These Are Their Pitches: 15 Investors Who Say They’re Funding Diverse And Women-Led Tech Companies

Written by Dana Sanchez
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Some investors in tech startups are trying to change the game totally with new models of investment. Others are helping to drive the diversity debate in the right direction. Diversity is good for business, but tech investment still lags behind for minorities and women. Companies have formed committees, made policies, and talked about promoting diversity leaders. These are some diversity champions who say they’ve taken action.

Joshua Henderson is vice president at Springboard, a resource hub and community of experts helping advance the growth of women-led tech companies. Springboard was co-founded by Kay Koplovitz, former chairman and CEO of USA Networks. More than 660 women-led companies have participated in Springboard’s accelerator programs, raising $7.5 billion.

The list below is based on Henderson’s compilation, the Complete Ecosystem Supporting Women-Led Tech Companies 2017 Edition, published at Medium. “When I learn about a new inititiave, I update the list,” Henderson told Moguldom.com.

Troy Carter. Photo: Kulchah Magazine

Cross Culture Ventures

Founders: Marlon Nichols, Troy Carter, Trevor Thomas

In their words:

Cross Culture Ventures is an early-stage venture capital firm founded by experienced investors with strong operational and investment track records. Our diverse skill set is a key asset and a major differentiator. We help entrepreneurs create next-generation tech and consumer products. Troy Carter is a general partner and founder and CEO of Atom Factory. He co-founded Erving Wonder (acquired in 2004). Marlon Nichols, general partner, has served as investment director at Intel Capital, lead fund manager at BR Venture Fund, and client engagement and business development manager at Frictionless Commerce. Trevor Thomas, general partner, has served as vice president at Gastronome Ventures (Consumer Focused Fund), venture capital manager at Roll Global, and he is founder and CEO at The Third Space.

Alan Hamilton, founder, Backstage Capital. Photo: Backstage Capital

Backstage Capital

Founder: Arlan Hamilton

In her words:

Backstage Capital invests in the best under-represented founders in the U.S. We believe that some of the most successful companies in the future will be founded by people who don’t look like the ones we currently see in the press and on the portfolio pages of other VC firms. Maybe you didn’t go to Stanford (maybe you did!) Maybe you haven’t worked at Facebook. Maybe your startup isn’t in Silicon Valley. Maybe most VCs don’t understand the market you’re targeting because they’re not in it themselves. We think that you deserve a chance to be seen and considered for funding. That’s why we have an open application process where any tech startup founder that identifies as a person of color, woman, or LGBTQ, is welcome to apply to be considered for funding.

Based in Los Angeles, Arlan is an emerging venture capital fund manager, and tour manager to Atlantic Records recording artist Janine & The Mixtape. Having founded and published the internationally distributed indie magazine INTERLUDE, and toured extensively as a live music production professional, she entered the venture investing world from an unconventional path. Arlan is dedicated to minimizing funding disparities in tech by investing in high-potential founders who are of color, women, and/or LGBT. When she’s not writing about herself in the third person, she enjoys yelling at teenagers from her porch, writing the “L Word” fanfic twitter page @ModernLWord, and watching the hell out of some “General Hospital.”

 

Bootstrap Capital founders Roshawnna Novellus, Joel Dixon, Wole Oyenuga, and Earl Coleman. Photo: bootstrapcapital.co

Bootstrap Capital

Founders: Roshawnna Novellus, Joel Dixon, Wole Oyenuga, and Earl Coleman.

In their words:

We are intentional about fulfilling the gap of lack of access to capital for diverse communities. We are a collection of dreamers and builders organized with people, organizations, and connections that are intentional about committing blood, sweat, and tears to funnel capital to the community of diverse entrepreneurs. Bootstrap Capital is laser-focused on helping early stage companies achieve what others believe is impossible. We connect entrepreneurs with the resources, connections, and capital they need to be successful. Through our hybrid approach, we partner with passionate founders who are looking to transforms large markets. We are entrepreneurs investing in entrepreneurs.

Merian Ventures

Founder: Alexsis de Raadt St. James

In their words:

Merian Ventures funds remarkable female founders and co-founders. We believe women are great entrepreneurs and create amazing companies when fully and fairly funded. We look for ideas that will change the world in the following sectors: fintech, consumer, mobile and cyber technologies. What makes us different is our focus and commitment to female-founded and co-founded companies raising seed and series A rounds.

