The end of “brilliant jerks”: How a Columbia Business School angel investor says we can fix Silicon Valley bro-culture

I think we can all agree that sexism in Silicon Valley is out of control and needs to be fixed.

To discover how, we spoke with Founder of New York investing syndicate, 37 Angels – Angela Lee

Angela is also an educator at Columbia Business School. She teaches women to become angel investors. More women investing in startups fuels innovation and enriches culture.

In an high-powered Ideapod salon, Angela highlights unconscious bias in Silicon Valley, and urges all of us to be aware of our personal biases.

(Watch the showdown at the end of this article)

But how do we even begin to change a culture that protects “brilliant jerks”?

According to Angela – we need diverse players. How?

We level the playing field. We get educated and we act.

So, if you’re new to investing and curious to learn more, buckle up and get ready to discover how you can be part of the solution.

Angela shares these 3 incredibly practical tips to help new investors skill up:

1. Find-a-friend and go to the events 

When 37 Angels Founder, Angela Lee, first walked into a tech start up demo day, there were 700 people in the room. She knew no-one.

It was an intimidating world to walk into. On top of that:

The first time Angela went to one of these events, she had to furiously Google words on her phone because she didn’t know what they meant!

So, what’s Angela’s advice for the novice investor?

Find a friend and commit! Go to a tech start-up event once a month.

Whether it’s a demo day, a pitch night or a business plan competition – it doesn’t matter. The start-up world is an ecosystem. You need to immerse yourself in it to thrive. So:

Find-a-friend, get-onto-Google and dive in! You can’t learn this stuff sitting behind your computer.

2. Be proactive 

To access networks, all of us need to be more proactive. Specifically around:

  • Asking for help; and
  • Asking for introductions.

But – be specific!

Don’t just “ASK”:

“Oh, can I have coffee?”

Know WHY you want a person’s time. Is because:

You want funding? Or you want to get into venture capital?

Because maybe Angela can – or can’t – help you. So be specific in “THE ASK” – and:

Ask for introductions! In the world of Linked In, there is no excuse for not having access to networks.

Angela promises we are all only two degrees way from people of influence.

And, importantly:

Write the introductions for that person. For example:

“Hey, can you forward [below email] to [so-and-so] and see if they will have coffee with me to discuss these three things?”

Be courteous to your contact by doing the work for them and then ask for help with making the introduction.

3. Take the 37 Angels Bootcamp

Angela encourages budding investors to take the 37 Angels Bootcamp, a boot camp that teaches angel investing.

37 Angels hosts it in person in New York and also online and:

If you enter the promo code: IDEAPOD

You get a 10% discount!

Bonus tips from our other thought leaders:

4. Ditch the cold email and connect on Linked In

Matt Callahan, CEO of iCeutica and former venture capital investment director echoes Angela’s advice to ask for help. Matt can’t emphasise enough the importance of Linked In.

Matt says that Linked In is the best business connection tool we have had in the last ten years. In just the few weeks, Matt’s business has – through Linked In – cold called contacts on the other side of the world who have responded.

He said that if he sends an email most people won’t respond (if they don’t know who he is). But, on Linked In, once they check you out people are much more comfortable responding and helping you.

Matt also agrees that you need to actively ask for introductions. People are willing to help.

So, ask for that introduction:

And remember to write the email for your contact.

5. Put yourself out there

Finally, our last tip is from Clinton Scholar, Global Shaper and Purpose Economist from Nashville:

Christine Owenell,

(formerly a Senior Vice President of International Development at a fund manager)

Christine says that you need to put out what you want to get back.

You need to participate, be active, make the extra effort to connect to people on a multitude of levels – including be willing to ask for what you need – and to your surprise:

The introductions will come. Things will start clicking. And you can, together, behave in a regenerative way and accomplish your shared mission.

Find out what else these powerhouses (including Karen Cahn the founder of ifundwomen) said about:

  • how to fix Silicon Valley tech bro-culture
  • how to pivot out of dangerous “prevention” questions in interviews – and offer life-saving “promotion” answers
  • how “blinding” helps to get more diverse teams; and
  • how to turn a fear-based culture into a love-based culture,

in our global salon:


To continue the discussion, go to #37angels.

Happy idea sharing!

Kat Dunn

Kat Dunn

I like to connect Ideas & people. I talk about discomfort & inspiring failures. I'm trying to sleep more and shift to a growth mindset. Former lawbot, pilot & leader in finance. Founder of F-OFF: Fear of Failure Forum & working with Ideapod to help companies leverage our collective intelligence & achieve breakthrough thinking. Follow me on IdeapodIdeapod to see my latest ideas.

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