Julian Guthrie, author of the new book “Alpha Girls,” touted the “extraordinary successes” of four Silicon Valley women at the May 30 Rotary Club of Los Altos meeting.
Guthrie, whose previous best-sellers spotlighted highly successful men like Larry Ellison (“The Billionaire and the Mechanic”), explores in “Alpha Girls” the drive and ambition of women who had the grit to take alpha positions at male-dominated venture capital firms. Guthrie defines “alpha girls” as “the women upstarts who took on Silicon Valley’s male culture and made the deals of a lifetime.”
The way upward in venture capital, Guthrie suggested, is to become an “everyday radical” or “tempered radical” while working at a company that is not always hospitable to women leaders. Their goal, Guthrie said, is to make the world more equitable.
Magdalena Yesil, MJ Elmore, Sonja Perkins and Theresia Gouw grew as “tempered radicals” to become major VC check-writers, according to Guthrie. She calls them “upstarts” whose names the general public does not yet recognize.
Yesil came to the U.S. from Turkey to earn an electrical engineering degree from Stanford University. She played an important role in the founding and early days of Salesforce.com.
Elmore drove from Indiana in an old Ford Pinto and became one of the first female partners at Institutional Venture Partners in Menlo Park.
Perkins graduated from Harvard University and was hired at Menlo Ventures on Sand Hill Road.
Gouw came to the U.S. via her Chinese immigrant parents in Indonesia. She graduated at the top of her class at Brown University and earned a Stanford MBA. With another successful woman venture capitalist, she co-founded her own firm, Aspect Ventures.
Guthrie said top management in VC firms is slowly becoming more diverse, though women still account for only 8 percent of all investing partners at such firms.
For more information on “Alpha Girls,” visit facebook.com/AlphaGirlsStories.
Marlene Cowan is a member of the Rotary Club of Los Altos. For more information, visit losaltosrotary.org.