Bumble Bizz Presents: Building a Diverse Pipeline of Female Founder Talent | Disrupt SF (Day 2)
3:07AM Sep 7, 2018
Sarah Jones Simmer
Hello. Hello, my name is Sarah Jones Simmer. I'm the Chief Operating Officer of Bumble and we're really excited to welcome you to a conversation about building a diverse pipeline of female founder talent. I'm joined by some incredible panelists. Immediately to my right, Sarah Kunst, who's the managing director of Cleo Capital. Next to her, Anu Duggal who is a founding partner and runs the Female Founders Fund. And Shelly Bell, the founder of Black Girl Ventures. So thank you all for being here with me today.
So we're at an interesting moment when it comes to awareness of issues facing women, especially as they're launching new businesses. And we want to have a real conversation today about what that pipeline looks like. And from these three women who really fully understand both the side of being a founder as well as investing capital in those incredible women.
And so I'd love to start with you, Anu. Female Founders Fund has really developed a leadership position around investing in women and celebrating female founders. You could talk about some specifics of how you've tried to build that pipeline, especially for women of color.
Sure. So female Founders Fund is an early stage fund investing in technology companies started by women based in New York. And when you think about more broadly speaking, you know, less than 2% of venture capital dollars goes to women. So from a pipeline perspective, we are part of that 2% and I think really building diversity within that.
We also track within our own portfolio demographics. And, you know, we have over 60 founders now within our portfolio, of which over 50% come from diverse ethnic backgrounds, which is really important to us.
And I would say in addition to that, one of the more recent initiatives that we've launched is our venture partner program and that includes women of diverse backgrounds from across the country, where we're really leveraging their networks to help us get access to more diverse founders. So I think those are a few of the things that that we've done in recent times.
Yeah, no, that's great to hear. And I think as you said, we're at this moment where not enough capital is being diverted to women I shouldn't even say diverted is being focused on women in a time when historically so much of that has almost instinctively gone to men. Because so many of the people sitting on the other side of the table are men.
And Sarah, I feel like you've had such a good opportunity as both a VC and a founder yourself. You've sat on both sides of that table. So maybe you can talk about what the opportunity is for VCs here and why it matters, frankly. Why it makes a difference.
I mean, women control 80% of all consumer spending. I used to work in the fragrance industry in the beginning of my career, and 50% of men fragrances are bought by women. And most guys, if they're home alone, are not going to put fragrance on. So if a girl tells you she hates your cologne, you'll probably change it.
So women drive essentially every purchase decision. And we're not funded to create companies to then sell stuff essentially to ourselves, right? Which is kind of crazy. And so I think these VCs have to care from a financial perspective.
If you're not the kind of person who thinks that women and people of color are as capable and worthy as some random white dude, you know, from Stanford, like that's between you and your maker. I don't care. It's not my job to help you change that. It's my job to say, I'm a really greedy person. And I want to be really rich. And the best way to get really rich is to invest in the best founders. And you can't do that if you're not investing in women and people of color.
So you feel like there's really a missed opportunity economically. And then there's this this moral obligation that we really shouldn't be doing better.
Absolutely. Massive, massive, massive economic opportunity. The GDP. Like we are leaving dollars on the table in the state, in cities, like everywhere. There is money all around you literally in this room, and it's the women that we're not investing in.
I think that's a great point. Shelly, you and I were having an interesting conversation last night about allies. So what can someone like me or people in the audience really do to support this diverse pipeline?
Yeah, so at Black Girl Ventures, we work to create access to capital for black and brown women entrepreneurs. It was created in a response to the fact that women are not getting access to capital. The black women are starting businesses at six times the national average.
So clearly, we're not stopping we're going to start the businesses. And so the it's a rent party model, which historically in a black community is where we raise money on our own, and we give it to the founder and it took off so fast. And I realized things we realized late lately with our impact metrics is that we're actually activating allies because we created a space where people feel like they can be included.
I heard someone say once that diversity is being invited to the party. Inclusion has been invited to dance. And belonging is dancing whether anybody invites you or not. So we work to create a space of belonging for everybody.
