joanna2.jpgThere aren’t a lot of women in venture capital, let alone women who actively and publicly lead their respective VC firms. Joanna Rees-Gallanter, at VSP Capital, is one of the very few we can think of in Silicon Valley. Her firm, which has just changed its name from Venture Strategy Partners, has done well enough to raise its third $185 million venture fund, which we mentioned earlier here. The firm’s official announcement today reveals more details.

She’s got an interesting story, and it reveals the kind of grit it takes to get where she is. She told us about how people laughed at her idea of starting a venture firm, and how hard it was to transition from a non-traditional background. She even tried restaurants. We can’t tell the story as well as Forbes did, though, which ran a great piece in late 2000, entitled “Alley Cat,” worth reading. Apparently, she can talk a dog off a meat wagon.

Here’s the best part:

THIS WAS IT. AFTER THREE years of glad-handing, jawboning and otherwise explaining herself, new venture capitalist Joanna Rees Gallanter was down to her last 36 hours to close in on potential investors. It was a deadline imposed by her earliest investors, who had put up an initial $5 million a year ago. They allowed her to do a rolling close, giving her until December to raise more money. Then, she’d asked for three more months. Now it was Mar. 18, 1999, day 89. She had $18 million but wanted desperately to break the $20 million barrier — barely enough to be taken seriously. “It was our last chance,” she says.

Too agitated to sit, she paced as she made frantic phone calls from her San Francisco office starting at 7 a.m. She and partner Tony N. Kamin, in Chicago, called anyone who’d shown the slightest interest — 60 people in all. Those who wavered got double-teamed by Gallanter and Kamin. Once they hooked the investor, the pair still had to negotiate terms. By 5 p.m. Friday, $7 million came in from 25 investors, bringing the fund’s total to $25 million. She exhaled and uncorked a bottle of champagne.