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VCs to Women: No Money For You

I’m traveling with family for the next few days, so the extraordinary Valentina Zarya will be subbing in for me starting tomorrow.

In one of her latest pieces, she takes a deep dive into the troubles that female-founded companies are having in getting the funding they need. The news is grim. “It’s a well-documented fact that female founders receive less venture capital funding than their male counterparts. What is perhaps more surprising is that things haven’t improved—and have actually worsened—over the past year.” Click through for her full analysis, but this section helps explain some of the reasons why:

Currently, about 7% of partners at top VC firms are women, according to an analysis by TechCrunch. One female VC partner, Aspect Ventures’ Jennifer Fonstad, says that much of the problem comes down to a lack of access: Women entrepreneurs simply aren’t part of the (predominantly male) network of VCs. That venture capital is a boys’ club “hasn’t changed and I don’t think that will change,” she says.

There’s also the dreaded “I’ll ask my wife” response, which Thinx founder Miki Agrawal calls “the kiss of death.” A serial entrepreneur—she owns four restaurants and has founded two companies in addition to Thinx—Agrawal says that the danger of male investors asking the women in their lives for advice is that, more often than not, those women are not their target customers.

This is the kind of unwelcome surprise that should provoke an immediate response from powerful people, including customers. If we’re ever going to solve the problem of diversity in tech, we’re going to need to follow the money – specifically to make sure they’re getting the “advice” they need to make better investing decisions.

Good luck to anyone afflicted by the great snow of 2017. I’ll be back next Monday, March 20th.


On Point

If you really want a revolution in tech, stop paying lip service to inclusionTechnologist Jane Ruffino has written an excellent and still necessary rallying cry for inclusion in tech. It begins at a “woman-in-tech” conference that fell almost comically short of the point when she tried on a headset of the future that was too big for her girly scull. What giant made this? “[F]or technology to be revolutionary, it must work for all bodies,” she says. “Women must be in on technology because we need to keep building the things that work for us.” And yet, the dominant group continues to set the agenda as they always have. She cites the tragic case of one of the earliest washing machines, built by a black woman and featured in Woman Inventor magazine in 1890. What an achievement, right? “She also sold her patent for $18 because, as she said, if white people knew it was invented by a Black woman, they wouldn’t use it.”Medium

A new Native American-themed pilot is cast with indigenous actors and producer
It’s a WGN America’s DC Comics project called “Scalped,” and it’s been several years in the planning. But now, the project is prepared to go forward, with Native American filmmaker Sterlin Harjo set to produce. The show is a modern-day crime story set on a reservation. In Hollywoodspeak: “’Scalped’ explores power, loyalty and spirituality in a community led by the ambitious Chief Lincoln Red Crow as he reckons with Dashiell Bad Horse, who has returned home after years away from the reservation.” If it goes forward, it will be the first series with a predominantly indigenous cast. I’m assuming the reason behind the name will become clear eventually.

EU Ruling: Employers can ban headscarves and other religious symbols
On Tuesday, the European Union’s highest court ruled that employers may ban headscarves or other visible religious symbols in the workplace, in the first ever decision on the matter. “An internal rule of an undertaking which prohibits the visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign does not constitute direct discrimination,” they said in a statement after the decision. There were two cases in question, one in Belgium and another in France, brought by women who were fired for refusing to remove their headscarves.

New video footage casts doubt on the circumstances surrounding Michael Brown’s death
A new documentary called “Stranger Fruit” debuted at the South by Southwest film festival on Saturday, which showed previously unaired footage of Michael Brown inside the Ferguson, St. Louis market he was alleged to have robbed before he was shot to death by police officer Darren Wilson. The film’s creator and narrator, Jason Pollock, and Brown’s mother, Lezley McSpadden, allege that the video shows Brown trading a store clerk marijuana for Cigarillos and that no robbery took place. But yesterday, St. Louis County Prosecutor Robert P. McCulloch released more unedited footage trying to settle the issue, calling the documentary a “pretty pathetic attempt at a video production.” Protests erupted outside the Ferguson Market on Sunday.
St Louis Today

Driving while black or white
It’s a tale of two different broken taillights. April Reign, writer, editor and the creator of the #OscarsSoWhite movement, has written a searing opinion piece that uses an amusing video, now gone viral, to make a larger point about race and the police. The video in question stars a young, white college student who was literally able to juggle his way out of a traffic ticket, as the amused police let him off with a warning. She contrasts that with the experience of Philando Castile, who was pulled over in Minnesota last July for a similar infraction. “Philando Castile was shot in cold blood in front of a child & his GF for a broken taillight. He didn’t get the chance to get out and juggle,” she said in a tweet that was shared over 80,000 times. As the mother of a teenaged boy, she worries every time he leaves the driveway. “I don’t have the luxury of forgetting about Castile,” she says.
Washington Post

South Dakota becomes the first state to sign anti-LGTBQ legislation
South Dakota’s Senate Bill 149, signed into law on Friday, will allow taxpayer-funded agencies to refuse to provide services to same-sex couples or gay people who want to foster or adopt children. The license to discriminate permits any “child-placement agency” to refuse to serve anyone based on any “sincerely-held religious belief or moral conviction.” This includes agencies which receive tax-payer funding. Critics also worry that the bill, which was co-written with an anti-gay adoption agency, will allow agencies to discriminate against single or divorced people, interfaith couples and anyone else they don’t like. The local ACLU weighed in here.

The Woke Leader

You can’t get ahead without a college education in America
The Atlantic’s Alana Samuels digs into the fading prospects for the working class, by contrasting the lives of two, thirty-something white Indianans. One, who is college educated, inhabits an almost comically privileged creative class lifestyle. The other is a single mom working the night shift at an auto parts manufacturer, a step-up from the decade she spent slinging fast food. Their lives, argues Samuels, describe a deep divide that no political posturing can easily solve: It’s about education. College graduates now earn 50%of aggregate U.S. household income, up from 37 % in 1991, while people without a high school degree now earn 5%, down from 12% 1991.
The Atlantic

Bodegas tell the history of immigration, aspiration, and communities
They’re always open. You can buy a lottery ticket, an egg sandwich or a clutch of daisies. And in New York City there’s one on almost every corner. But these mom-and-pop shops, owned by families from countries from the Dominican Republic to Yemen, are struggling to stay afloat, under pressure from chain stores and rising rent prices. NPR’s Codeswitch has a terrific story featuring many of the bodega owners, most of whom are equal parts business champions and community therapists. Says Brooklyn’s Abdul Sulaimani, “Corner stores play a huge part in anyone’s life living in New York,” he says. “If you’re not cool with your corner store guy, you’re not from New York.”

Quiet desperation isn’t just for men anymore
Emily Temple has written a lovely essay that explores the long-standing ideal of the quietly dark Byronic hero: Moody, attractive, conflicted, flawed and given the power and emotional agency to be both powerful and dangerous. This, she says, has largely been the purview of male characters, which is what, she says, HBO’s Big Little Lies such a refreshing change. “More often on our screens, women are the ones waiting in the kitchen for their wayward husbands to come home, to change, to figure out their shit,” she writes. But the three female protagonists, played by Nicole Kidman, Reese Witherspoon, and Shailene Woodley, are different. “I see all three of them as contemporary, realistic Byronic heroes, though each one has refracted the trope differently.”


Usually the first question I ask is, what inspired you to invent this product? I’m hoping that it’s based on a personal problem that founder had, and this product is the solution to that personal problem.
—Ron Conway