For those out there who are looking to how to activate as allies, I would say you don't, don't go to the table and speak for people. Pull, pull the seat back and invite them to sit beside you. Amplify other people Amplify when you have a certain space with a stronghold. Amplify what other people are doing. Show yourself as an advocate or cheerleader, more than more than a always the bullhorn of the person happens to make the case.
So I think true inclusion for me is that the future is that I can be a leader for my black and brown women. And everybody can help me do that. It's not a matter of creating more silos, like women can only talk to women or black women can only talk to black women. But it is that I can do that and we can all be leaders, but everybody can help everybody lead from all the communities.
Yeah, that's really well said. Sarah, what advice would you give to a female founder especially women of color who was feeling discouraged by the current funding landscape?
Um, I think you have to acknowledge it, because otherwise you're kind of gaslighting yourself. So you acknowledge the reality, right? That a random white dude sitting across from you is infinitely more likely to get funding. And you kind of take that in and you go, okay, that sucks. If you're me, you go talk to your therapist. And then you say, okay, so and then you go build stuff anyway.
And I think that that's the most important part I've heard a couple of times recently from women. And it really makes me sad women saying things like, Well, you know, but it's going to be so hard to raise because it's just so hard to raise when you're a woman.
And I'm like, Yeah, but like you're doing this, if you don't want to do this and go get a corporate job. I'm happy to introduce you to somebody. But if you want to do this, then like put that out of your mind. Pretend like you don't know the stats and just build a really solid company, have a good brand, have good revenue, have a good you know, hire good people.
And once you start doing that, if you can't afford to hire people, like make your friends work for you for free, right being it being an advisor, like I am with Bumble fund, but just find a way to get started and like tune out that noise and recognize it when it happens. But don't let your life get like taken over by the stats and the fact that the deck is stacked against you, because then you just can't get anywhere with that psychic weight on you.
Yeah. Don't let it paralyze. Yes. Anu I'd love to hear your thoughts on the same question What advice would you give?
Yeah, absolutely. So female Founders Fund was was launched in 2014. And you know, we were one of the early funds, I think that really focuses on investing in women. Fast forward to today, I can name at least 20 to 25 funds that have a similar focus, whether it's on investing in female founders or investing in diverse founders. So there's been an exponential increase in in investors that are that are really excited about the space which I think is very positive.
I think, you know, earlier this summer in July, there was a day that between four or five female founders over 600 million was raised. So to me, those are very positive signs and, you know, we're investing capital behind this so. So I really feel like there will be a generation of very successful female founders that return capital to investors that prove that this is a strong investment thesis.
That being said, it is definitely not easy to raise capital, whether you're a female founder or a woman of color. So it's important to acknowledge that, but then I think also look at role models and develop a network around you that has successfully done that and, and really leverage them to to get advice and to get introductions. When you're thinking about raising capital.
I think that's great advice. And that's something we think a lot about.
At Bumble being a female funded and female led company, you start to have this responsibility to be the example for the next generation of female founders. And that's why we recently announced that we launched the Bumble fund and some of our investments include the women you see on this stage. And it's a real opportunity for us to try to mobilize that next generation and make those commitments to women who are maybe feeling the discouragement or the paralysis that we're talking about.
Shelly, I'd love to hear what your best advice is.
Yeah, my motto is resist the urge to be average. So whatever you have to do to get out of that mode, and like flip some of these things that we learned growing up, like create a new filter for all the things that you learned growing up, I guess some of it needs to go how you motivate yourself. Are you thinking about.
Anu and I was just talking about before we came in about are you thinking about building a billion dollar company like is that where you're thinking this old phrase of like, you know, people in glass houses shouldn't throw the first step no throw stones crashed and the glass walk out, you know, look at what's new. Look at what's out here.
You don't have to guess that anything. use that analogy. Use Google Alerts, use whatever you have to do to stay abreast of your industry and just keep pushing in is so important to know like is women sometimes like oh, I'm going to start the best little places in my little you know corner in my city and then men like they haven't even tested the thing out and I like I'm going to charge and I'm going to greet 15 across the country is like what?
