The Founder of the AVG Women’s Fund Invests in Smart Deals and Smart Women
Gail Gilbert Ball is leading the latest fund from venture capital firm Alumni Ventures Group. As Senior Partner of the Women’s Fund, she will oversee the management of a portfolio of 20–30 diverse deals that invest in ventures led by women founders or focused on women’s issues. The fund has a unique approach to targeting deals, looking first for a promising investment, then applying a gender lens to those opportunities.
As an experienced financial service professional, enthusiastic venture capitalist, and long-time diversity advocate, Ball feels like she’s stepping into a role that was tailor-made for her.
Digging into your background in finance, there seems to be a parallel strand in your career devoted to diversity initiatives.
Indeed. I’ve been in finance my whole career, developing expertise in financial services, portfolio development, technology, and operations. At the same time, I was continuously honing my advocacy for my customers and colleagues above, around, and below me—raising all of us up. At executive positions at The Bancorp Bank, PNC Bank, Chase and Capital One, and NCO Financial Systems, I was able to serve in sponsorship roles in the diversity networks of these industry leaders. At my present company, Alumni Ventures Group, I recently led an initiative to help foster greater female diversity in our investor pool.
Where does your interest in venture capital come from?
I’ve been interested in venture capital for years, which led me to become actively engaged in the industry with Alumni Ventures Group. I was hired to head an AVG fund for alumni of my alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania. The fund allows Penn alums to back the ventures of fellow alums. That brought me to the front line of meeting entrepreneurs, evaluating deals, and building portfolios. It also put me into contact with investors and reinforced my belief in the variety of motivations for venture investing—including the double bottom line.
How have your experiences in finance and investing helped shape your decision to lead the Women’s Fund?
I’ve had ample opportunity to see how and where the money flows — and where it fails to flow.
One acute failure is in the funding of women and the tremendous loss of opportunity that results. As a self-professed numbers and data geek, I love to let the statistics tell the story — a habit since my college days (Economics degree, majors in Finance and Statistics from Wharton). So for a number of years, I’ve been watching the evidence build: women entrepreneurs and women-focused business are underfunded, yet investing in women makes good economic sense.
There are other funds that invest in women and women’s businesses. What do you think makes the AVG Women’s Fund different?
Yes, there are other funds new and old—and we applaud them and hope to co-invest alongside some. What makes us different is that we flip the traditional gender lens process. We look first for great deals, then apply our other fund criteria. Drawing on the US Sustainable Development Goal #5, we look for a female founder, and/or bsuiness outcomes that foster gender equality in access to health care, education, and/or economic betterment.
Where does your fund’s deal flow come from?
We leverage the tremendous deal flow from other actively managed funds under our parent company umbrella, Alumni Ventures Group. AVG focuses on making venture investing smart and simple for the millions of accredited investors who previously didn’t have access to this asset class.
To date, AVG funds have made nearly 200 investments in deals, each vetted for top co-investor, opportunity, team, moats, and more. The Women’s Fund winnows its own investments from that deal flow to create portfolios of 20–30 promising women-focused deals.
What do you hope to achieve in your role at the AVG Women’s Fund?
My role as Senior Partner for the Women’s Fund feels like the natural culmination of so many of my passions: finance innovation, workplace diversification, building smart businesses, and bettering society. It also feels like a chance to help correct the illogical and unwarranted imbalance in male/female venture funding.
The AVG Women’s Fund creates a portfolio of 20–30 diverse deals for investors seeking to back promising female founders and women-focused businesses.