Tonight is the first ever Chairman Mom Preach in Seattle at the Riveter’s Capitol Hill location. It’s the first ever Chairman Mom Preach outside San Francisco, in fact, and the first official event we’ve done anywhere outside California.
I am heartsick that I’m on the other side of the country and can’t make it there, mostly because I’ve fallen in love with the women of Seattle, whether they work at Microsoft, Amazon, are building their own companies. The event will be hosted by Jana Kleitsch, Chairman Mom’s head of UX and design, who I met through this very badass Seattle startup community.
I am particularly excited about the partnership with the Riveter. I have been a huge fan of CEO Amy Nelson since I first met her last summer. (Is it possible I’ve known Amy less than a year??) She’s funny, she’s outspoken, she fights for what she believes in, she doesn’t care who she pisses off, and she’s building a far harder company than I am in many ways because it involves real estate. Amy can be vulnerable, like the time she asked me to give her a fundraising pep talk. And then she can own that vulnerability, push through it, and accomplish insane things like closing that $15 million Series A…while pregnant with her fourth child.
It is so important for female founders to stick together, to help support one another’s businesses, and to champion one another. We face 98% bias headwinds in a world where only 2% of the venture capital goes to women. We’re considered “niche” businesses even if we target more than half the global population. We frequently don’t get funded by what few female VCs there are because they don’t want to “only” do the “girly deals.”
When we do get funded, we don’t get as much (on average less than $1 million and less than half what men get.) And the lucky ones of us who raise a seed rarely raise a Series A. Should you make it to a Series A? Only 5% of those will ever raise a Series B.
This leads to a self-perpetuating cycle. There’s no FOMO with female-founded companies because VCs know the dynamics and that even hot female-founded companies will always have a harder time raising money. That means they can always invest in the next round. So they’ll sit back and watch. Only when everyone sits back and watches, companies that have product market fit don’t get the money to scale. And many die. That just reinforces to those early stage VCs that they were right not to fund the female founder in the first place.
For all the hype of female VCs linking arms, this has gotten worse, not better. Part of that is structural: Series A deals in Silicon Valley have increased more than five-fold in recent years, creating a massive gap between seed and Series A that all types of companies are falling into. But frequently the male-founded companies have deeper networks, or were funded by deeper pocketed institutions to begin with, not networks of angels who have limited abilities to fill that funding gap.
When men and women fall into these funding gaps, they frequently have to rely on not paying themselves or personally bootstrapping the company to keep going. The problem is, of course, because of the wage gap, a man starting a company will have made more money than a woman up until that point in their careers. So, he has more to fall back on, and will likely have an easier time finding a senior job in the industry if he depletes all his savings.
All this is to say, Amy Nelson hasn’t just beat odds, she’s beat overwhelming odds. And whenever I find female founders like that I want to work with them, support them, be in business with them, and just find as many excuses as I can to be around them. Every time we support a female founder—even a few dollars at a time—it changes this industry. The more women who make it, the more we can create that FOMO. The more women who become rich, the more women who have money to fund other women. The more women who have a track record to get hired by major venture firms.
The same way a million little systemic inequalities have created an industry where so few women get money to start a company, a million little boosts to female founders can work to change the reality. I use Madison Reed products, I subscribe to Birchbox and Stitch Fix, I’m a member of the Assembly. Every dollar I give to female founders matters. I know this because my heart is warmed with every alert I get that we have a new Chairman Mom member. It’s like I can see the army amassing before me. People believing in me, standing up, and saying, “Yes, I believe that women can just do this better.”
Assuming all goes well with our Seattle meetups, we’ll start having them at other Riveter locations. So if you know badass women in Austin, LA, Minneapolis, Dallas and other Riveter offices, why don’t you forward them a Mama Bear newsletter so our community is on their radar?
Today’s new questions on Chairman Mom:
- Looking for comfortable, ergonomic wedged sneakers
- How to convince my aging parents that my mom may have dementia