO. Investor at TQ Ventures