'We Can’t Let Data Stop Us': Why Funding Inequity Isn't Deterring These Female Founders, VCs
Francesca Billington is a dot.LA editorial intern. She's previously reported for KCRW, the Santa Monica Daily Press and local publications in New Jersey. Before joining dot.LA, she was a communications fellow at an environmental science research center in Sri Lanka. She graduated from Princeton in 2019 with a degree in anthropology.
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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LA Tech Updates: Apple Podcast Vet Joins QCODE, Amazon Reportedly in Talks to Buy Wondery, Pharrell's New Black Ambition Incubator
Apple Podcast Veteran Joins Startup QCODE<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDUzNTQzMC9vcmlnaW4ucG5nIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYzNDUzMzYyNH0.pOGV2lL0qOJQDiWw1T5i4SqsGfaL54hLWED6_5Mf1Ww/img.png?width=980" id="8d68d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="f2a47797239f360473fead53338231d4" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="qcode" />www.sonos.com <p>QCODE, a Los Angeles podcast startup run by a former Creative Artists Agency talent agent, snagged longtime Apple podcast executive Steve Wilson. The 15-year veteran will become QCODE's chief strategy officer.</p> <p>QCODE, which <a href="https://dot.la/sonos-podcast-qcode-2648395035.html" target="_self">last month raised $6.4 million</a> in a Series A round led by Sono, is positioning itself as a funnel for Hollywood. </p> <p>Founded by Rob Herting, a former agent who had represented largely writers and filmmakers, the company has produced eight shows since 2019. Several have been auctioned for film and television, including "Dirty Diana." Amazon picked up the 6-part erotic drama for a TV series.</p>Wilson, who most recently ran marketing for Apple Podcasts, brings insights from the behemoth platform as the industry sees revenues soar. Advertising brought in near $1 billion this year, according to Interactive Advertising Bureau's podcast report prepared by PwC.
Amazon Reportedly in Exclusive Talks to Buy Wondery<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDc5NDU5OS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY0MjgyMDY3NX0.BHKSXjwra-gGsFEa7lXCCCMJXWV5cYxrZqhddj3-uds/img.jpg?width=980" id="d401d" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c9c9eee1f9adc4c1d5edeca1af986a84" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" alt="Hernan Lopez" />Hernan Lopez started Wondery with the belief that in-depth, narrative audio stories were poised to bloom.<p>Amazon is in "exclusive talks" to buy podcast company Wondery and subsume its 30 hit shows and over 8 million monthly listeners into its empire, the Wall Street Journal reported on Wednesday.</p> <p>The talks reportedly value Wondery above $300 million, in line with previous estimates from analysts, when Apple and Sony were said to have expressed interest.</p> <p>Wondery has produced dozens of original series including "Dr. Death" and "Business Wars," and has 19 shows currently in development to become television series. </p> <p>The company does not publicly disclose its financials, but chief executive Hernan Lopez has previously said the company is profitable. About three-quarters of Wondery's revenue comes from advertising, but Lopez has said the company's revenue share from content licensing is growing (Wondery owns the intellectual property for all of its originals). It also launched a subscription service, Wondery Plus, in June and is currently looking to expand its international footprint. </p> <p>Wondery, the West Hollywood-based company with the largest audience of any independent podcast producer, has been the subject of swirling rumors that several suitors are interested in acquiring it.</p> <p>After a pandemic-induced decline that struck much of the podcasting industry, Wondery's audience has surpassed its pre-COVID levels. Its Q3 revenue was about double year-on-year and its Q4 performance has been strong, Lopez previously told dot.LA. </p> <p>Podcasting overall now attracts over 100 million monthly listeners, according to Edison Research. The Interactive Advertising Bureau projects podcasting revenues to exceed $1 billion by 2021.</p> <p>That growth has spurred somewhat of an arms race, most evident in Spotify's spending spree, which also has helped that company diversify from its reliance on streaming. Amazon Music is one of Spotify's biggest competitors along with Apple Music, and <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/amazon-music-joins-podcasting-fray-11600261201?mod=article_inline" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">recently expanded into podcasts as well</a>. </p> <p>Acquiring Wondery would give Amazon more content to slide into Amazon Music, a scaled-down version of which is free for Amazon Prime subscribers. Combining that content with its Alexa smart speaker also could empower the company to capture more eyes and ears in the increasingly competitive attention economy. </p> <p>The talks are reportedly ongoing and no deal has been confirmed. </p>
