“Starting a business is a privilege,” says Burton O’Toole, who worked at several startups before launching and later selling AdMass, her own marketing technology company. The company gave her entry into the HearstLab program in 2016, but she soon found that she preferred the investment aspect, and a year later she became vice president at HearstLab. “It’s great to empower some of the smartest women to do what they love,” she says. But besides advocating for women, Burton O’Toole loves the job because it’s a great market opportunity.
“Research shows that women-led teams achieve two-and-a-half times greater returns compared to men-led teams,” she says, adding that women and people of color tend to build more diverse teams and therefore benefit. from different points of view and perspectives. She also explains that companies with women on their founding teams are more likely to be acquired or go public. “Despite these kinds of results, only 2.3% of venture capital funding goes to teams founded by women. It still amazes me that more investors aren’t taking this data more seriously,” she says.
Burton O’Toole — who earned a BS from Duke in 2007 before earning an MS and PhD from MIT, all in mechanical engineering — has been a “data geek” since she can remember. In high school she wanted to be an actuary. “Ten years ago I could never have imagined this work; I like the idea of doing something 10 years from now that I can’t imagine now,” she says.
When starting a business, says Burton O’Toole, “women tend to have all their ducks lined up before trading. They say, ‘I’ll do it when I get this promotion, have enough money, finish this project.’ But there is only one right way. Make the jump.”