Pando

Taking back the Internet for women

By Sarah Lacy , written on May 3, 2018

From The Gender Wars Desk

Dear Internet created almost exclusively by young white men: Female-founded companies are coming for you.

YES, I am biased, but THIS is the most exciting and hopeful trend I've seen in startups in a while: Women-founded, women-run, women-built companies who are taking back the Internet for women.

Yesterday, Fortune stitched the macro-trend together better than almost anyone has, but it's not just Chairman Mom, Maverick, and Peanut. It's Winnie and Ellevest and Bumble too, and even the Wing too. One-by-one we are reclaiming massive-- MASSIVE!-- categories of venture capital investment and returns where women have been some of the biggest consumers and been treated the worst.

The attitude for too long has been, "If it's so bad for women why are so many of them on these sites?" followed by no action taken to make things better. (Literally, the person in charge of Tinder at Match said those exact words to me on stage at Pandoland a few years ago.) "it's too hard!" to stop trolling and abuse, these founders say as they launch Internet-beaming planes into space and build virtual 3-D worlds.

Well, now we're coming for you. And MASSIVE consumer Internet companies are going to be built by and for women. Software eats misogyny.

I've been asked several times in recent weeks how I feel about the "competition" in this space. I feel two emotions. The first is I endlessly support all of us, every single one of these companies. I go out of my way to shout out the ones who aren't brought up in press interviews, in fact. This is not a zero sum game, and all of this is long-overdue. I want us all to win, not only because we need more female founder role-models, but because the Internet will be a better place for women and girls if we do.

The second is: There isn't enough competition. The only reason these markets are so wide open is bias. Many of these companies should have been built ten years ago. They weren't because consumer companies get built from the founder's experience and 97% of venture funded CEOs are men. In the case of Chairman Mom, I don't know what percentage of that remaining 3% are working moms, but I bet it's not more than half.

And let's look at the demographics of the folks writing the checks. It's gotten less-diverse since the dot com crash. Those percentages aren't meaningfully increasing.

I want to be clear: I have had huge success raising money from excellent investors. But I am aware that the only reason I did is that I've spent 20-years proving myself in Silicon Valley. The exact same me with the exact same team and idea wouldn't have raised a dime if I'd built my career elsewhere and didn't have the network I do. Now imagine a founder with the same story, team, and experience who happens to be a woman of color.

So it's not a surprise that the companies leading this "wave" are still comparatively getting crumbs.

Bumble raised $10 million early on and gave up a whopping 79% of its company. Fast-forward to 2018 and Match has reportedly offered it more than $1 b to sell.

Ellevest has raised a whopping $44 million, but Sallie Krawcheck is also the most senior woman in Wall Street history. AND EVEN SHE GOT MANSPLAINED TO ABOUT HOW FINANCE WORKED WHEN RAISING IT. (And competitor Wealthfront has raised more than four times that amount.)

Peanut has raised an undisclosed seed amount, Chairman Mom has raised $1.4 m, and Winnie has raised $2.4 m, according to Crunchbase.

We all have data showing how neglected women-- yunno, half the population-- are by the Web as it stands. And yet, I have no doubt all of us have had to fight harder for every single dollar than, say, a dude starting a business to sell $400 juicers that no one wants.

So, yes, I am biased when I say that women exacting their Kill Bill-like revenge on a social Web that has bullied our daughters and incited mommy wars among us and divided us for 10+ years is the best story in tech right now. But the system we are all trying to use to build these sites is a hell of a lot more biased to dismiss this narrative, to call it a "niche" opportunity, to say they just "don't get it" or it can't be a "big enough market."

We will all show you how big this market is. Whitney Wolfe and Bumble were the canaries in this coal mine. You don't get it? Fine, sit back and watch. Those who do believe will get rich and make the world safer for women and girls.

Like most great entrepreneurs, we are used to being counted out.