“After a long, lonely year of too many Zoom calls, quarantine separations, postponed plans and joy deferred, our lives are opening up again, filled with an optimism that real and lasting change for the better is possible.”
Spring 2021 GingerBread Capital Newsletter
Spring 2021 GingerBread Capital Newsletter
The other day we got a delivery of happiness from the USPS: invites to two summer weddings. In person! After a long, lonely year of too many Zoom calls, quarantine separations, postponed plans and joy deferred, our lives are opening up again, filled with an optimism that real and lasting change for the better is possible.
A year of retrenchment — and more firsts
We’re optimistic that that narrative also describes the future for women founders. Though it isn’t evident in the latest annual report from All Raise. While 2020 was another record year for VC investments made overall ($156 BILLION), women- and mixed-gender-led startups received fewer investments than in 2019. The report also showed that the chronic paucity of VC investments in women of color founders hasn’t changed; nor has the absence of Black and Latinx women in check-writing roles.
Much work is still to be done. It has been little more than a year since the murder of George Floyd. While some justice has been served in the conviction of one of the police officers (to date) responsible for his death, we have a long way to go to rectify the deep and pervasive inequities in our society, and those in our own organizations. As we stated a year ago, that starts with accountability and transparency. Read on to see how we’re doing.
And yet…new ground continues to be broken; new firsts to celebrate. To note just a few:
- Sallie Krawcheck‘s Ellevest, which earlier this year became the first female-led investment company focused on women to reach $1 billion in assets.
- Bitwise, the tech academy/workspace pioneer co-led by Irma Olguin Jr. and Jake Soberal, raised $50M in a Series B round, one of the largest raised to date by a Latinx woman co-founder.
- Air Protein, the innovator of meatless “meat” co-led by Dr. Lisa Dyson, raised $32M in a Series A round, the largest to date by a Black woman co-founder.
And then there’s BBG Ventures. Co-founders Nisha Dua and Susan Lyne (pictured) announced in March the close of their latest, $50M Fund III, which is the largest early-stage fund to date to invest exclusively in women founders. (It is one of 18 funds focused on women and diverse founders in which GBC is an LP.)
In her Q1 letter to investors, Susan noted that despite 2020’s downward trend for women founders, the year of the pandemic was more of a “retrenchment,” where investors “took the road most traveled.” Susan pointed out that the ecosystem of VCs we occupy is young — the majority of VC firms with a gender and diversity lens are less than five years old — and is still growing at a healthy clip. Our own portfolio is as well. GBC is an investor in nearly 70 companies now. The majority of our investments have been made in the last 24 months.
Diversity, equity & inclusion: how we’re doing
Last year, we committed to increasing the number of Black and Latinx women founders in our portfolio. As of today, 56% of our invested capital has gone to female founders and GPs of color (up from 52% in 2020). Of that 56%, 11% is invested in Black female founders and GPs (up from 8%), and 5% in Latinx founders and GPs (up from 2%). We consider this only a starting point, not an end result.
Change takes time, as Susan reminded us. But we’re working every day to ensure that it doesn’t take its own sweet time. Our women founders are busy, thriving and transforming industries. (For instance, read our Q&A with Catch & Release’s Analisa Goodin, who just raised $14M in a Series A round for her visual content platform.) And they’re hiring, too! Check out the career pages of Hamama, Ellevest, Landit, Ritual, and Camera IQ, for starters, and check out our full portfolio for more.
In commemorating Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month in May, we also saluted the extraordinary achievements of our portfolio company founders who identify as Asian. We have been greatly saddened by the rising number of hate crimes and violence that Asian Americans have been experiencing, and we stand in solidarity with our friends and colleagues to #StopAsianHate. Please read the statement by GBC portfolio company co-founders Siqi Mou and Kailu Guan of Hello Ava Beauty, and help support the organizations they recommend that are working to end racism in all its forms.
We take to heart the lessons the pandemic continues to teach us about resilience, flexibility, gratitude, and community. We’re confident 2021 will be remembered as a year of renewal and growth. And we will continue tugging that line on the growth chart ever upward, by encouraging more women to become investors in women-led businesses, and to become consumers and champions of the products and services they offer.
Like our soon-to-be wed friends. Both couples are using Zola (one of GBC’s portfolio companies, led by founder Shan-Lyn Ma), as their one-stop registry. Just one more reason to celebrate!
Read on to learn what we’ve been up to so far this year.
