A VC firm’s simple investment thesis: Follow the women

Using the next big social network?
Using the next big social network?
Image: Garry Knight / Flickr
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Around 2006, Jeremy Liew started noticing an intriguing trend.

As a partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners, startups coming across his desk with more young females users seemed to outperform those dominated by men. His observations have evolved into an investment thesis for spotting promising internet and mobile products.

“When I look at investments, I look at the user base. I’m much more exited when I see there are a lot of young women,” Liew said in an interview. “Young women are the most virulent carriers of popular culture. What they end up doing ends up becoming everyone’s popular culture.”

Liew cited Prisma,, Ipsy, and Glossier as examples of companies whose female users have contributed to their early success. Lightspeed has put its own money behind its thesis with investments in networks such as WhisperGiphy and Hollar, but its biggest win came with a $485,000 seed investment in Snapchat. Liew approached the company in 2012 when its app had less than 100,000 installs. Convinced by its passionate, predominately female user base, Lightspeed became Snapchat’s first venture investor (the company has gone on to raise $2.6 billion).

Liew’s theory appears to have a basis in data. The Pew Research Center has been tracking social media usage statistics for Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Twitter, and Tumblr since 2010. Its most recent data from 2015 surveys finds that a majority of users of these networks are women (with some exceptions), and the ratio has only grown more pronounced over time showing “a clear and consistent over-time trend.”

“Young women dominate Instagram and visual platforms in general,” gender researcher Rachel Simmons recently told The Atlantic. Google advertising data compiled by the Information is Beautiful blog in 2012 also showed almost every major social media network started off tilted toward female users. There are a few outliers. LinkedIn began dominated by men, but nearly reached gender parity by 2014, reports Pew. Twitter still slightly favors men (3% more of the online population are men). Reddit is the one of the only major networks still dominated by men (67% of its users).

Women tend to be more engaged with social media more as well. A 2012 study of college students on Facebook, found women spent 15% more time on the platform—2.08 hours a day—than men. On Snapchat, where roughly 70% of users are female, women were about 50% more likely to share content such as selfies.

The image above was taken by Garry Knight and shared under a Creative Commons license on Flickr.