'We Can’t Let Data Stop Us': Why Funding Inequity Isn't Deterring These Female Founders, VCs
Women entrepreneurs, especially those of color, don't have the same buy-in from investors as their male counterparts, but that shouldn't deter them. That's the advice of four women startup founders and investors during a panel on equity at The dot.LA Summit.
"We can't let the data stop us, especially as women," said Morgan DeBaun, founder and CEO of Blavity, who said she hit roadblocks six years ago when trying to get her media company geared toward Black millennials funded.
The panel, "Locked Out in Lockdown," also featuring Bonfire Ventures principal Jennifer Richard, Halogen Ventures General Partner Jesse Draper and Suma Wealth co-founder and CEO Beatriz Acevedo, explored the deep inequities that remain for women.
Earlier this week, dot.LA's Tami Abdollah, who hosted the event, reported that VC investment in female-founded companies in Los Angeles dropped 70% in the third quarter compared to last year. Meanwhile, all male-founded companies saw a bump of 385%.
"As our country is going through a movement, after Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd, there has been a much bigger emphasis on diversity of race," Richard said. "Of course I want more women to have access to capital, but when you look at the access to white women versus Black women, it's still very different. There's no equality until everyone is getting it."
The investment world is largely dominated by white men and has been under fire for failing to diversify. Pitchbook has no data on people of color, a point panelists said underscores just how far female founders and investors of color are from reaching equity.
Draper, who invests in early-stage, female-funded tech companies, said backing diverse companies is a smart investment that few firms are making. In September, she published published an article on Medium called "Investing in Women Isn't a Fucking Charity."
"VCs are all out there to make money," she said. "We're greedy, greedy people. If you want to make money, invest in women."
Draper said although she wants to see more investment in women-led companies, she realizes that this is a hard road for anyone and that founders need to be ready for rejection.
"I often do have CEOs come pitch me and say, 'Well everyone said no already'," Draper said. "Well who's everyone? Go pitch 100 and come back to me. If you're a startup founder, you have to keep going. It's a grind."
Acevedo said she often found herself pitching to investors who hadn't been exposed to the Latino community from which she comes. She said she often finds herself explaining her experiences to them. But, she doesn't view it as a negative, rather she sees an opportunity to expose investors to the community that she wants to serve.
"I thought, 'there's no one like me'," she said. "Nobody knows what I know better, nobody has my upbringing. Being me is my superpower. My experiences, my immigrant status, what my parents went through with their finances that now I'm trying to solve for my community. Be proud of everything that others might perceive as a weakness."
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