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April 10, 2013

Theresia Gouw: Silicon Valley Big Shot


Photo Credit: Julia Galdo

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MC: You're a mother of two and on the road 100 days a year. How do you make that work?

TG: I'm really fortunate to have a lot of family nearby. My mom and dad live about five miles away, and I have a terrific nanny. When I don't travel, I live within a really small radius—eight blocks between my office, both of my kids' schools, and my house. So on the 265 days when I'm not traveling, I really don't go very far. When I'm here, I'm really here.

MC: What do you make of Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer's six-week maternity leave?

TG: I think it's a very individual decision, and no one should tell anyone what to do. The fact is you don't know until you're in it. I myself ended up coming back after a few weeks. We should applaud Marissa whatever she decided. Male or female, pregnant or otherwise, she took a tough job, and I hope she's successful.

MC: You're one of just a handful of women in your profession. Why are women VCs still such a rare breed?

TG: I've been here 14 years, and, in the past five alone, I've already seen a lot of positive changes. It all starts with the entrepreneurs. Most VCs have some sort of background in tech companies. Founders also often have a technical undergraduate degree and an MBA. At each step along the way, the numbers of women are getting better. Business school is something like 40 percent female now. So, as we start to improve the numbers upstream, then we'll have more women entrepreneurs who will then become investors and possibly venture capitalists.

MC: I've heard there's a strong camaraderie among the women in Silicon Valley. Facebook chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg's dinner parties, for example, are legendary. What are some ways women in this "sorority" support one another?

TG: Everybody is really good about making referrals. I know several people who are part of Sheryl's network and have been added to public company boards recently—I'm pretty sure that's not a coincidence. I used to go to these women's networking events and not tell anyone I was going. Now people are trying to figure out when the next event is and ask, "Could you possibly say something to so-and-so because I know you're going to see them?" It's been wonderful to see it evolve, because it wasn't there not long ago.

MC: Rumor has it you own a massive collection of designer shoes. Do tell.

TG: If I had to guess, more than 100, but honestly, it's better not to know. My favorites are a pair of Valentino over-the-knee motorcycle boots—they're stylish and fun, but they're flat so I can wear them running around on the weekend. But I almost never buy shoes full price. Part of the fun is sorting through the sale rack at Neiman Marcus.

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