So it's think bigger and it's not about in comparison to men it is this the last person that you were in comparison to what you were yesterday what you were not doing the day before what you could be doing more of and just go hard core everything that you already are and you'll learn along the way.
No, I love that. And I think that example of pushing ourselves to think bigger is good advice for all of us. Sort of no matter what side of the table we sit on funder founder. I'd love for each of you to describe a female founder that you've encountered in your career that was really inspirational whether in one of your portfolios or just someone that you've come across over the course of doing business and and share an interesting story or anecdote maybe Sarah, we could start with you.
Yeah, um, I recently invested in a woman Stephanie Lampkin who does Blendoor and it's a diversity the driven career matching app, and then service for companies. And the interesting thing about her is how in some ways completely on interesting she is for being a venture backed founder, right? Stanford undergrad at MIT, grad school, computer engineering degrees worked at Google Facebook all these things right?
That that sort of are we accept as, of course, this is what a founders resume look like. But then you meet her and she's black and she's gay and she's a woman and that's not you know, what we pattern match to think of founders and watching her build this business over the past few years on very little capital has just been really inspiring because and I don't think this is always true.
But I don't believe that if you are a white dude, she would have that trouble raising a couple million dollars because she has the resume that everyone's told they have to have and she's done the things and get the traction and gets the press and gets everything.
And she sort of runs through checking boxes, checking boxes and watching her overcome so many setbacks. So many, you know, people who say, Hey, I'm going to give you money and it doesn't come through, or you know, hey, I'd love your app. And then three weeks later, they're funding a competitor.
It's just been so inspiring because I I'll call her sometimes I'm like, I'm freaking out about this thing that happened to you. How are you okay with it?
She's like, Sarah, it'll be a chapter in my book. Until then, I just got to be heads down and I'm like, okay, so I have to stop like crying to you about your problem. She's like, Yeah, because I have to go work and I think that that attitude and resilience and behavior is one of those things where as soon as I had the capital and the ability to back somebody she was one of my first checks because I was like there's no way this human is going to fail there's just no way.
Yeah I love that story. Anu same question for you.
Yeah. So I think the person that comes to mind for me is Kate Ryder. She's the CEO of Maven. And you know, Maven. Bumble now offers Maven to your employees, which is my thing. Yeah.
And so when I first met Kate, this was now about four years ago, she had a really interesting background. She was an actress was a writer for The Economist, worked briefly at index ventures.
And she came to me with this huge vision around developing a product for for women's health in the digital space. And at that point, there was no women's health industry and the concept of catering to women differently than men was very unusual.
And I have watched over the last four years really have to hustle have to go through countless numbers of kind of male VC meetings where they had no concept or understanding of how massive the market is. And now you know, fast forward to today, what she's built which has developed the team the investors are her is incredible. And she's really built an industry and defined it in a way that I think presents opportunity for so many other women to build this into.
To follow that path. I think as both of you said, you prove the growth, improve the numbers, you prove the KPIs proved the profitability and then suddenly people are paying attention yeah Shelly same question for you.
Yeah, founder that comes to mind for me. Her name is Takia Ross. She's our Baltimore ambassador. She's won over $60,000 in pitch competitions, which is why I do the work that I do because pitch competitions as some people may not take them as seriously are like everybody's doing them.
But when you don't have generationl wealth when you don't have family and friends that you can go get 1020 $30,000 you heavily relying on your personality and being able to pitch your business to a group of people possibly getting investment and possibly getting cash to start your business.
So she grew this makeup business and then she started a mobile makeup business using the money that she got so now she's written a book about it or written a book about raising through pitching and how to have a presence on stage and how to know your numbers and things like that soon. She's amazing.
I love that. And the fact that she's already sort of giving back and trying to lead by example and show others, which I think is the resonant theme of this conversation is sort of use the platform that you have, whether that's a VC like each of you are running or a company like Bumble is this real opportunity to stand as the inspiration for the next generation of female founders. So thank you all three. It is wonderful to chat with you. And thank you all for joining us. Thank you.