As the Project W team looks back on another amazing year, they said they are counting their blessings. “We have met and been inspired by so many indomitable female founders who are building companies that address underserved markets, improve the health and wellbeing of women and their families, and embrace sustainable and environmentally responsible business practices and products. We have also had the privilege of collaborating with countless investors, industry executives, and other supporters of female founders who have generously given of their time and wisdom to help the female founders in our network succeed,” the team said in a write-up released earlier this week.
So what did they manage to accomplish on behalf of female founders? They give us a summary of some of their most exciting accomplishments:
WHAT DID WE DO IN 2018?
- Supported Women of Color. We are painfully aware that, while only 2% of venture capital goes to women-led companies, just a fraction of that small amount goes to companies founded by women of color. We were proud to help move the needle by sponsoring and participating in two important events: Mavens I/O Black and Brown Women in Tech, organized by Vanessa Siverls, an alumna of our Women Entrepreneurs Boot Camp; and Black Women Talk Tech’s second annual two-day conference organized by the formidable trio of Regina Gwynn, Lauren Washington and Esosa Ighodaro.
- Connected Around the Country. A truly diverse entrepreneurial ecosystem will give voice to the hundreds of founders who are innovating in cities outside of New York, Boston, and the Bay Area. Steve Case’s Rise of the Rest Summit this year brought together many of those amazing founders as well as fund managers from around the country who are investing in their communities. Lynn Loacker was privileged to attend the Rise of the Rest Summit and make connections in cities like Detroit, Des Moines, Albuquerque, and Boise.
- Promoted Women in FinTech. Corporate executives and entrepreneurs innovating in financial services continued to share their perspectives with one another at our quarterly FinTech Women fireside chats in New York, hosted by Allison May and Julia Dempewolf. And, in November, FinTech Women brought together an amazing group of women in the Bay Area for a networking reception.
- Celebrated Women in the Nonprofit Sector. With five WiN (Women in Nonprofit) networking events in New York and Washington D.C. led by J.J. Leitner, we continue to celebrate the amazing work of women in the nonprofit sector.
- Collaborated with our Valued Partners We firmly believe that, by collaborating with like-minded supporters of female founders, we can make an outsized impact. We were honored to host in our New York office some of our favorite Project W partners:
- Alicia Syrett and the Spring and Fall series of her impactful Point 25 Initiative,
- the New York Tech Fashion Lab and their corporate partners, applicant companies, and cohort companies for the final pitch day and a workshop,
- Monarq Incubator‘s daylong workshop for their Cohort III of female-founded companies,
- in Seattle, San Francisco, and New York, the angel investors of Pipeline Angels to hear pitches from female founders around the country,
- the New York Civil Liberties Union for an insightful and incredibly timely panel discussion on the rights and health of immigrant women.
- Sponsored Pitch Competitions. We see countless women taking the stage to pitch their products and companies, and we were thrilled to sponsor and support pitch opportunities around the country:
- In Washington, D.C., The Vinetta Project’s Female Founders Showcase, consisting of semi-finals and a final competition featuring eight founders.
- Seattle’s Female Founders Alliance demo night which capped a multi-week mini-accelerator in which eight female-founded companies were selected to participate.
- In Portland, Oregon, the Whiteboard Pitch organized by Woman Led.
- NY Tech Alliance’s Women’s Demo Night, where eight female founders gave demos of their products.
- Springboard Enterprises Dolphin Tanks in New York, Los Angeles, and Boulder.
- Advanced Women Innovating with Blockchain Technologies. We expanded our very rewarding partnership with Springboard Enterprises to sponsor and participate in the inaugural Business of Blockchain Commercialization Lab, where seven female founders innovating with blockchain technologies across multiple industries were selected to participate in an intensive 2-1/2 day program.
- Launched the First of a Series of Podcasts. With the Killer Snails team, we recorded our first in a series of podcasts with Bill Kozel of TechWriters NYC, discussing the challenges faced by women in tech and in science and how to smash through those roadblocks. Listen here.
- Held our Third Women Entrepreneurs Boot Camp. Our third annual Women Entrepreneurs Boot Camp (WEB) was attended by 19 remarkable founders from across the country, and our outstanding faculty shared their wisdom and insights to help our cohort take their companies to the next level. WEB aims to provide real-time, actionable learning to help female founders break through barriers, such as the workshop conducted by Dana Kanze demonstrating how to disrupt the bias implicit in the VC pitch process. Learn about Dana’s research here.
WHAT DID WE LEARN?
This was an incredible journey and here are some of our key takeaways:
- We are Moving the Needle. More capital is being directed to companies with diverse teams. 2018 saw the launch of a number of new funds dedicated to investing in diverse teams, and the incumbents continued to deploy capital to support female and other underrepresented founders. In addition, in increasing numbers, women are investing as LPs and putting their money to work influencing the investment decisions fund managers make. All of which leads to our prediction for 2019: We are going to move the needle in a material way and leave that depressing 2% statistic in the dust.
- Great Entrepreneurship has gone National. Some incredibly interesting companies led by female founders are popping up all over the country, and investors are taking note. In 2018 alone, the Project W community has expanded to Houston, Ann Arbor, Atlanta, New Orleans, Denver, Austin, Butte (Montana) and beyond, proof that New York/Boston, the Bay Area and Seattle are no longer the centers of the entrepreneurial universe.
- Series A Financing is Still a Tough Nut to Crack. While capital is flowing into pre-seed and seed investments, female founders are still finding Series A financing a tough nut to crack. That’s why WEB in 2019 is going to focus on scaling the business to get Series A-ready. The curriculum is designed to provide the tools and learning necessary to add the right talent to a team, to generate recurring and new revenue, to maximize marketing efforts and to optimize distribution channels, among other things that Series A investors look for. Stay tuned – the application will launch in February.