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LA Tech Updates: Fidelity Reportedly Seeks to Unload Bird Shares at a Loss; Warner Bros Streaming 2021 Releases; Plug-In South LA's Accelerator for 2021
Fidelity Reportedly Seeks To Unload Bird Shares at a Loss<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://assets.rebelmouse.io/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yMjkwMTI2OC9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTYyOTc0NTgyM30.2gHsdIxx6hnX0sV0Evq4Xdc-UsOWfaDn5sxhMhUWVoQ/img.jpg?width=980" id="e3f93" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7034229cee2777d3a9f7e45313d88a5b" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" />Escooter Unicorn Bird Seeks to Unload Santa Monica HQupload.wikimedia.org<p>Fidelity Investments is attempting to unload some of its shares in Bird Rides Inc. at a loss, <a href="https://www.businessinsider.com/bird-investor-fidelity-selling-stake-scooter-2020-12?r=US&IR=T" target="_blank">according to a report</a> published Wednesday night by Business Insider.</p><p>The move comes <a href="https://dot.la/bird-scooter-2648232688.html" target="_self">after dot.LA reported in October</a> that the mutual fund giant has marked down the value of its Bird investment by 17% since the beginning of the year.</p><hr><p>As a private company, Bird does not have to share its financials. Nor do the venture funds that hold most of its shares. However, Fidelity is required to account for shares at their fair market value so it provides a rare glimpse into the company's health.</p><p>But a source close to the matter said the sale should not be seen as any indication of Bird's financial performance. The shares represent less than ten percent of Fidelity's position and the intended sale is the result of a new portfolio manager taking over who does not want to invest in pre-IPO companies, the source said. </p><p>Neither Bird nor Fidelity would respond to dot.LA's request for comment.</p><p>Bird <a href="https://www.inc.com/magazine/201902/will-yakowicz/bird-electric-scooter-travis-vanderzanden-2018-company-of-the-year.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">became the fastest company in history</a> to reach unicorn status in 2018 and achieved a $2 billion valuation less than a year later. But as the pandemic hit, it abruptly laid off 406 employees <a href="https://dot.la/bird-layoffs-meeting-story-2645612465.html" target="_self">via a Zoom call</a> and was forced to remove its fleet from city streets just as it was gearing up for its normally lucrative summer season. </p><p>dot.LA reported in October the company <a href="https://pbs.twimg.com/media/EjstMVqVoAAWd7f.jpg" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">put its Santa Monica offices up for sublease</a> less than a year after completing a costly renovation.</p><p>Bird has maintained <a href="https://www.bird.co/blog/empty-streets-effect-pandemic-unexpected-lesson-life-after-cars/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">the pandemic has been a positive</a> as riders prefer scooters over crowded buses and subways. <a href="https://www.bird.co/blog/scooter-riders-making-comeback-riding-longer-than-ever/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">It says it is seeing riders take longer trips</a> than they did before the pandemic. </p><p>Last month, <a href="https://dot.la/bird-ipo-2648944903.html" target="_self">Bloomberg reported</a> Bird is looking to go public via a blank-check company. Bird said it had no plans to go public "this year," which did not exactly rule out a SPAC sometime in the near future. </p>
Plug-In South LA Opens New Accelerator Cohort for 2021<img lazy-loadable="true" src="https://dot.la/media-library/eyJhbGciOiJIUzI1NiIsInR5cCI6IkpXVCJ9.eyJpbWFnZSI6Imh0dHBzOi8vYXNzZXRzLnJibC5tcy8yNDg2MzAxMS9vcmlnaW4uanBnIiwiZXhwaXJlc19hdCI6MTY1MTg0MTM1Mn0.QPKaMFTusp_uKe5Td0K77QKhp7KXUY6_An5edQ588VM/image.jpg?width=980" id="460a2" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c53839f0b8ac6658fd10bb2da6ea53f8" data-rm-shortcode-name="rebelmouse-image" /><p>Plug In South LA's Accelerator Program is returning in 2021. The outfit is looking for 10 Black and Latinx founders who have proof of product-market fit and traction. The organization, founded in 2015 by Derek Smith, aims to build a network for Black and Latinx founders in South Los Angeles.<br></p><p>Last year was the inaugural accelerator program funded by Verizon, Silicon Valley Bank and Nike. The 2019 cohort hosted five startups including Spooler, a tech-based clothing design startup that credits the program with helping to increase revenue two fold since March. During the program, the company received a contract to launch a Sesame Street active wear product line. </p><p>The last day to <a href="http://pluginsouthla.com/accelerator" target="_blank">apply for the program</a> is Dec. 9 </p>
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