In 2018, Leslie Feinzaig, the founder of Female Founders Alliance, launched a free, equity-free accelerator for women called Ready Set Raise. The goal was to provide under-networked female founders the coaching and connections needed to raise money.
This year, as funding for female founders drops to 2017 levels, Feinzaig realized why accelerators, hers included, might not work for women as well as they work for men: demo day. A common culminating event in most accelerators, demo day is an event where founders pitch to a room to investors, angels and journalists with the hope of raising a round and landing some coverage.
“The truth is, you don’t raise a round based on a five-minute, highly scripted, polished and practiced onstage pitch,” Feinzaig continued. “You raise it by being able to pitch your startup to any person, at any time, in any context, and get them excited enough to want to participate in your journey.”
So, Feinzaig says the “aha moment” led to Ready Set Raise changing its programming, which will run eight weeks, to be more focused on a “realistic fundraising process” vetted by hundreds of women.
The coronavirus has impacted the way that accelerators work; Y Combinator and Techstars moved to live, virtual programming, which has the opportunity to be more accessible to parents or people who cannot relocate to Palo Alto for three months out of the year. That said, Y Combinator’s latest batch had a drop in diversity, with only 16% of the companies having a founder who identified as female. In the previous batch, nearly 21% of companies had a founder who identified as female.
The drop in access makes Feinzaig’s work even more difficult, and important. This year, as applications rolled in for Ready Set Raise, Feinzaig noticed that more mature companies were applying than usual. The detail led to the founder surveying female founders and discovering that women who had the ambition to start a company before the pandemic are less likely to do so now. Still, she’s optimistic, saying that they saw the “highest caliber of applicants” to her accelerator than ever before.
Today, Ready Set Raise announced its third cohort, including a startup that digitizes retailers that sell outdoor equipment, a marketplace for ethical and legal data exchange and a digital platform that connects Black women to culturally aware providers.
Here’s a look at Ready Set Raise’s third cohort of startups:
● Brightly: Founded by Laura Wittig and Liza Moiseeva, Brightly is a startup that combines commerce, content and community with the goal of scaling conscious consumerism. It is based in Seattle, Washington.
● Womp.ai: Founded by Gabriela Trueba, Womp wants to help anyone explore, create and share 3D. It is based in Brooklyn, New York.
● FixFake: Founded by Kathryn Harrison and Jason Law, FixFake offers decision support tools to reduce fraud in e-commerce. It is based in Bozeman, Montana.
● tbd health: Founded by Stephanie Estey, Daphne Chen and Sherwin Lu, tbd health is an at-home, STI screening platform made for women. It is based in New York, New York.
● Gearo: Founded by Justine Barone, Gearo digitizes outdoor retailer operations and brings in adventure-seekers as customers. It is based in Denver, Colorado.
● Mary Louise Cosmetics: Founded by Akilah Releford, Mary Louise Cosmetics sells natural skincare and personal care products. It is based in Los Angeles, California.
● datacy: Founded by CEO Paroma Indilo and Kaleb Wilson, Datacy is a marketplace focused on enabling ethical and legal data exchange. It is based in San Jose, California.
● Health In Her HUE: Founded by Ashlee Wisdom and Eddwina Bright, the company is a digital platform connecting Black women to culturally competent providers. It is based in New York, New York.
The class will begin October 19th. Members will receive coaching from a variety of partners including, Cooley LLP, Carta, Grasshopper Bank, Madrona Venture Group, UPS and Zendesk for Startups.