Despite the devastating impact that the pandemic has had on a number of businesses, venture capital in the U.S. soared to record numbers in 2020. Investment total increased by 14% compared to 2019, and venture capital backed companies raised over $156 billion overall. This is all great news–if you were a man who founded a company. In the meantime, VC for women-founded companies last year dropped substantially. In 2020, only 2.3% of it went to women-led startups, down from 2.8% in 2019. These numbers, already ridiculously low, are still trending in the wrong direction.
Although the landscape of VC investment in women-founded companies is admittedly bleak, the silver lining is that there are organizations that are dedicated to addressing the problem– such as our newest partner, All Raise. Launched in 2018, All Raise works to accelerate the success of female founders and funders across the country. They’re well known for charging their community of founders, funders, operators, and allies to break the mold and for using their collective voices and influence to radically rewire the industry from the inside. To that end, All Raise offers various resources and programs to arm their constituency with the access, guidance, and support they need to propel the industry forward.
So, why have we decided to form a partnership?
Our mission here at GET Cities–increasing the impact and influence of women, transgender, and non-binary individuals in the tech industry–is undoubtedly aligned with the mission of All Raise. And, as All Raise aims to be everywhere women are founding and funding the future, they’ve decided to expand their footprint to Chicago, which was also the inaugural hub of GET Cities. GET Cities and All Raise, both in partnership with Pivotal Ventures, the investment and incubation company created by Melinda French Gates, are joining forces to increase gender equity in tech. Together the organizations will establish All Raise Chapters in existing and future GET Cities to activate tech venture networks, amplify local expertise, and connect local women, trans, and non-binary individuals to national founder & funder networks and resources.
To celebrate our new partnership, we held a virtual kick-off event on Wednesday, August 11th, which was attended by nearly 100 founders, funders, and allies of gender equity in tech and entrepreneurship. The event was packed with information about the newest partnership, networking opportunities, and thoughtful conversations about the obstacles for women founders.
Renee Wittemyer, Director of Program Strategy and Investment at Pivotal Ventures, started off the celebration by explaining how GET Cities and All Raise are both working to create systemic change and providing a brief overview of the partnership. Pam Kostka, CEO of All Raise, then introduced the members of the Chicago Steering Committee, who will lead the on-the-ground work of activating their communities to drive change. The committee is comprised of:
- Samara Mejia Hernandez: Founder of Chingona Ventures
- Lindsay Knight: Partner at Chicago Ventures
- Elle Ramel: GET Cities’ Chicago Director
- Jasmine Shells: Co-Founder & CEO of Five to Nine
- Genevieve Thiers: Founder of Sittercity.com
- Desiree Vargas Wrigley: Executive Director of TechRise @ P33 Chicago
- Haley Zollo: Partner at Starting Line
One of the highlights of the evening was hearing a panel of three Chicago-based women founders describe their successes, setbacks, and outlook on gender equity in Chicago’s entrepreneurial ecosystem. Moderated by GET Chicago Director Elle Ramel, the panel consisted of Rose Afriyie, Co-Founder and Advisor at mRelief; Anna Lisa Somera, CEO of Rhaeos; and Sarah Doherty, Co-Founder and CTO at TelehealthRobotics. The discussion was not only informative, but also full of refreshing vulnerability that spoke to the myriad of challenges faced by women founders. Anna in particular addressed the pressure she faced to keep her company afloat and her staff paid during the height of the pandemic. She also encouraged aspiring entrepreneurs to not hold back tears when they need that release from their stress, and also to remember that they’re not alone in their frustrations. Additionally, Rose identified the need for increased transparency in the investment process (how to approach investor meetings, how to properly set expectations, etc.) and Sarah made the suggestion of creating an investor playbook to help marginalized founders navigate this world; an idea that GET Cities and All Raise may revisit in the future. Our work at GET Cities, along with this new partnership with All Raise, is all about creating the space to make these connections, to build tools together, and to share our experiences so we’re all better positioned to advance equity in tech in our careers and in our communities.
After the panel discussion, attendees were given time to meet and network amongst each other before GET Cities National Director, Leslie Smith, made the closing remarks.
This flagship event was only the first step in what we’re sure will be a transformative partnership between GET Cities and All Raise. We’re proud to welcome them to Chicago, a city that raised a record-breaking $3.8 billion in VC funding in the first half of 2021 alone. This city is a booming tech hub and we firmly believe that it can function as a model for gender and racial equity for cities across the U.S. As Sarah put it during the panel discussion, “Chicago isn’t a place that sits on its heels and relies on its reputation. The community has grown exponentially, and the supportive nature of the (people) here have enabled that.”
To stay updated on our collective work, make sure to follow us on social media (listed below) and tune into the Chicago Venture Summit, where GET Cities and All Raise will be highlighted in the opening ceremonies. In the meantime, if you missed the GET Cities + All Raise kick-off event, you can watch the full recording here.
Get ready to see what we can accomplish together!