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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Cleo Capital, led by entrepreneur Sarah Kunst, raised $3.5 million for a debut fund that will invest in female entrepreneurs who act as scouts.

Why it matters: "There's a lot of response about diversity — gender and race — and there's a lot of conferences and panels and dinners celebrating or highlighting women in tech, but there hasn't been a change in where the capital goes," Kunst tells Axios.

Changing the ratio: Along with an abysmally small number of female decision-makers at VC firms (less than 10%), "most scout programs inside of existing firms are overwhelmingly male," says Kunst, who was a scout for Sequoia Capital in 2018.

  • Sequoia tells Axios that more than a third of its current class are women. Spearhead, a joint program run by AngelList and VC firm Accomplice, had 4 women out of its first class of 19.
  • "A lot of the scouts [Kunst] had in place were already people we really respected. ... It appeals to us because of the quality of founders," says Lightspeed Venture Partners' Nicole Quinn, whose firm invested in Cleo.

Along with a persistent wage gap, women also own just 9% of all startup equity, despite making up 33% of founders and employees.

  • "Things won't really change for women unless women become more liquid, and all of our money is tied in our companies," says Rachel Tipograph, founder of MikMak and a Cleo Capital scout. She's already an angel investor but says that scout money makes it possible for her to make bigger investments.
  • And because scouts get to keep much of the upside of the deals they make, Cleo Capital (and all other female scouts) could earn significant new cash if it proves savvy at picking investments.

Kunst initially aimed to raise $10 million, but says that many investors told her they were not backing new funds at the moment or that her fund was too small for their budget.

"The reality is that the bar is sometimes higher for people who try to do things that don't match the patter of what other people are doing," says Bloomberg Beta's Karin Klein, whose fund invested in Cleo.

Go deeper

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27 mins ago - Economy & Business

First glimpse of the Biden market

Photo: Jonathan Ernst-Pool/Getty Images

Investors made clear what companies they think will be winners and which will be losers in President Joe Biden's economy on Wednesday, selling out of gun makers, pot purveyors, private prison operators and payday lenders, and buying up gambling, gaming, beer stocks and Big Tech.

What happened: Private prison operator CoreCivic and private prison REIT Geo fell by 7.8% and 4.1%, respectively, while marijuana ETF MJ dropped 2% and payday lenders World Acceptance and EZCorp each fell by more than 1%.

Mike Allen, author of AM
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Biden-Harris, Day 1: What mattered most

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The Axios experts help you sort significance from symbolism. Here are the six Day 1 actions by President Biden that matter most.

Driving the news: Today, on his first full day, Biden translates his promise of a stronger federal response to the pandemic into action — starting with 10 executive orders and other directives, Caitlin Owens writes.

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Read: Pete Buttigieg's opening statement ahead of confirmation hearing

Pete Buttigieg, President Biden's nominee to be secretary of transportation, in December. Photo: Kevin Lamarque/AFP via Getty Images

Pete Buttigieg, President Biden's nominee to lead the Transportation Department, will tell senators he plans to prioritize the health and safety of public transportation systems during the pandemic — and look to infrastructure projects to rebuild the economy — according to a copy of his prepared remarks obtained by Axios.

Driving the news: Buttigieg will testify at 10 a.m. ET before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. He is expected to face a relatively smooth confirmation process, though GOP lawmakers may press him on "green" elements of Biden's transportation proposals.

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