Study: Attractive men fare best in gaining venture capital
Women, less-attractive men lag in the effort to find financial backing for startups.

Peter Dizikes, MIT News Office

Illustration: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT

Illustration: Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT

You can’t judge a startup by the looks of its founder — but many potential investors do.

That’s the upshot of a newly published study co-authored by MIT researchers, which shows that attractive men have disproportionate success in obtaining venture capital funding for startups, compared with women and with less physically appealing men.

More specifically, the success of the short pitches that entrepreneurs make to venture capitalists depends significantly on the gender and appearance of the presenters, according to the research. Those pitches — often around five minutes in length — are a rite of passage for entrepreneurs, and sometimes a make-or-break proposition for startups. But the decisions investors make, in response, may not be as rational as they would like to believe.

“The fundamentals of the entrepreneur’s business proposition and the previous experiences of the entrepreneurs themselves are regarded as the main criteria for investment decisions,” notes the paper, published last week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. However, the authors add, there remains “a profound and persistent preference for entrepreneurial ventures pitched by men, particularly attractive men.” Read more.

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