AOL Launches $10M Fund for Women-Led Startups, Appoints Susan Lyne As Head

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The BBG Fund, which stands for “Built By Girls,” is AOL's new initiative to invest in early-stage female-led startups. 

By Jake Guidry (Contributing Writer, Women 2.0)

Susan LyneAs  more eyes peer in on the tech industry's diversity, women still only make up a small percentage of the total people working in startups, particularly in high-ranking roles. Companies like AOL are acknowledging these discrepancies and are looking for ways to move the needle.

The company’s most recent move was the launch of The BBG Fund, a venture geared towards investments in women-led consumer internet startups. The new venture continues the trend of women-focused projects for AOL, who in 2013 launched Makers, the largest online video collection of women’s stories. Susan Lyne, the company’s Brand Group CEO, will lead the fund as president.

The BBG Fund, which stands for “Built By Girls,” comes at a time when a meager 7 percent of all venture funding goes to women entrepreneurs, according to AOL in its Tuesday press release. Looking to impact that miniscule number, the fund will focus on “multiplatform media, services and commerce.” AOL will put about $10 million into The BBG Fund, Deadline reports.

Its president, Susan Lyne, brings with her years of experience in a range of industries. Prior to joining AOL in 2013, Lyne operated in executive roles at companies including Gilt Groupe, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and Walt Disney Co. She currently serves on the board of directors at Starz and Gilt Groupe.

"In my new role, I am looking forward to contributing in a different way,” Lyne said in a prepared statement. “We have a huge megaphone at AOL so we can have an outsized impact on the way girls and women perceive their options, and on the breadth of entrepreneurial ideas that have a chance to compete. But this is also good business: Women are the majority of users on the fastest-growing sites and services on the internet. We believe we can get strong returns by focusing on entrepreneurs who know the customer best."

Leveraging knowledge of the customer appears to be the angle Lyne will take as The BBG Fund looks to invest its available funding in women-led companies that can succeed. Given her experience, the approach appears to be a sound one.

The BBG Fund, according to AOL, is part of a “broader initiative,” which Lyne plans to unveil in a few weeks at Advertising Week.

Photo: Simon & Susan Lyne of Gilt Groupe by Steve McFarland via Flickr.

What else can mega media companies like AOL do to move the needle on gender diversity in tech?


About the author: Jake Guidry is a freelance writer and DJ living in Chicago. His passions are craft beer, baseball and making people dance. Follow him on Twitter at @jakeguidry.