Wishing you all the best ahead,
NEW IN THE GBC PORTFOLIO
Bold – We joined lead investor Andreessen Horowitz in a $7M seed round in February to support co-founders Amanda Rees and Hari Arul‘s at-home exercise platform for older people. Their simple, personalized programs promote balance, strength and mobility, and the prevention of falls, which are the seventh leading cause of unintentional injury deaths in people over the age of 65. Read more in TechCrunch.
Co–Star – Not your granny’s astrology. This app, created by founder/CEO Banu Guler, merges NASA data with the insights of human astrologers to deliver hyper-personalized daily horoscopes, make connections between you and your friends, and help you understand not only your present but your future, too. Gives a whole new meaning to the old line, “What’s your sign?” For practitioners, skeptics and beginners alike.
Dragonboat – An all-in-one product platform that helps break down organizational silos and connect teams for more effective collaboration in the development of products. Its Responsive Product Portfolio Management (PPM) framework helps teams track goals and outcomes, customer needs, and strategies and resources for better alignment and outcomes. Co-founded by Becky Flint in 2018, the company derives its name from the ancient sport of dragon boat racing, where every team member must work in sync to win the race.
Furtuna – This luxurious skincare line incorporates wild-foraged botanicals organically grown on an 800-acre estate in the hills of Sicily. Co-founders Agatha Relota Luczo and Kim Walls are committed to clean ingredients and sustainable practices in the making of their clinically proven, high-performance products. Furtuna will take your beauty routine to a whole new level — and your skin will be forever grateful.
Pair Eyewear – Co-founders Sophia Edelstein and Nathan Kondamuri offer direct-to-consumer eyeglasses for kids and adults that are affordable, customizable, and super fun to wear. In April, we joined lead investor Javelin Venture Partners in the company’s $12M Series A fundraising round. Read more in AlleyWatch.
Thousand Fell – Full-circle footwear is the vision of co-founders Chloe Marie Songer and Stuart Ahlum, whose startup offers durable, comfortable, on-trend sneakers that are made of low-impact, low-energy-produced biodegradable materials and are completely recyclable. Once you’re done wearing them, you send them back to the company, not the landfill, for repurposing or composting. And we love the way they look and feel on our feet!
Toucan – Learning a new language is as easy as browsing the web, thanks to this startup led by co-founders Taylor Nieman, Brandon Dietz and Shaun Merritt. Also in April, we joined lead investor LightShed Ventures in a $4.5M seed round to support the expansion of the company’s tech, which features a Chrome extension that scans the text of whatever website you’re reading and translates select words into one of the 7 languages it currently offers (choose Spanish, French, Korean, Italian, Portuguese, Japanese or German). Read more in TechCrunch.
Uniform Teeth – Professional orthodontia that offers a better, faster and less expensive approach to straightening your teeth. Now in 3 cities (San Francisco, Seattle and Chicago), Uniform Teeth, co-founded by orthodontist Kjeld Aamodt and CEO Meghan Jewitt, combines in-person care with trained orthodontists and professional virtual guidance that reduces office visits and accelerates the straightening process. Book a free consultation on its website.
OUT & ABOUT (VIRTUALLY)
Linnea was honored by Teach for America (TFA) at its annual 2021 Benefit online, on Apr. 27. A lifelong advocate of quality education for all children and longtime supporter and national board member of TFA (she also co-chairs the New York City chapter board), Linnea was honored along with Dr. Michael Lomax, CEO of UNCF. We are so proud of you, Linnea! Watch the video.
On May 17, Linnea sat down with Hint Water founder Kara Goldin (Hint is one of our portfolio companies) on Clubhouse for a Q&A about Kara’s entrepreneurial journey from her kitchen to creating a leading brand of flavored water in the multi-billion dollar healthy beverage category. The fireside chat was co-hosted by Summit and The Female Quotient. Not on Clubhouse? Check out how to join.
Ita was part of several virtual panel discussions about women founders and venture capital. On Feb. 11, she joined Rethink Impact’s Jenny Abramson, Shatter Fund‘s Shelly Kapoor Collins and SoftBank Group’s Tonya Williams on “Disrupting the Funding Ecosystem: Venture Capital, Private Equity, & the Power of Investors to Make Change,” hosted by All in Together. On Feb. 24, Ita talked with Air Protein CEO Dr. Lisa Dyson about sustainable food production and the future of meat made without animals, hosted by All Raise. Watch the video.