All Raise Hires Silicon Valley Vet Pam Kostka As First CEO
It’s been a year since All Raise entered the public eye as the preeminent organization working to advance women in venture capital and Silicon Valley. On the heels of that milestone, the group has named its first CEO: Silicon Valley veteran Pam Kostka.
Kostka might not be a household name, but she’s well known within Silicon Valley as the person you call to get things done. Part of the Bay Area tech scene since 1995, Kostka has guided startups through two initial public offerings, three acquisitions, and plenty more of the “inevitable shutdowns or wind-downs.”
Most recently, she served as chief executive of the campus life app Loop, a role that exemplified her specialty: adding expertise to early-stage startups by stepping into the CEO job. Indeed, that’s essentially what she’s doing at All Raise, where she’s taking over from the organization’s nearly three-dozen founding members.
“Our industry has dug itself into a hole after decades and decades of pretending to be a meritocracy, and that’s not going to be fixed in a year,” All Raise founding member Aileen Lee of Cowboy Ventures tells Fortune. “It takes fantastic leadership, professional management, and setting KPIs to improve them over time. I’m proud of what we’ve figured out as an all-volunteer team, but there’s no substitute for great leadership.”
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All Raise began its CEO search about nine months ago, with a committee of volunteers seeing candidates from all over the country and with a variety of backgrounds both within and outside of tech. It ended up with a tech insider—but one whose experience lands on the founder side as opposed to the VCs who dominated All Raise’s initial launch. Other startups on Kostka’s resume include Bluebox Security, Nina Marketing, VitruOz Inc., Sabrix, Arena Solutions, Extensity, and her first in 1995, Connect, Inc.
Throughout her 24 years in Silicon Valley, Kostka encountered many of the problems All Raise is working to correct. Its stated mission is to double the percentage of female partners at venture firms from 9% to 18% in 10 years and increase the percentage of venture capital funding going to startups with a female founder from 15% to 25% in five years.
When Kostka joined the startup BlueBox Security in 2014, she says its staff was made up of 53 men and one woman. “They were very open to change, but there was a lack of awareness, a lack of an ‘aha!’ moment,” she says. And out of the five boards Kostka has served on, she’s only ever sat side-by-side with one fellow female board member. “All the things we stand for at All Raise were part of my experience,” she says.
Kostka is only All Raise’s second full-time employee. The first was communications director Steffi Wu, who started in the role last month; all other work had been done by volunteers. One of Kostka’s first tasks will be hiring more full-timers, starting with a data strategist, and continuing to grow the $4 million in funding the organization—which is on its way to being certified as a 501(c)3 but awaiting government approval—raised from Pivotal Ventures and Silicon Valley Bank. All Raise has seen interest from groups in Australia, Abu Dhabi, and other countries and cities that want to start their own chapters, but hasn’t been able to follow through yet; it’s also interested in expanding its inclusion of founders and VCs outside the Bay Area.
“It wasn’t, ‘let’s find someone who’s an unsung hero,'” Lee says of All Raise’s choice to hire Kostka, “but it retrospect it makes sense.”