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Aileen Lee

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Aileen Lee
Lee backstage at Tech Crunch 2013
Born1970 (age 53–54)[1]
Nationality United States
Alma materMassachusetts Institute of Technology
Harvard Business School
Known forCo-founder and managing partner of Cowboy Ventures

Aileen Lee (born 1970) is a U.S. venture capital angel investor and co-founder[2] of Cowboy Ventures.[3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10]

Lee coined the often-used Silicon Valley term unicorn in a TechCrunch article "Welcome To The Unicorn Club: Learning from Billion-Dollar Startups" as profiled in The New York Times. A unicorn is generally defined as a privately held startup that has a $1 billion valuation or more – something rare (like a unicorn).[11]



Raised in Millburn, New Jersey, Lee graduated in 1988 from Millburn High School, where she was senior class president.[12]

Lee earned her bachelor's degree from the MIT Sloan School of Management in 1992. After MIT, she worked as a financial analyst for two years at Morgan Stanley.[13] She earned her MBA from Harvard Business School in 1997.[1]



Lee joined Kleiner Perkins (KPCB) in 1999 and was the founding CEO of RMG Networks, a company backed by KPCB. Lee worked at Kleiner Perkins for 13 years and left in 2012.[14]

In 2012, she left KPCB to start seed-stage venture firm Cowboy Ventures.[15] In 2017, Lee added Ted Wang to the firm as a general partner.[16]

Cowboy Ventures is one of the first female-led venture capital firms.[17] In its first six years, Cowboy Ventures has received three large funds, the latest reaching $95 million.[18][19]

Through Cowboy Ventures, Lee has made investments in many early-stage companies, including August,[20] Dollar Shave Club,[20] Textio,[21] Accompany[15] and Tally Technologies.[22][23][24] She is a public advocate of increasing the number of female founders and investors in the Silicon Valley.[25]



In 2018, Lee co-founded All Raise, a nonprofit organization which seeks to increase the amount of funding that female investors receive.[19] The organization was founded as a collective by more than 30 venture capitalists who advocate for increasing the presence of women in venture capital.[2] Lee described the organization's importance in saying “We believe that by improving the success of women in the venture-backed tech ecosystem, we can build a more accessible community that reflects the diversity of the world around us.”[26]

Awards and recognition


Lee was invited to speak at the 2018 Code Conference put on by Recode and additionally at the 2018 GeekWire Summit.[27][28] She also spoke at the 2019 Silicon Slopes Tech Summit.[29] and is recognized as a speaker for the organization Lesbians Who Tech and the Female Founders Conference.[30][31]

Lee has appeared on Forbes' list of The World's 100 Most Powerful Women (position #97 as of 2020)[32] and the Midas List in 2020 (position #80),[33] 2019 (position #82),[34] and 2018 (position #97).[35] She also appeared on Time's list of 100 Most Influential People in 2019.[36]

Personal life


Lee grew up in New Jersey and is the daughter of Chinese immigrants.[13] Aileen Lee is married.[37]


