Values Help This VC Choose Investments That (Don’t Just) Empower Women

When most people think about investing focused on women, they think of putting more women in the boardroom — or making female founders into billionaires — or, as Nathalie Molina Niño told me, the stubborn perception that the category is “fluffy” and only about fashion or period panties.

After 15 years of working in technology, she knew the move to gender parity wasn’t going fast enough. So, she started BRAVA Investments to grow businesses that improve the lives of millions of women.

The move to gender parity isn’t going fast enough Click To Tweet

Investing in companies with women in leadership is part of it, but alone, isn’t doing enough.

“If a guy was to develop some technology that cures breast cancer, what do I care if the founder of that company is a man or a women,” she said.

It’s also not an automatic fix, she says. A hit company might make its female founder a billionaire, and from a cultural standpoint, this can inspire other women, but doesn’t necessarily economically benefit them.

“I care less about making one woman a billionaire than I do about making a billion women financially independent,” she said.

“That’s my vision for the world — that all women, not just startup founders, being financially independent changes everything. They leave abusive relationships, they educate their children, they change laws, they run for office, they fund the arts. At the middle of all of that is women being financially independent.”

When she was getting ready to launch BRAVA, though, it wasn’t called BRAVA yet — in fact, the company didn’t have a name.

The Impulse

After a year and a half of negotiating with business partners, Molina Niño had backers ready to sign contracts, but was missing a key element: the name of her business. She’d had a lot of experience helping other companies with this particular piece, and had neglected to do it for herself.

“It occurred to me that I’m not putting a high priority on brand, and even on the values, because I feel like that’s an automatic and something that I do for people all the time,” she said.

Just like a surgeon can’t operate on herself, I probably shouldn’t be left to my own devices on this one.

“Just like a surgeon can’t operate on herself, I probably shouldn’t be left to my own devices on this one.”

She reached out to Aviva Mohilner, a contact whose work she was impressed with, after Mohilner had done similar work for friends’ companies.

The problem was that Molina Niño knew naming a company would take time, and time was exactly what she didn’t have. What she did have was a planned vacation to Ecuador, and graciously, Mohilner agreed to join her.

How They Did It

Many of the founders Mohilner works with come to her at an inflection point — they need to get communications together, or the website, or marketing materials. They think it’s a logo or colors, she says, but most often the company values are the foundational piece that’s missing..

“I get together with the founder, usually huddled around scraps of paper and markers, and go through a process to generate dozens of words and concepts.,” Mohilner said. With Molina Niño, they were working in the Andes and then on the beach.

“It involved a lot of post-its and flip chart, we didn’t have white boards,” Mohilner said.

Their challenge was to figure out how to say the firm would support women, without just limiting it to women-owned businesses, which alone wouldn’t solve the massive challenge of making millions of women more financially independent.

Mohilner’s process is to first brainstorm, then pare down to about five words or phrases that capture what’s most important to the business or vision.

“I keep pushing until we get to what resonates and is really authentic and unique to the company,” Mohilner said.

What they came up with? A business that does well by women — and founders — and investors.

Value Touchpoints

BRAVA Investments values are:

  • Big Thinking: When it comes to scale, returns or impact, we don’t play small.
  • Triple-Committed: We are unwavering in our dedication to the companies we invest in, our investors and the economic wellbeing of women.
  • Principled Leadership: We take a stand and are willing to make unpopular decisions in service to what we believe.
  • Resourceful Advisors: We put our knowledge, experience and extensive network to use for our portfolio companies.
  • Supporting Disruption: We invest in innovative business models in high growth industries that substantively affect women’s lives.

Now with the values defined, Molina Niño, with Mohilner’s help, was ready to choose a name. It needed to have gravitas and show the weight of being principled and driving real growth, but retain that tinge of being focused on women.

The name chosen, BRAVA, expressed this positioning perfectly. Now, Molina Niño can use the values in her meetings with the press, speeches, and discussions with partners — even in choosing the right office design.

BRAVA’s mission is to prove businesses that do well for women also do well for founders and investors Click To Tweet

“In all of my speeches I’m saying we want to focus on outcomes and not optics. Both because we obviously care about the companies impacted by our company. In the face of women and gender parity there’s a perception among serious investors that it’s sort of fluffy and everything is about philanthropy — because it’s women, it’s got to be less lucrative,” Molina Niño said

“It’s ridiculous. [Being about women] doesn’t make it less serious and certainly doesn’t make it less profitable.”


BRAVA’s mission is to prove businesses that do well for women also do well for founders and investors. To fulfill this triple bottom line, the company needs to stay laser-focused on its investment thesis.

When an opportunity with a pharmaceuticals company came along didn’t fit — Molina Niño passed. “It just didn’t quite align with thesis that we had outlined. But it was a company that I certainly believe in. So even though we passed because of no issue on their end, it has the potential to really make a difference in the lives of a lot of people,” she said.

I’m going to be able to sleep at night knowing that we worked hard at making it happen, and there are millions of people whose lives are different because of it.

What she did do, though, is introduce the founder to other investors. This reflected both the values of principled leadership and resourceful advisors.

“When this company goes out into the world, the drug hits the market and it’s approved by the FDA, I’m going to be able to sleep at night knowing that we helped in some small way, in making it happen, and there are millions of people whose lives are better because of it,” Molina Niño said.

More in our company values series: