Business Diversity

Chief, A Private Network For Women Executives, Raises $100M And Becomes A Female-led Unicorn Startup

Illustration of woman's head with a unicorn lightbulb "Idea."

Chief, a private network designed to help more businesswomen rise into positions of power, raised a $100 million Series B investment led by CapitalG at a valuation of $1.1 billion, itself joining the ranks of female-founded unicorn startups.

Founded by CEO Carolyn Childers and Lindsay Kaplan in 2019, the company says it achieved significant growth during the pandemic. The platform now has more than 12,000 female business leaders—largely C-suite executives and vice presidents—in its network, from companies including HBO, American Express, Nike, Google, Goldman Sachs, NASA, Apple, IBM, Netflix and Lockheed Martin. Another 60,000 women are on its waitlist, it said.

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“Women have always been powerful, and our goal is to magnify and cross-pollinate that influence so women executives have a global network to support them,” Childers said in a statement.

Chief co-founders Carolyn Childers (left) and Lindsay Kaplan
Chief co-founders Carolyn Childers (left) and Lindsay Kaplan. [courtesy photo]

Chief’s growth comes as women remain a minority in the highest ranks of the business world. Just 41 of the Fortune 500 companies have female CEOs as of last year, a record at 8.1 percent.

Women are also dramatically underrepresented among venture investors, and when it comes to leading funded startups: Just 2.2 percent of U.S. venture funding in the first eight months of 2021 went to companies with a sole female founder, according to Crunchbase data.

Last year, 83 startups founded or co-founded by women became unicorns, or private companies valued at $1 billion or more. That was also a new record, but still represented just 13 percent of the 595 new unicorns minted in 2021, per Crunchbase data.

Chief’s latest funding was led by CapitalG, the independent growth fund of Google parent company Alphabet. CapitalG General Partner Laela Sturdy joins the Chief board of directors along with the funding, which also included participation from General Catalyst, GGV Capital, Inspired Capital, Primary Venture Partners, Flybridge Capital Partners and BoxGroup.

“Chief has developed a world-class technology platform to nurture the vital in-person and virtual connections and personal and career development that help executives thrive,” Sturdy said in a statement. 

Chief said the fresh capital will be used to invest in its platform, including the addition of more personalization features that better connect members and serve them relevant business insights.

The company is also committing $1 million a year to nonprofits that promote diversity, equity and inclusion in executive leadership.

Illustration: Dom Guzman

Correction: A previous version of this article misstated the amount of U.S. venture going to female-founded startups. Companies with sole female founders received 2.2 percent of U.S. venture funding through the first eight months of 2021; those with male and female co-founders received 11.7 percent during that period.


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