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Serena Williams Bumble, Grab Hooi Ling Tan, Facebook Ads: Broadsheet March 20

March 20, 2019, 12:44 PM UTC

Good morning, Broadsheet readers! The hottest market in telemedicine is women in menopause, Glossier hits unicorn status, and news on a pair of female investors dedicated to supporting entrepreneurs of color. Have a wonderful Wednesday.


Investing in women. Today’s your day, entrepreneurs—lots of big news from female founders. We have stories below on Grab, Glossier, Cleo, Birchbox, and newcomer Rory, a women-led vertical from telehealth startup Ro that focuses on the massively underserved needs of women in or approaching menopause.

But before we get to all that, a pair of stories from another part of the startup ecosystem: investors—and specifically, black female investors. First, Serena Williams, who, in addition to being the G.O.A.T. of the tennis world, has been making a name for herself as an investor. Through Serena Ventures, she’s been funding mostly female founders of color. Now, she's taking that mission a step further, with an investment in the Bumble Fund, the VC fund launched by Whitney Wolfe Herd's women-first dating app firm last year. In addition to putting her own cash on the line, Williams will also advise on the firm's investing decisions. (Bumble is becoming Celeb Central; you may recall that Priyanka Chopra is also an investor in and advisor to the company.)

Also in the news: Arlan Hamilton, founder and managing partner of Backstage Capital. Yesterday, Axios's Dan Primack (a former Fortune-ite) reported that Hamilton has thus far been unable to raise a new $36 million fund that was intended to invest solely in black female founders. Hamilton took issue with the report that her fundraise has ended—she characterizes it as on hold—but one thing is clear: the fund didn't come together as originally planned. And later on Tuesday, Hamilton told investors she's stepping down as CEO of Backstage Studio, the firm’s venture studio that incubates new companies and products, as Fortune's Polina Marinova reports. She'll be focusing instead on “brand and vision evangelizing, raising assets under management, and mentoring my team.” (Christie Pitts, a partner and chief of staff at the firm, will be in charge of Backstage Studio as a result of the shake-up.)

While the past 24 hours cannot have been pleasant for Backstage, I would argue that reporting on a company's missteps is as important as reporting on its successes. Hamilton has publicly discussed the fund—which she memorably dubbed the "IT’S ABOUT DAMN TIME fund"—including saying that she planned to make multiple investments out of it by the end of last year, so it's fair to point out that she's failed to do so.

But the situation also calls to mind advice another female investor, BBG Venture's Susan Lyne, has repeatedly given to female founders: Go big. One reason male investors take home the super-sized checks, says Lyne: "Men pitch unicorns and women pitch businesses.”

Big, audacious ideas—like, say, a VC fund devoted to funding black women—are the only way to change the world. But, they're also very likely to fail, or at least take longer and be harder to execute than we might expect. The real test is what happens when road blocks appear. Do you hang it up, or do you dust yourself off, learn from your mistakes, and try again? I have no idea whether Hamilton will ever end up raising her $36 million, but there's no indication that she's ready to walk away. As she tweeted yesterday: "Grew a lot, built a ton, had some L’s, scaled back, would do it all again."


Startup stories. First, Fortune exclusive from Cleo, the benefits platform that helps companies support working parents. The company, whose clients include Uber and Reddit, raised a $27.5 million Series B to provide support to parents from the family-planning stage through their children's 5th birthdays. And another Fortune story: the telemedicine company Ro, which runs the men's health service Roman, launched a new vertical—Rory, serving women in and entering menopause. It's the company's first foray into women's health.

The reason behind ride-sharing. Fortune's Clay Chandler follows the story of Grab, the ride-hailing company that beat Uber and is battling with Indonesia's Go-Jek in Southeast Asia. Co-founder Hooi Ling Tan wanted to fix transportation after growing up in Kuala Lumpur, where the taxis were considered unsafe and unreliable. Fortune

Billion-dollar boy brow. It's official: Glossier is a unicorn. A $100 million Series D led by Sequoia Capital places Glossier's valuation at $1.2 billion. It's a notable achievement for founder and CEO Emily Weiss; of 130 VC-backed unicorns in the U.S., only 14 have a female co-founderIs an IPO next? "We are certainly in a position where … we are able to do that," Weiss says.  Fortune

A settlement worth advertising. Years after investigations showed how Facebook's advertising platform could be used to exclude or target users by gender and race, the social network will largely stop allowing advertisers to do so. Advertisers in the categories of housing, jobs or credit can no longer target ads by gender, race, and age after a settlement with the ACLU and National Fair Housing Alliance. “We think this settlement is historic and will go a long way toward making sure that these types of discriminatory practices can’t happen,” Sheryl Sandberg said. New York Times

MOVERS AND SHAKERS: Glossier hired Vanessa Wittman as its CFO. iHeartMedia promoted Angel Aristone to executive VP of communications. Jade Raymond's new role at Google will be leading its new first-party development studio Stadia Games and Entertainment. Karen Keskulla Uhlenbeck was the first woman to be awarded the Abel Prize, or the "Nobel Prize of mathematics." Lucy Deland, former COO of Paperless Post, joins Inspired Capital as a partner. Karen Appleton Page joins B Capital, investing in growth-stage startups. Bulletproof appointed Cameron Kinloch as CFO.


ERA, alive and well. Refinery29 goes deep on the Equal Rights Amendment. Contrary to popular belief that the ERA died in the 1970s, "It’s alive. And all we need is one more state before a feminist dream becomes actual American law." Refinery29

Priced up. In more beauty news, for the first time since its launch nine years ago, Katia Beauchamp's Birchbox has changed its subscription price. Instead of $10 a month for all subscribers, a new tiered system will charge customers between $10 and $15 a month for their beauty product samples depending on when they joined and their loyalty status. WWD

Disappointed in Denmark. Scandinavia is often thought of as a feminist utopia with its generous paid leave policies, but a recent incident proved that's not always the case. Mette Abildgaard, a member of Denmark's parliament, was told by speaker Pia Kjaersgaard (also a woman) that she was "not welcome with [her] baby" in the parliament's chamber. Abildgaard said she had seen a colleague with a child in the chamber before so didn't expect any problems and that her 5-month-old had been well-behaved during the session. The Guardian

Today's Broadsheet was produced by Emma HinchliffeShare it with a friend. Looking for previous Broadsheets? Click here.


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