What Trident Capital’s First Female Partner Thinks We Need in VC
Good morning, Term Sheet Readers.
Robert Hackett here, filling in for Polina today.
The RSA Conference, the computer security industry’s biggest confab, kicked off in San Francisco this week. Originally, the event’s organizers booked just one woman for its keynote speaker lineup: Monica Lewinsky, a non-technologist who was once the center of scandal in former President Bill Clinton’s White House and who is now a cyber-bullying activist. The other 19 spots went to men.
In an attempt to address heavy criticism over the gender imbalance, the organizers revised the speaker list. The new one bills seven female keynote speakers out of 23 total, including Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen; Jane McGonigal, a game designer; and Reshma Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code, a non-profit organization that teaches software development to women. Much better.
It’s within this context that I present today’s newsletter: a Q&A with Myrna Soto, who has just been hired as the first female partner at Trident Capital Cybersecurity, a San Mateo, Calif.-based venture capital firm focused exclusively on digital security. Soto was formerly a senior vice president and global chief information security officer of Comcast. She sits on two public companies’ boards: Spirit Airlines and Consumers Energy. Last month she landed on Fortune’s “50 Most Powerful Latinas in Business” list for the second consecutive year. We’re fans of her work.
Here’s my conversation with Soto, edited for clarity and brevity.
RH: Being a Latina in an industry that is so predominantly male and white, how do you feel about the importance of diversity?
MS: Well, it’s certainly a very key pillar of mine from a leadership perspective. I’ve been an advocate, a diversity advocate, in every organization that I’ve been in. I’m proud to say that I’ve been many firsts. I’ve been the first woman to be in the room, the first Latina to be at that senior level at Comcast. It is very important to me that those firsts continue.
I’m very proud of the fact that this opportunity to join Trident will be another first. My mentees—or the people in the community who are watching and aspiring—they’re very encouraged when they see things like this.
What advice do you have for your followers?
Follow the passion without focusing on the impossible. In other words, “I’ll never get into venture capital because there’s not enough women in venture capital.” I say, you know what? My advice to you is to change that. Be part of that change. What is it that you need to do to be part of that, to position yourself for potential opportunity? Do not limit your desires based on what you may see today. You may see that the ecosystem doesn’t look like you, but the tide is changing.
What has your experience of serving on corporate boards taught you?
I don’t necessarily think that everybody in the boardroom needs to be a cyber expert, just like everybody in the boardroom doesn’t need to be a legal expert or a finance expert. But having that right balance of skill sets in the boardroom is incredibly effective.
Why did you decide to join the venture capital industry?
I was ready to make a jump and do something different. I wanted to apply all of my experience into something I’m really passionate about, which is the next phase of innovation around security, the ability to foster and nurture entrepreneurs.
As an ex-CISO, what advice do you have for the many startups at RSA Conference who are hoping to get attention and close deals?
The challenge becomes how are you any different than the problem that your next-door neighbor in the expo hall is trying to solve? I’ve been across the table being pitched to, so I understand the dynamics of what makes sense, what grabs the attention of a particular buyer. If I’m wearing my old CISO hat the question becomes what are you solving for me?
What areas of cybersecurity are you most interested in funding? What do you think the hot new trends are?
There are a lot of focus areas that are going to be key as we move forward. Analytics, threat intelligence, you could throw in there, if you’d like to use the buzzword of the year, artificial intelligence. I believe we still have a lot to do in the securing of our digital identities. Last but not least, the evaluation of potential blockchain technologies and how they may fit into cybersecurity from an audit-logging and information-sharing perspective. I think blockchain may have a play in managing our digital identities as well.
What are your goals as a VC?
Someone asked me personally what would I like to see in venture capital over the next five to 10 years. Well, I’d love to see a heck of a lot more women in partner roles. I’m not sure of the stats, but I know it’s very small today. I certainly want to see a higher percentage of investments for minority-owned startups and women-founded startups. I think it’s very, very critical. One of my core values is walking the talk, advocating for the communities that I represent.
Note from Lucinda: In yesterday's edition we mistyped the name of the firm funding video game maker Level Ex. It is OSF Ventures, not SF Ventures. We regret the error!
Send deals to Lucinda.Shen@Fortune.com.
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