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Harri is dot.LA's senior finance reporter. She previously worked for Gizmodo, Fast Company, VentureBeat and Flipboard. Find her on Twitter and send tips on L.A. startups and venture capital to email@example.com.
2021 was a banner year for female-founded unicorns—and at first glance, this year is on track to deliver more of the same, according to what appears to be a heartening analysis from Crunchbase. But is the future as rosy for women founders as the numbers would have you believe?
Here’s the good news: In a major step up from 2020, 83 female-founded companies achieved “unicorn” status last year by reaching a valuation of $1 billion or greater (compared to only 18 in 2020). Out of the bunch, New York’s Papaya Global, which makes HR software, is the highest valued on paper at $3.7 billion, followed by Seoul’s Market Kurly at $3.3 billion and Oakland’s LaunchDarkly at $3 billion.
Yet among those 83 female-founded firms, only 16 are headed by female CEOs.
And while the number of new unicorns founded by women more than quadrupled, that rise came amid an altogether roaring year for startups and venture capitalists, during which an unheard-of 586 businesses joined the once-elusive unicorn club. In this light, the percentage share of new unicorns founded by women (14% in 2021, compared to 11% is 2020) was relatively stagnant, according to Crunchbase’s stats.
Image credit: Crunchbase
So far this year, about 100 companies have crossed the $1 billion valuation mark—only 10 of which have at least one female founder, according to Crunchbase. Among those 10 firms, Finland-based retail logistics company Relex Solutions tops the list with a valuation of $5.7 billion; it is followed by Boston-based HR tech company Globalization Partners, which is valued at $4.2 billion, and Mountain View-based health monitoring startup Athelas, which is worth $1.5 billion.
So while we’re still talking about more women founders minting unicorns in 2022, their ratio to male-founded unicorns is actually declining this year and currently sits at about 10%. Though there is plenty of time to rectify that, an annual decline of 4% or greater wouldn’t be out of the norm, either: From 2014 to 2015, the percentage of new unicorns founded by women slipped from 21% to 10%, and has yet to return to similar heights.
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- LA Female Founders See Big Drop in Funding - dot.LA ›
- Top Female Founders in Los Angeles - dot.LA ›
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On this episode of the L.A. Venture podcast, Amanda Groves talks about how PLUS Capital advises celebrity investors and why more high-profile individuals are choosing to invest instead of endorse.
As a partner at PLUS, Groves works with over 70 artists and athletes, helping to guide their investment strategies. PLUS advises their talent roster to combine their financial capital with their social capital and focus on five investment areas: the future of work, future of education, health and wellness, the conscious consumer and sustainability.
“The idea is if we can leverage these people who have incredible audiences—and influence over that audience—in the world of venture capital, you'd be able to help make those businesses move forward faster,” Groves said.
PLUS works to create celebrity partnerships by identifying each client’s passions and finding companies that align with them, Groves said. From there, the venture firm can reach out to prospective partners from its many contacts and can help evaluate businesses that approach its clients. Recently, PLUS paired actress Nina Dobrev with the candy company SmartSweets after she had told them about her love for its snacks.
Celebrity entrepreneurship has shifted quite a bit in recent years, Groves said. While celebrities are paid for endorsements, Groves said investing allows them to gain equity from the growth of companies that benefit from their work.
“Like in movies, for example, where they're earning a residual along the way, they thought, ‘You know, if we're going to partner with these brands and create a tremendous amount of enterprise value, we should be able to capture some of the upside that we're generating, too’,” she said.
Partnering in this way also allows her clients to work with a wider range of brands, including small brands that often can’t afford to spend millions on endorsements. Investing allows high-profile individuals to represent brands they care about, Groves said.
“The last piece of the puzzle was a drive towards authenticity,” Groves said. “A lot of these high-profile artists and athletes are not interested, once they've achieved some sort of level of success, in partnering with brands that they don't personally align with.”
dot.LA Editorial Intern Kristin Snyder contributed to this post.
David Shultz is a freelance writer who lives in Santa Barbara, California. His writing has appeared in The Atlantic, Outside and Nautilus, among other publications.
Rivian’s stock lost 7% yesterday on the back of news that the company could face delays in fulfilling Amazon’s order for a fleet of electric delivery vans due to legal issues with a supplier. The electric vehicle maker is suing Commercial Vehicle Group (CVG) over a pricing dispute related to the seats that the supplier promised, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The legal issue could mean that Amazon may not receive their electric vans on time. The dispute hinges on whether or not Commercial Vehicle Group is allowed to raise the prices of its seats after Rivian made engineering and design changes to the original version. Rivian says the price hike from CVG violates the supply contract. CVG denies the claim.
Regardless, the dispute could hamper Rivian’s ability to deliver electric vans to Amazon on time. The ecommerce/streaming/cloud computing/AI megacorporation controls an 18% stake in Rivian as one of the company’s largest early investors. Amazon has previously said it hopes to buy 100,000 delivery vehicles from Rivian by 2030.
The stock plunge marked another wild turn for the EV manufacturer. Last week, Rivian shares dropped 21% on Monday after Ford, another early investor, announced its intent to sell 8 million shares. The next few days saw even further declines as virtually the entire market saw massive losses, but then Rivian rallied partially on the back of their earnings report on Wednesday, gaining 28% back by Friday. Then came yesterday’s 7% slide. Today the stock is up another 10%.
Hold on tight, who knows where we’re going next.
Kristin Snyder is an editorial intern for dot.la. She previously interned with Tiger Oak Media and led the arts section for UCLA's Daily Bruin.
Some Snap Kit platform developers have skirted guidelines meant to make the app safer for children.
A new report from TechCrunch released Tuesday found that some third-party apps that connect to users’ Snap accounts have not been updated according to new guidelines announced in March. The restrictions, which target anonymous messaging and friend-finding apps, are meant to increase child safety. However, the investigation found a number of apps either ignore the new regulations or falsely claim to be integrated with Snapchat.
The Santa Monica-based social media company announced the changes after facing two separate lawsuits related to teen suicide allegedly caused by the app. Over 1,500 developers integrate Snap features like the camera and Bitmojis. Snap originally claimed the update would not affect many apps.
Developers had 30 days to revise their software, but the investigation found that some apps, such as the anonymous Q&A app Sendit, were granted an extension. Others blatantly avoided the changes—the anonymous messaging app HMU, which is now meant for adult users, is still available to users "9+" in the App Store. Certain apps that have been banned from Snap, like Intext, still advertise Snapchat integration.
“First and foremost, we put the privacy and safety of our community first and expect the products built by our developer community to adhere to that standard in addition to bringing fun and positive experiences to people,” Director of Platform Partnerships Alston Cheek told TechCrunch.
The news is a blow to Snap’s recent efforts to cast itself as a responsible social media platform The company recently announced Colleen DeCourcy would take over as the company’s new chief creative officer and CEO Evan Spiegel to recently made a a generous personal donation to graduates of Otis College of Art and Design. The social media company currently faces a lawsuit from a teenager who claims it has not done enough to protect minors from sexual exploitation. In April, 44 attorney generals sent a letter to Snap and TikTok urging the companies to strengthen parental controls.
Lawmakers are considering new policies that would hold social media companies accountable for the content on their platforms. One such bill would require social media companies to share data with independent researchers.
Snap Inc., Snapchat's parent company, is an investor in dot.LA.