Women In Silicon Valley VC Firms: Equal Partners Or Just Publicists?
I used to know Margit Wennmachers, co-founder of Outcast Communications, a prominent San Francisco PR firm, fairly well and noted with interest when a press release in mid-2010 announced she had left Outcast and joined the VC firm Andreessen Horowitz as a partner.
I remember thinking that it was a good move for her, she had diligently stayed on for her earn-out years following the sale of Outcast to Next Fifteen Communications in 2005, and now she could sit back a bit and invest her hard earned wealth.
She has seen hundreds of startups in her work in PR, she's worked with many, and rejected far more. She has developed a good nose for successful businesses. That kind of experience is rare and now, I thought, it will be put to work in ways far more valuable than figuring out which journalist to pitch a news release to.
But, in reading today's New York Times article: Venture Capital Firms, Once Discreet, Learn the Promotional Game, it seems that she's more in-house PR flack than VC partner. I was quite disappointed.
She's extensively quoted as a spokesperson for the VC firm, she talks about her strategy of getting coverage for Marc Andreessen and Ben Horowitz, through dinner parties and more. Her firm has invested in blog sites such as Pando Daily. She even tells Messrs Andreessen and Horowitz what not to wear.
That doesn't sound like a VC partner but more like an employee working as an in-house publicist. I don't know any VC firm partners that do the things she does -- they hire people to do those things.
There's quite a few that can do a good job as a publicist but there's far fewer with the experience of Ms Wennmachers. Why not focus her talents on finding great startups instead of pitching stories about how brilliant the VC firms founders are at "self-promotion?"
Is this another example of Silicon Valley VC firms' old boy attitude towards women in their profession?
Looks can be deceiving, I will agree, but this looks like a very familiar situation to me.