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Why Melinda Gates has been funding female VCs through her secretive investment firm

Polina Marinova writes, “Melinda Gates needs no introduction.

She has been the co-chair of The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation for 18 years. Now, she has quietly entered the venture capital world by investing in female-led or minority-focused venture firms like Aspect Ventures, Female Founders Fund, and Defy Partners.

“I am a big believer in disruptive innovation, but it’s been incredibly disappointing to watch how few women-led businesses are getting funded,” Gates told Fortune. “Ultimately, if we want more innovation and better products, we’ve got to put more money behind women and minorities. That wasn’t happening, so I decided to step in and see what I could do to help a little bit.”

Through Pivotal Ventures, her Seattle-based investment and incubation company, Gates is betting that non-traditional funds can bring outsize returns. In a conversation with Fortune, Gates discusses the role LPs play in the venture ecosystem, the long-lasting effects of the #MeToo movement, and what industry she’d like to see backed by more venture dollars.


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