How 500 Startups is investing in female founders and challenging women to write checks.
By Jess Erickson (Director of Marketing, 500 Startups)
What kind of person comes to mind when you hear "startup founder?"
How about "partner at VC"?
Or "angel investor?"
If you ask people walking down the street (ok, maybe not every street in the country, but perhaps in Silicon Valley or San Francisco), their first reaction may be “bro.” It’s seemingly innocent, but this prototype has had significant negative ramifications on the startup ecosystem at large. Women founders have less access to venture capital, fewer women partners, etc. [stating facts that show the dreary stats] Yet there is a clear disconnect between the people founding and fueling such innovation, and the fact that women control [95%] of consumer spending.
It’s a problem. But we’re changing that.
At 500, we’ve been building a strong and vibrant community of female founders. Diversity is in our DNA and its at the core of what we do. When it comes to women, leveling the playing field is something we’re really passionate about. In the last 4 years, we’ve backed 250+ female-led companies like Wildfire, SlideShare, Viki, Moonfruit, TheRealReal, Homejoy, Tradesy, BarkBox and ipsy.
Additionally, we have a significant number of women on the 500 investment team (50% managing partners female, 1/3 investing team, 50% staff).
While there’s no silver bullet that will magically transform everything, we’ve embarked on a number of awesome initiatives to enact change. We’re excited to share a bit more about some of them below and how YOU can get involved:
We want 500 to be the place for aspiring and established women founders go to and consult when they're looking to improve, to connect, and to learn. Recently, we contributed to General Assembly’s Opportunity Fund with the aim of enabling access to tech education for women & minorities. This is a simple but meaningful step to drive change. This February we will be partnering up with the Lesbians Who Tech Summit and we’re honored and humbled to be nominated for the Women 2.0 award. Want to connect and collaborate with 500? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
At 500 we really believe in building a strong community. With over 300+ mentors and 2000 founders, the #500Strong tribe is stronger than ever.
2. #500Women Meetups
Solidarity is everything. It's about bringing these talented women together, sharing their stories and inspiring the next gen of female innovators. This past November we hosted lightning talks with women tech leaders from the Bay Area. We’re hosting our next one on March 5th (stay tuned) with regular meetups happening throughout the year. The speakers included Christine Herron (Director at Intel Capital), Dominque DeGuzman (Engineer at Twilio), Aihui Ong (CEO & Founder of Love with Food) and Bedy Yang (Managing Partner at 500). All women spoke open and candidly about their experiences working in the tech industry. The talks were eye-opening, funny, sad – and it touched on everything from gender inclusive language to the frustration of going “bro” to fit in. Given the nature of the evening, it didn’t take long for the audience to jump in and share their personal stories and wisdom with the group. Yes, real talk happened and it was glorious.
3. #500Women Syndicate
Last September, we launched the 500 Women syndicate to double down on strong women-led companies in the 500 portfolio, AND to enable investors (women AND men) to co-invest in these companies. The 500 Women syndicate's goal is to invest ~$1 million into 10 companies in the 500 portfolio that have women founders. To be eligible for 500 Women, the company must have at least 1 woman founder who holds a minimum of 10% ownership in the company. 500 will invest $50-100K per company (our standard investment amount) and aim to syndicate anywhere from $250-500K per company to the syndicate backers. The power of our network means that we can invest even more into companies that run through our 500 Women syndicate.
So far we have completed three deals via our 500 Women Syndicate: Kiwi Crate, Wanderable, Famebit. Collectively we raised $215,000 with the help 33 amazing backers for each of the deal we invest. 500 has attracted a group of backers who have demonstrated their support for women-led companies, both founders and active investors including: Scott and Cyan Banister, Shanna Tellerman (Google Ventures), Alan Braverman (Serial Entrepreneur at Yammer/Eventbrite/Geni) and Alicia Robb (Senior Fellow at Kauffman Foundation). The #500Family includes many positive female role models in this industry and we want to applaud them for their hardwork and commitment to supporting women in tech. Diversity brings so much to the table and we're excited to continue to partner with groups who are aligned with our goals and values at 500. Want to join the #500Strong family? You’re in luck - Batch 13 (Mountain View) applications are currently open. We’re always on the look out for strong female founders with great companies. Apply here.
#500Women Stats at a Glance
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About 500 Startups: 500 Startups is a Silicon Valley venture capital seed fund and startup accelerator. We invest in a wide variety of tech startups all over the world. We run an incubation program emphasizing internet marketing and customer acquisition, design and user experience, and lean startup practices and metrics. Our investment team and mentor network has operational experience at companies such as PayPal, Google, Facebook, YouTube, Yahoo, LinkedIn, Twitter, Apple and Sesame Street (okay, actually we just watch the show, but we hope to be on it someday).