  1. ^ a b "Executive profile". Boardroom Insiders. 2015-07-22. Archived from the original on 2016-09-23. Retrieved 2016-07-31.
  2. ^ a b "Fast Company: This is how we get more women in venture capital". 20 September 2018.
  3. ^ Lee, Aileen (2 November 2013). "Welcome To The Unicorn Club: Learning From Billion-Dollar Startups". TechCrunch. AOL.
  4. ^ Schubarth, Cromwell (13 January 2014). "VC Aileen Lee on rarity of $1B tech 'unicorns,' diversity". Silicon Valley Business Journal.
  5. ^ Tsotsis, Alexia (10 April 2012). "Brit Morin Engages $1.25M From Marissa Mayer, Aileen Lee, Founders Fund And More To Launch Her First App, Weduary". TechCrunch. AOL.
  6. ^ Kolodny, Lora (17 December 2013). "VC in 2014: Kleiner Perkins' Aileen Lee on How Venture Needs to Deliver Better Returns". WSJ.
  7. ^ Perez, Sarah (30 July 2012). "Aileen Lee Almost Done Raising $40 Million For New Seed Called "Cowboy Ventures"". TechCrunch. AOL.
  8. ^ Taylor, Colleen (6 April 2012). "VC Giants, Thinking Smaller: Why Kleiner Perkins' Aileen Lee Is Getting Into Seed Funding". TechCrunch. AOL.
  9. ^ Ryan Lawler (September 26, 2014). "Aileen Lee's Cowboy Ventures Is Raising A $55 Million Second Fund". TechCrunch. Retrieved March 27, 2015.
  10. ^ Jonathan Krim (March 1, 2015). "Working Their Way Around Male VC Dominance". The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved March 27, 2015. "Can we give this to VC firms for free?" quipped Aileen Lee, a prominent venture capitalist who two years ago left her full time work at Kleiner Perkins to co-found her own VC firm, Cowboy Ventures.
  11. ^ Manjoo, Farhad (5 July 2015). "Unicorn: A Fitting Label for Its Time and Place". The New York Times.
  12. ^ "College corner", The Item of Millburn and Short Hills, April 6, 1989. Accessed December 22, 2023, via Newspapers.com. "Aileen Lee, daughter of Dr. and Mrs. Alan Lee of 91 Old Hollow Road, recently was elected president of the incoming sophomore class at Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Aileen, who was the president of the 1988 Millburn High School senior class, is the current freshman class president at M.I.T."
  13. ^ a b Bryant, Adam (2015-12-03). "Aileen Lee of Cowboy Ventures: Aim to See Beneath the Surface". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2016-11-17.
  14. ^ "Recode: Women in tech are held to tougher standards than men — and that has to change, investor Aileen Lee says". 3 October 2016.
  15. ^ a b Loizos, Connie. "VC Aileen Lee just offered some very specific advice to female founders looking for funding". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2017-11-16.
  16. ^ "Pando: Aileen Lee on hiring Ted Wang and making VC more "human"". 24 January 2017. Archived from the original on 28 October 2019. Retrieved 24 December 2018.
  17. ^ "Fast Company: Tech's Actual Gender Numbers Are Vague And Grim. A Small Tweak Could Change That". 10 March 2015.
  18. ^ "TechCrunch: Cowboy Ventures just rounded up $95 million for its third fund". 7 August 2018.
  19. ^ a b "Pitchbook: Q&A: Aileen Lee on Cowboy Ventures' latest fund, getting women on her cap table and what keeps her motivated".
  20. ^ a b "VC Corner: Aileen Lee of Cowboy Ventures". www.startupgrind.com. Retrieved 2016-06-01.
  21. ^ "Textio Announces $8M Series A Round".
  22. ^ Kolodny, Lora (19 May 2016). "Tally raises $15 million for app to make credit cards less expensive, easier to manage". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2016-06-01.
  23. ^ "San Francisco-based credit card management app Tally raises $15 million - Silicon Valley Business Journal". Silicon Valley Business Journal. Retrieved 2016-06-01.
  24. ^ "Aileen Lee". angel.co.
  25. ^ Loizos, Connie. "VC Aileen Lee just offered some very specific advice to female founders looking for funding". TechCrunch. Retrieved 2017-12-18.
  26. ^ "TechCrunch: All Raise wants to increase the amount of venture funding female founders receive". 3 April 2018.
  27. ^ "TechCrunch: Cowboy Ventures' Aileen Lee says enough with favoring the 'good guys'". 31 May 2018.
  28. ^ "GeekWire: Silicon Valley VC Aileen Lee offers advice to Seattle: Make technology more equitable". 3 October 2018.
  29. ^ "Nasdaq: Silicon Slopes: Aileen Lee, Cowboy Ventures Founding Partner". Retrieved 10 February 2019.
  30. ^ "Lesbians Who Tech Speakers".
  31. ^ "Female Founders Conference Speakers".
  32. ^ "The World's 100 Most Powerful Women". Forbes. Retrieved 24 December 2020.
  33. ^ "The Midas List 2021". www.forbes.com. Retrieved 2020-12-29.
  34. ^ Chaykowski, Kathleen. "Meet The Top Women Investors Of The Midas List In 2019". Forbes. Retrieved 2020-12-29.
  35. ^ "Forbes: Meet The Top Women Investors On Midas In 2018". Forbes.
  36. ^ "100 most influential people 2019".
  37. ^ "Aileen Lee". Forbes. Retrieved 2022-03-24.