BBG Ventures President and Founding Partner Susan Lyne, and Partner Nisha Dua. Photo: bbgventures.com

BBG Ventures

Founder: Susan Lyne

In their own words:

BBG Ventures invests in visionary entrepreneurs building the next generation of market-defining consumer products and services. Every company in our portfolio has at least one female founder (yep, it’s a gating factor). Why? We believe the greatest untapped opportunity for venture capital lies in backing women who are using technology to address common life-challenges and transform daily habits. Women are the dominant users of the fastest-growing mobile and social platforms, and they make or influence 85 percent of consumer purchases. We think it’s smart business (and plain old common sense) to invest in entrepreneurs who know the end-user best. BBG Ventures is backed by AOL and grew out of AOL’s #BUILTBYGIRLS initiative.

Photo: femalefoundersfund.com

 

Female Founders Fund

Founder: Anu Duggal

In their own words:

Women experience greater successes and fewer failures than their male counterparts. Yet traditional venture capital does not reflect this. Female Founders Fund was founded to change that. A generation of talented women are building businesses and raising capital to bring their ideas to life. It’s not just about women. It’s about talent. Our portfolio companies all share something in common. Each is led by talented female founders with disruptive and innovative ideas that better serve their consumer. We invest in areas where women-led startups have incredible impact: e-commerce, web-enabled products and services, marketplaces, and platforms.

Texas Women Ventures founders Carol Nichols, Cynthia Pharr Lee, Whitney Johns Martin and Valerie Freeman. Photo: texaswomenventures.com

 

Texas Women Ventures

Founders: Carol Nichols, Cynthia Pharr Lee, Whitney Johns Martin and Valerie Freeman

In their own words:

Texas Women Ventures started investing in 2005 with a simple goal: to help women-owned businesses reach their full potential. The fund focuses on companies in the Southwest with an established track record who are achieving $10 million to $100 million in annual revenue. TWV offers innovative capital solutions that allow the business owner to maintain majority ownership and control over running the company. TWV was founded by successful women who have experience building careers and companies and now want to help other women build value.

Monica Dodi and Edith Dorsen, Women’s Venture Capital Fund founders. Photo: alumni.hbs.edu

Women’s Venture Capital Fund

Founders: Edith Dorsen and Monica Dodi

In their own words:

Women’s Venture Capital Fund capitalizes on the expanding pipeline of women entrepreneurs leading gender diverse teams and creating capital-efficient, high-growth companies in digital media and sustainable products and services. We believe that this unique investment strategy now provides the potential for extraordinary returns. The role of women as consumers and entrepreneurs is rapidly evolving. Women are now the biggest emerging market: they control spending, bank accounts and personal wealth in the U.S. Yet few women believe existing products and services meet their needs and those of their families. High-potential women and their gender-diverse teams are starting scalable businesses in record numbers, and yet a mere 7 percent of venture capital is invested in management teams that include women.
The large and growing pipeline of women entrepreneurs building scalable businesses is the untapped market that we at the Women’s Venture Capital Fund believe to be venture-worthy.

True Wealth Ventures founder Sara Brand. Photo: truewealthvc.com

True Wealth Ventures

Founder: Sara Brand

In their own words:

We think it’s just plain common sense to invest in women: they understand consumers because they are consumers. Women are decision makers. When they see something in their life they can make simpler, smarter and better, they use ingenuity to transform our daily lives. In Texas, we’ve built a community of thought leaders and innovators who are ready to take the sustainability and consumer health and wellness world by storm. The True Wealth Ventures investment thesis is that women-led companies perform better financially, yet are an untapped market for investors since only 3 percent of venture dollars go to women-led start-ups and 15 percent to those with a woman on the leadership team. Women make 85 percent of consumer purchase decisions and 80 percent of healthcare decisions.

SoGal Ventures

Founders: Pocket Sun and Elizabeth Galbut

In their words:

Not your typical venture capitalists, SoGal Ventures is the largest global platform for the next generation of entrepreneurs and investors. SoGal Ventures is redefining the next generation of diverse founders and funders. As the first female-led millennial venture capital firm,
we represent how far our generation has come, and how deep our impact on the world can be.
SoGal Ventures believes in global-first businesses, next-generation commerce, design, and diversity. We invest in world-class diverse founding teams in the U.S. and Asia. Our usual investment stage is pre-seed to pre-Series A. We are a powerful network built by fearless visionaries and relentless executors. We believe in diversity, breaking the norms, and changing the world. With SoGal, You will always be energized, motivated and inspired.
Through entrepreneurship and venture capital, SoGal is redefining what you are capable of.

Intel Capital 2016 Diversity Fund Roundtable Photo: Intel

 

Intel Capital Diversity Fund

Intel Capital is a division of Silicon Valley-based Intel Corp., the world’s largest and highest valued semiconductor chip makers based on revenue. Set up to manage corporate venture capital, global investment, mergers and acquisitions, Intel Capital makes equity investments in tech startups and companies offering hardware, software, and services targeting enterprise, mobility, consumer Internet, digital media and semiconductor manufacturing.

