Virtual Reality is about to get very real for women

Ladies, let’s work together to keep this boat from setting sail without us. Virtual reality (VR) is the platform of today and certainly the platform of the future. It is how people will consume media, share stories, interact with friends across the world, learn, teach, heal, and more. It’s happening now, and it is here to stay for later. But the real question is, how can we be a part of it? Women have been left behind every other technological revolution, not because we weren’t there, at the front lines, leading, building, creating, and executing, but because tech is a male-dominated industry.

It’s different this time.

I am a venture capitalist, I invest in seed stage tech startups, and my firm, Rothenberg Ventures, launched the world’s first accelerator for the fastest growing VR startups. We currently have more than twenty VR investments. We are a team of six full-time investors, and two of us are women with decision making power. Should you want to look around, you’ll see that this isn’t common. In fact, just 3% of venture capitalists are women. But that’s another story for another day. Back to VR.

So we launched the accelerator after scouring the globe (yes, we looked across the world for the best and brightest working in VR) for a year, and selected an inaugural class of 13 companies from six different continents working in seven different industries. Of the 13, three were women-led companies. Now three out of 13 may look like a small number, but that comes to 23%, which, compared to the 10% statistic nationally for the past ten years, is pretty darn good. That too, for our first class.

We believe that women and men are equally capable of building technology companies, in VR and otherwise. Because venture investors generally still lack conviction in VR and in women leaders, we find competitive advantages by investing in both. We want women to be a part of this technological revolution, and we have the power to do something about it.

Other than the principles of diversity, why should women care about VR? You should care because VR will affect every. single. industry. Let me repeat that, VR will affect every single industry.

We validated that thesis with the first River class as the companies ranged from the expected, games and entertainment, to companies like Emblematic Group, led by the industry’s Godmother, Nonny De La Pena, which creates VR journalism; moving audiences to tears and action with pieces about hunger in LA, Syrian refugee camps, and domestic violence.

We are especially excited about VR applications for education and health, and companies like Solirax and Discovr who are building immersive, interactive education pieces, or  Psious and DeepstreamVR helping people overcome fear and pain, respectively. These are technologies that will improve the lives of people globally, men and women, adults and children, and it is absolutely critical that we women are a part of that conversation.

Changing the composition of what this industry looks like has to start small. It starts with industry leaders I have the privilege of investing in and working with, like Nonny, Yuka Kojima, and Hayoun Kwon, and extends to the larger community of women working tirelessly in this new medium like Jody Medich, Maureen Fan, Jazmin Cano, and Aashna Mago. It starts with flagging instances at events where all the panelists are male, even panels talking about getting more women in VR (insert side-eye). It starts with the organizers being open to that feedback and immediately taking action for the next event—thank you UploadVR! It starts with podcasts about women in VR. It starts with you thinking about, using, and evangelizing this technology. What do we need to build? How should we build it? And how will it impact the world?

This is our turn ladies, let’s captain this boat.

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