Mike Maples: Why I created a female dominated VC firm
Last month, we were joined on stage at Pandoland by Floodgate Fund founder, Mike Maples.
I’d already done the full two hour, this-is-your-life-Mike-Maples interview at PandoMonthly last year, so we focused our most recent conversation on two debates raging through the Valley.
The first was about gender in venture capital. The discussion was topical in the wake of the Ellen Pao trial and at a Pandoland that had more women in the audience than men, but also relevant because Maples is one of the lone men in his firm.
He says he disagrees with both of the main points people make in the Valley: either that men are pigs, or that it’s a meritocracy. You can look at the numbers and know the latter simply isn’t true. A big reason he set his firm up differently is that he argues too much male energy, or too much female energy, is bad for decision-making and “truth-seeking.”
“Not only do I not think of it as right, I think of it as an unnatural way for business to happen,” he said.
He described most venture firms’ overly “testosterone-driven decision process” that can “get people too dug into their points.” In his meetings, he’ll make a point and then later in the meeting admit he didn’t really know what he was talking about.
“If you just have too much of one thing or another, cultural norms just take over,” Maples said.
The second topic was something we don’t totally agree about: Is it OK for VCs to back and offer blanket support to total assholes?
He threw the elephant in the room out there immediately, arguing firms like his invest so early you frequently don’t know.
“I’m very sympathetic," he said, "to the First Round Capital guys when someone says, ‘Well how could you invest in Uber?’ There’s just no way to know some of what was going to happen.”
Maples is an investor in Lyft and has tweeted before that he’s glad he’s in the “nice” company.
That said, Maples makes a lot of excuses for the current wave of “messy capitalism,” drawing parallels between “trustbusters” and even Robber Barons. Watch the video and decide if you think he’s letting bro culture off the hook.
Towards the end of the video, he closed with an impassioned defense of outgoing Twitter CEO Dick Costolo.
“The first thing I’d like to do is have a public chance to thank Dick Costolo for the job he did,“ he said. “Some people may criticize him but you’ll never see me be one of those. He took over the company when he had crazy drama and all kinds of stuff to deal with and made my stock 30 times more valuable in less than five years, and built a real team... took it public. I remember a year ago everyone was saying Twitter was the Anti-Facebook and had their act together on this IPO... There is something vexing about that company where people are just bipolar in their opinions of it.”
He drew the line at too much sympathy for Costolo’s “what have you done for me lately?” war with Wall Street.
“There are two billion in poverty in the world," he said, "so I don’t worry too much about people who get rich running companies having scrutiny."
Watch the full video below: