This Venture Capitalist Has an SOS Hotline for Founders Facing Sexual Harassment


This article originally ran in Term Sheet, Fortune’s newsletter about deals and dealmakers. Sign up here.

Jillian Manus, a managing partner at Structure Capital and a judge on “The Pitch” podcast, had a circuitous path to venture capital.

Earlier in her career, Manus worked in banking and media, serving as an M&A co-director of the technology, media and telecom group for Credit Suisse Zurich. She had just moved to Switzerland when her life turned upside down.

“I was in a domestic abuse situation that ended with me in the hospital for many months,” she said. “When I came out, I was so ashamed that I disappeared onto the streets. I had been successful before that, but when someone takes your pride away like that, you bottom out.”

In an interview with Term Sheet, Manus discusses homelessness, sexual harassment in the Valley, and the biggest mistakes early-stage founders make.

TERM SHEET: You mentioned that you were homeless for a period of time. How were you able to come out of that experience & start to re-build your life?

MANUS: I lived in shelters in New York for more than a year. I stayed at “hot & cot” shelters, meaning that you’d get a hot meal and a cot. In those days, you were unable to stay in a shelter for more than a couple of nights, so I was at my 16th shelter when I saw the soup kitchen was not being utilized properly. The teams, the volunteers, and the food — it just wasn’t organized well.

Because I had a business background, I went into the kitchen and started to put everyone on an org chart and began mobilizing people to collect extra food leftover from the local businesses. I created an assembly line in the kitchen, and I started to remember who I was and feel like I had something to contribute. Even if you don’t get paid, if you have a purpose, then you can address any challenge in life. When you have purpose, you have productivity, and when you have productivity, you have confidence.

You are now a judge on Gimlet Media’s “The Pitch,” making investments in Shift and LiquiGlide . You’ve previously said that you “abhor” Shark Tank because you think it’s predatory. Why did you decide to join The Pitch, which has been described as a Shark Tank-style podcast?

MANUS: The format is the same — four judges (or VCs) who are pitched. But my whole philosophy about venture capitalists is that I believe it’s about building people up, not tearing them down. If you have a criticism, follow it with something constructive that can help them. And that’s what we do with The Pitch. We’re not like Shark Tank at all — we don’t invest $20,000 for 80% of the company. We’re not predatory.

How much do you invest on average?

MANUS: For one of the last companies we invested in, we put $1.2 million into the company for 20% equity.

What are some of the big mistakes that early …read more

Source:: Fortune


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