Pillar Hires Hodges as Boston VCs Build Community, Boost Diversity

It’s been a dynamic year for the Boston venture capital scene.

Several new tech-focused funds have launched, some putting new spins on the traditional VC model. And, it’s worth noting, the firms are assembling diverse leadership teams.

The latest example comes from Pillar, which today announced a new partner, Sarah Hodges. Hodges (pictured above) previously co-founded Boston leadership development firm Intelligent.ly. She has also held a variety of positions with local tech companies, including Runkeeper, Carbonite, Smarterer, and Pluralsight.

Pillar was launched in May by former North Bridge Venture Partners general partner Jamie Goldstein. Part of the firm’s pitch to entrepreneurs is it buys common stock in startups—not the preferred stock VCs normally take. The fund’s part-owners and investors include a group of 16 local tech entrepreneurs and executives, who may serve on boards or act as mentors to portfolio companies.

In her new role, Hodges’s primary charge is leading Pillar’s “access” team, which will connect its startups with potential customers, mentors and advisors, marketing and leadership resources, executives looking to join their team, and other entrepreneurs who can share insights and best practices.

Hodges’s hire fits into a couple of themes emerging in Boston’s VC industry. Firms are explicitly trying to foster community and harness their networks in a more formalized way. Another example is Underscore.VC, which is trying to create a structure for aligning a community of tech experts with the fund and the entrepreneurs it invests in. Underscore also has a separate nonprofit foundation, run by Underscore co-founder C.A. Webb, that aims to give back to the startup community.

The other trend apparent from Hodges’s hire is the changing demographics and increased gender diversity at local VC firms—a welcome sign for an industry that has been maligned for its abundance of older white guys making investment decisions. Hodges is one of several women leaders at Boston’s emerging crop of young venture firms. Others include Underscore’s Webb, Rudina Seseri and Sarah Fay at Glasswing Ventures, and Katie Rae at Project 11 Ventures.

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