I get asked a lot about competition when it comes to building Chairman Mom. Which is crazy if you think about it. Because there isn’t that much. I don’t say that like “Ooooh ho! No one can compete with us!” I say it in the most literal sense of the word. Because so few women are funded, new communities aimed at celebrating badass working women and badass moms aren’t even a rounding error when it comes to new company formation.
You guys know by now, I’m a massive fan of a lot of them: Ellevest, Bumble, Winnie, Maverick, to name a few. Sophia Amoruso’s Girlboss platform is entering the fray too, with a community for entrepreneurial Millennial women slated to launch sometime next year.
In every story—including this excellent one in Forbes yesterday—I try to make the same point about un-zero sum, how early and how massive this entire category of “women” is. All six of those I listed above (including us) could all easily build $1 billion-plus companies before we ever start to meaningfully compete with one another. There are nuances to each of our approaches, just as there were in the 2008-era of social media companies that were built almost exclusively by young white men. Those nuances meant there were reasons to join multiple networks and ones that spoke to some users more than others.
And guess what? LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Snap all became massive hits valued in the tens of billions of dollars. Tumblr and Instagram were sold for $1 billion each. And those are just the US-based hits.
I wish we had more competition. Because it would mean bias in venture capital was actually getting eroded, and investors writ large were finally seeing this as a large opportunity.
In general, I have an easier time convincing a CEO to buy Chairman Mom for all his employees than I do convincing a venture capitalist to invest in this large market. And if that were just a statement about me, but money was all flowing elsewhere, that’d be fine. But that’s not the case.
And I think some of that comes back to the difference between large companies and venture capital: Large companies know they have to do something about diversity. They are at least coming under pressure. Small, clubby groups of VCs simply aren’t. They are still doing business by “their gut” with no repercussions. And as a result, they’ve got a foot on the throat of how many of these companies can get off the ground to begin with.
Wanna scale one of these companies rapidly? Don’t bother to read Reid Hoffman’s Blitzscaling—there’s likely nothing in it for you. That playbook only works for men who can raise Softbank-style money out of the gate.
To wit, the six companies I name above have raised a collective $70 million or so in capital. And some $44 million of that is Ellevest. The rest of us collectively have barely raised what constitutes as a middle-of-the-road Series B. Never mind Winnie has two badass female technical leads, Girlboss and Chairman Mom have repeat founders, and Girlboss, Chairman Mom and Maverick all have co-founders with large personal brands, followings, and media personalities. Never mind BUMBLE HAS FILED TO GO PUBLIC AT NORTH OF $1 BILLION.
And let’s look at Ellevest relative to its category. Wealthfront, for one, has raised more than four times what Ellevest has. Despite the fact that according to a new interview with Fidelity’s president Kathleen Murphy, “We’re in the midst of a $22 trillion shift in assets to women, because of longevity, because they’ll outlive their spouse, because of divorce, whatever. Second, and related, 9 out of 10 women will be the sole decision maker in their household on their finances at some point in their life, either due to the death of the spouse, or because they stayed single over the course of their career.” (h/t Broadsheet!)
Add to that women are the largest user base in almost all social networks. Some niche.
The hottest category that’s wide open, with a clear comp to a $1 billion market cap IPO that no one wants to put big money behind.
This is why we all have to band together. Together we will remake the Internet and it’ll be our fellow women, not VCs, who make that possible.