Susan Lyne helped pave the road for women in the boardroom and now she’s going to help fund the superhighway for women in tech. Lyne is stepping down as CEO of AOL’s brand group to head up a venture fund within the tech giant that will invest in early-stage funding rounds for female-led startups.
“In my new role, I am looking forward to contributing in a different way,” Lyne said. “We have a huge megaphone at AOL so we can have an outsized impact on the way girls and women perceive their options, and on the breadth of entrepreneurial ideas that have a chance to compete. But this is also good business: women are the majority of users on the fastest-growing sites and services on the internet. We believe we can get strong returns by focusing on entrepreneurs who know the customer best.”
But are “girls only” funds what the women in tech are clamoring for?
Several women have blogged about their experiences trying to work or raise funding in Silicon Valley for tech companies only to find it to be too much of a boys club, so perhaps more female filters would be a welcome addition to the culture. However, an anonymous author on Forbes chronicled her experiences in misogyny and came to the following conclusion:
“The answer isn’t more female-focused funds. If I chose to solely approach women investors about my business, I would be dramatically reducing our funding options,” said the author. “What we need is a public conversation about gender, power and respect, one that’s not just women talking to other women.”
Lyne formerly ran Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and had a two-year stint as president of ABC Entertainment where she headed up the development of shows like “Lost,” “Desperate Housewives” and “Grey’s Anatomy.”
She took the post at AOL in March of 2013 with the goal of helping the company advance relationships with advertisers and publishers.
Lyne, in her new capacity, will report directly to AOL CEO Tim Armstrong. The company will replace her with Luke Beatty, who will oversee tech, auto and entertainment brands, and Maureen Sullivan, who will head up AOL.com and the lifestyle and money brands.
The Huffington Post, which was bought by AOL in 2011 for $315 million, will continue under the leadership of Arianna Huffington and Jimmy Maymann.
“Susan has done an excellent job in her time at AOL at a board and operating level, and we are excited to be putting her vast skills and expertise to work to replicate this success at The BBG Fund,” said Armstrong. “AOL has a strong track record of investing in women, women’s leadership, and we are adding to our investments in the most important space for women entrepreneurs.”