It’s no secret that female entrepreneurs receive less funding than their male counterparts–females only secured 2% of VC funding in 2021. The reality, however, is even more pronounced for women of color.
But according to ComplYant founder Shiloh Johnson, there is a way to change this reality we are living in, you have to be undeniable. “If I focus on the business, and I build something that works and it's making money, you can't deny that green is the universal color,” Johnson said at dot.LA’s "Meeting the Moment: Why the Time is Now for Women Founders" panel.
With over 15 years of corporate tax experience, Johnson shifted her practice in 2019 and created a tax-compliance software company. To date, she has raised $13 million.
Johnson was joined on stage by Greycroft co-founder and managing partner Dana Settle, Merit founder Katherine Power and Annenberg Foundation Executive Director Cinny Kennard. Their discussion was centered around discrepancies in the funding gap and how we can create an equitable startup ecosystem for women.
“To Shiloh’s point, as long as we keep showing results and keep making money,” Power said, “that's all that matters. I truthfully never thought about being a woman when I was building my companies. I just thought about being good.”
But, for Power, being good is an understatement.
With several companies under her belt, one person that took notice of Power’s entrepreneurial strengths was Settle, who admitted that she’s tried to fund every single thing that Power has created.
Some of Settle’s notable exits include Bumble (IPO), Maker Studios (acquired by Disney), Pulse (acquired by LinkedIn) and The RealReal (IPO).
While women in decision-making roles only make up about 12.4% of venture capital firms, Settle is optimistic that will change so long as women continue to spread that wealth from the top down.
“To keep that sort of flywheel effect going,” Settle addressed the crowd, “there should be a lot more of me, there should be a lot more of you that are actually funding businesses at that growth stage and believing that these companies can become 100-billion-dollar outcomes and real generational wealth is created across a broad base.”
Power said another reason why women are probably receiving a smaller percentage of the whole pie is that a lot of those companies don't make it to later-stage funding.
She added, “That's telling me that perhaps, they're becoming really profitable, and they don't need money, which could be the case or those businesses are not making it past a certain stage.”
Power said that’s why she and Settle are working on a fund together — so that they can help founders put a strategy around the long game and ensure that they reach commercial success faster.
The subject of collaboration led Kennard to ask Johnson what she thought the solution is to increase diversity within businesses.
“Controversial answer, but don't focus on it," Johnson responded. "I think that when diversity becomes the only song you're singing, you get quieter and quieter as the years go on.”
Instead, Johnson suggested businesses should focus on leveling the playing field for everyone, whether that’s women or minority founders, “so that we can exist in the same room and be seen as equals.”
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