This new series focuses on successful women in VC and rising stars who are making a big impact as investors and who are making a making positive impact on the venture ecosystem. For this edition, we spoke with Bethany George, Managing Director at Rev1 Ventures. Bethany shares details on her VC career, her work with VentureNext, and more!
Tell us about your career journey into venture capital.
Growing up in a small business owner family, I have been passionate about helping entrepreneurs and small business owners since I was a teen. Despite not knowing that venture capital existed, given that I am from a relatively small city/rural area where tech companies were few and far between, I thankfully stumbled upon a VC career here in my home state. At the same time, I was an undergrad student at Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. A classmate from undergrad introduced me to an office on Ohio University’s campus that helped small business owners, students, and researchers commercialize their technology. I was fortunate to secure a full scholarship to attend grad school with a stipend to work in that office, where I helped launch a small pre-seed fund called TechGROWTH Ohio, a first for the region! We started brainstorming the idea on a whiteboard, and it is fantastic to see it still in existence today. Shout out to TechGROWTH Ohio, who just had a large exit. $258M in the region is huge!
My aspirations after graduation were to help put Ohio on the map as a place for successful startups and high-quality entrepreneurial careers. So, I stayed on full-time after graduation as a founding member of the TechGROWTH team, helping to build out that fund and a spectrum of startup support services. I credit two key female influences in my role, who helped me get promoted to be an Executive-in-Residence before the age of 30 for Ohio University’s Innovation Center, one of the first university-based business incubators in the country. During that time, I built my network across the state to help support our companies. From those relationships, I learned about an opportunity in Columbus for an investment-specific role. That is how I landed at Rev1 Ventures going on seven years now.
At Rev1, a startup studio that combines capital and strategic services to help startups scale and corporates innovate, we connect entrepreneurs to talent, customers, space, and funding, helping entrepreneurs build great companies. With a proven track record of success, Rev1 is the most active seed investor in Ohio for the past seven years. We surpassed our goal of creating a cumulative $2B+ in economic impact for Central Ohio since 2013.
What are you most proud of so far in your career as a VC investor? (e.g., big investment/exit, notable meeting/public appearance, etc.)
In summer 2017, I co-founded VentureNext, a professional peer group of rising venture capital investors who managed and ran venture capital investment funds. Our members are based across the country and united by an interest in investing in Midwestern companies. VentureNext members get access to monthly deal-flow calls, exclusive networking events, educational resources, and mentorship. I led the group through January 2020 alongside a committee of eight, five of which were female. I shifted my focus in 2020 to co-lead our group’s mentorship program, which has matched 27+ mentees with seasoned VCs throughout the Midwest.
The VentureNext membership collectively has over 75 VC funds with $7B of assets under management and has enabled over $800M of syndication in investments across the Midwest. 2020 threw unexpected challenges at all of us. Under the leadership of two additional rising females in the industry, Ashley Alber and Liz Todia, our executive committee is proud of the work we all continue to do and looks forward to what 2021 will bring! We have a few exciting things we’re working on that are not quite ready for press.
What’s a company/sector/technology you’re particularly excited about?
One of my top strengths is learning; it is a tricky question to single out one sector. I love the process of learning across a multitude of areas. This bodes well for being a generalist investing in pre-seed to Series A stage companies where things evolve quickly! I love working with companies in the Advanced Materials & Manufacturing space one morning to Alternative Energy & Sustainability focused companies in the afternoon. Later that week, I may work with companies in Digital Health & Life Sciences sector and Enterprise Software & Data Analytics technologies. And the next week may bring Foodtech & Agtech, Insurtech & Fintech, and Internet of Things & Connected Devices companies. The economy is diverse here in Ohio. Central Ohio is home to several Fortune 500 companies, fantastic research institutions like The Ohio State University and Nationwide Children’s Hospital, and these knowledge bases and diverse industries foster interesting startups. If I had to pick something I’m particularly excited about, it’s the Midwestern region.
What piece of advice would you give yourself when you first entered the VC industry?
Talk to venture investors in an “informational interview” type of format – no matter their age and no matter their level within the fund and no matter where they are located. It is good to build your network, and they may be able to give you specific advice based on your previous experience.
Who has been your greatest mentor and why?
In 2019, AllRaise started a mentorship program called the VC Champions program to connect experienced General Partners and rising venture professionals from underrepresented backgrounds. I was accepted into the first-ever cohort, and it has opened up doors to people that I couldn’t imagine having access to before. This will not only impact me but will help provide access to capital for our region’s companies.
What challenges or barriers have you experienced or seen when it comes to recruiting, retaining, and promoting female investors?
First, I am fortunate that I work for an organization that has built an inclusive environment. With that being said, if you are a female in the industry, you know that the stats about females in decision making roles within the venture industry is ridiculously low. One of my female friends in the VC industry sent me an article a couple of weeks ago titled “The glass ceiling has moved: What women (and their mentors) need to know.” The article challenges the idea of what “executive presence” really means for women and how we should mentor women to break through the glass ceiling by achieving “executive presence.” My friend sent this to me because we both can relate. As women in the industry, we need to be fiercely supportive of one another and help lift one another up along the way by talking openly about these things that are uniquely impacting women in the industry.