Director: Christine Herron

In their words:

Announcing the Intel Capital Diversity Fund, the largest venture capital fund ever created to focus on diverse entrepreneurs. This $125 million (fund), part of Intel’s groundbreaking diversity efforts, will ensure that funded entrepreneurs enjoy the access to business development programs, global network, technology expertise and brand capital their talents deserve.

Photo: valleygirl.com

 

Halogen Ventures

Founder: Jesse Draper

In her words:

Halogen Ventures is an early stage, Los Angeles-based venture capital fund focused on female founded consumer technologies. We believe in hands-on attention and plug each of our portfolio companies into a strategic network of advisors, investors and accelerators in the greater venture community. With a focus on consumer, we also add value in the entertainment, marketing and PR space to further the footprint of our brands. Jesse Draper is founding partner of Halogen Ventures as well as creator and host of 2015 Emmy nominated TV series, “The Valley Girl Show.” Draper is a fourth generation venture capitalist focused on early stage investing in female-founded consumer technology. Her portfolio includes Laurel & Wolf, Carbon38, Naya Health, HopSkipDrive, The Flex Company & Sugarfina. Through her show she’s helped pioneer the way in digital media and has an initiative to interview 50% women in technology. Previously a Nickelodeon star, Draper has used her comedic talents to bring an approachable feel to the technology world.

 

Gotham Gal Ventures

Founder: Joanne Wilson

In her words:

The path that led me to Gotham Gal Ventures was not straight. I got my start in retail and wholesale. During the 1990s dot-com boom, I worked on the media side of the technology industry. I have chaired a few nonprofits and have sat on numerous boards in a variety of fields. I have been a stay-at-home mom, I have been a working mom. A city dweller, a suburbanite. In 2007, I made my first angel investment. Since then, my portfolio has grown to include more than 90 companies. I have also focused my thesis on female entrepreneurs — a decision that is more practical than philanthropic. Women founders tend to be tenacious and thorough. They ask questions and listen. They are great leaders. My female founder thesis led me to create The Women’s Entrepreneurs Festival.

I’m an insatiable foodie. I love cooking, baking and throwing a good party. I love to travel. I am a voracious reader. I enjoy collecting art, particularly emerging artists. New stores and designers are also on my radar. I try to stay on the cutting edge of music, film and theater. When I take off all of these “hats”, my most important job is being a mom. Someone once called me the “woman around town,” which I thought was quite appropriate. All and all, I’m a very lucky Gotham Gal.

InvestHer Ventures

Founder: Gerri Kahnweiler

InvestHer Ventures is the first venture capital fund in Chicago that invests in early-stage tech companies built by female entrepreneurs. It makes early stage venture capital investments in female founders running technology companies. The female founders we invest in must be dynamic, creative and passionate with early stage functioning technologies. We invest in data driven business solutions for untapped markets.

Founder and partner Gerri Kahnweiler has invested in and promoted the wellbeing and potential of women and girls through her commitment to philanthropy, highlighted by her 15-year involvement with the Jewish Women’s Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago. She has served her own community as an elected official. Her mission is to create funding opportunities for women who are focused on technology-enabled business services and data driven solutions for large markets. Cayla Weisberg, partner, is a familiar face in the Chicago startup community. She built a track record for scaling startups. She launched a concierge shopping business at age 17. At 19, she joined forces with a fashion wholesaler.

Part of the Brava Investments team. Photo: bravainvestments.com

BRAVA Investments

Co-Founder: Nathalie Molina Niño

In their words:

BRAVA invests in high-growth, scalable businesses that positively impact the financial health of women. More than an investment platform, BRAVA Investments is a new take on impact investing that emphasizes outcomes over optics, for both investors and for women. BRAVA exists to deliver returns to investors and real, measurable results for women. We find companies that show potential to achieve scale with strong fundamentals, and that are uniquely-positioned to outpace their peers and achieve above-market returns. We focus on industries where we can add value, that are exploding with growth (beta) and target companies that are developing cutting edge technology, research & development, and other innovations (including social innovation) to disrupt industries. Companies that are impacting the lives of women as key stakeholders in their business, and where a positive impact on women is a core bi-product of the business model. How will you use your investments to once and for all, achieve parity for women globally? The collective engagement of our investors – who come together to address critical global challenges – is unlike any other investment platform in history. BRAVA Investments is a permanently capitalized holding company for investors that want to create long-term economic growth while meaningfully addressing gender parity.