Entrepreneur Lab Speaker Spotlight: Sonja Hoel Perkins of Broadway Angels

The countdown is on for The Hivery’s 2nd Annual Entrepreneur Lab! Scheduled for 10am – 5pm on Sunday, Oct. 15, this all-day retreat will include sessions on how to start and grow your business, mastermind networking opportunities and several interactive speeches from a lineup of inspiring, successful women.

Among the esteemed speakers will be Sonja Perkins, a longtime venture capitalist who lives in San Francisco. She is the managing director of The Perkins Fund, which specializes in high-tech investments; and founder of both Broadway Angels, a collective of talented and experienced investors who all happen to be women; and Project Glimmer, a non-profit that provides gifts to teenage girls.

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We spoke to Sonja to hear more about her background, thoughts on this month’s theme of overcoming fear, and advice for budding entrepreneurs.

Could you tell us a little about your background?
Sure, I grew up with a father who was a professor and a mom who didn’t go to college and was a homemaker and part-time secretary. I always knew I wanted to have options and that I didn’t want to rely on anyone other than myself. I had big visions of how and where I wanted to live, so I worked to get the best education I could and attended the University of Virginia and Harvard Business School.

What has your career trajectory looked like?
After undergrad, I landed a job working as an investment analyst investigating software companies. I thought it was the best job in the world. From there, I went to Harvard Business School and then came out to California and joined Menlo Ventures in 1994. In 2011, I decided to go part-time at Menlo and created The Perkins Fund, which is a family office fund. I wanted to keep investing but not on Menlo’s scale, which was in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

That led me to start Broadway Angels. I wanted to invite people with proven track records to work as a team to find great deals, network, share due diligence and inspire women and girls to get into venture capital. I’ve always found it to be a fantastic industry.

That’s fascinating because popular culture will have us believe that venture capital isn’t a very welcoming environment for women. That’s true, and I want to change that paradigm. I think it is a phenomenal job, and I think that women should have the best jobs, just like men. Broadway Angels isn’t a fund, but instead of group of incredible investors who invest out of their own funds. Today, we have 41 amazing members, all of whom happen to be women.

Our theme this month is overcoming fear. What are your experiences with fear?
Honestly, I’ve been fearless my whole career. I recently did a speech for Girls Inc. on the many failures I’ve experienced. I was rejected from a lot of jobs, but I’ve always kept going.

Do the entrepreneurs you help to fund also have an absence of fear?
They do. They look at obstacles as opportunities. It is really inspiring.

What advice can you offer women who do struggle with feelings of fear?
First, believe your story. Every entrepreneur I’ve met is passionate and knows their truth. They know that if they don’t believe in themselves, no one will (especially when seeking funding).

Second, think big. I was a seed investor for UrbanSitter and immediately thought the platform would be effective for things far beyond babysitting—that it could be trusted classifieds for everything from walking your dog and watching your child to cleaning your house.

Do you see differences in men and women when it comes to fear?
I do, especially when it comes to thinking big. I’ve found that men tend to have a more developed "think big gene" than women do.

I’ll give you an example. Let’s say two entrepreneurs—one man, one woman—want to start a furniture company. The woman may say she wants to make coffee tables and says that she will work hard with the goal of putting out the world’s best coffee table in the next year.

On the flipside, the man may say his first product will be a coffee table and that it will launch next year, but that he has a bigger vision for a full line of furniture, including chairs, dressers, beds, and son on.

The result? The man will get funded because he has a bigger vision.

Why does this happen?
I think women can be more cautious about sharing their long-term visions. Many women will only share what they are 100% sure that they can do. They prefer not to disappoint, whereas men don’t care and think: if it doesn’t work, I’ll die trying, so why not?

Ready to overcome your fears? Want to hear more nuggets of wisdom from Sonja? Join us for The Hivery's Second Annual Entrepreneur Lab where Sonja will be joined on the main stage by Eileen Gittins, Founder and CEO of Blurb and Bossygrl, Jessica Semaan, Founder of The Passion Co., and Nikki Silvestri, Founder and CEO of Soil and Shadow. It's going to be a powerful and inspiring day of #womendoingcoolstuff!