Venture capitalist Theresia Gouw Ranzetta sees opportunity where others see obstacles. While many lament the lack of women at the top, Gouw Ranzetta offers a high-tech strategy to beat the odds. "The fastest way to make it into the C-suite or the boardroom of a Fortune 500 company is to go start a company which becomes a Fortune 500 company," she told me during an interview for Bloomberg TV's "Women to Watch."
"It's wonderful to have women like Ginni Rometty, and more women in the C-suite in traditional Fortune 500 companies. But that's a 25- or 30-year path. I don't know anybody in Silicon Valley who can think in 25 years."
Gouw Ranzetta started a company, Release Software, right out of Stanford business school. While it wasn't a straight shot to the C-suite, it did lead her to one of Silicon Valley's most prominent venture capital firms, Accel Partners. An early investor in Facebook, Accel has some of the biggest names in consumer tech in its portfolio, including Groupon and Kayak.
One of only two women on Forbes' Midas List of the top 100 venture capitalists, Gouw Ranzetta is one of the firm's rising stars -- bringing in more than a billion dollars in revenue through her savvy investments. Focusing primarily on Internet and software companies, her portfolio includes: Glam, Hotel Tonight, Mod Cloth and publicly traded Imperva and Trulia. She says tech trends like mobile, social and the consumer web are creating top-tier opportunities for women.
"What I'm seeing at the early stage -- probably now, well, especially for the commerce-oriented businesses: At least a third of the founding teams have a female founder or CEO, or both. And that's a real change from five or 10 years ago," she told me.
In the data-driven climate of the valley, Gouw Ranzetta says consumer Internet companies understand that women are powerful drivers of traffic and engagement:
Sixty percent of their subscribers are female. It mirrors Internet demographics, which is now 60 percent female. When they look at the 'shares,' 66 percent to 70 percent of the sharing occurs with women. I think that's a similar stat for content shares on Facebook. So you can see the actual power of why the social web, as the substrate, changes the nature and importance of women being part of the conversation.
Gouw Ranzetta insists that this is a positive trend." For the first time," she notes, "I actually see male co-founders and male co-founding teams who are explicitly looking to bring women into the executive team or the founding team."
Gouw Ranzetta is among a handful of highly accomplished and high-profile women in tech who are encouraging more women to break through the silicon ceiling. Take a look at how she's gotten to the very top echelon of tech.