Last week, Crunchbase News published findings revealing that just three percent of venture-backed companies had female-only founders in the second quarter. And earlier this year, we reported on the results of a study that found that most venture-backed startups are “still overwhelmingly white, male, Ivy League-educated, and based in Silicon Valley.”
Despite the best efforts of many, these numbers are just not inching upwards as much as we’d like.
Last October, the profitable Austin-based woman-first social networking app Bumble became one of those tackling the problem with the launch of its Bumble Fund, which is focused “on early-stage investments, primarily in businesses founded and led by women of color and those from underrepresented groups.”
In light of our recent findings, we thought it would be a good time to hear how things were going with the new fund. So we conducted an email Q&A with Sarah Jones Simmer, Bumble’s COO, who leads Bumble’s investment strategy.
Crunchbase News: Where is the pipeline of women founders coming from for Bumble that other investors aren’t getting?
Simmer: Our community of women on Bumble Bizz has been a big inspiration for us and has also been a source of incredible women founders. Bumble Fund has also invested in and partnered with Alice — an AI-powered platform for founders — to provide entrepreneurs with community, access to experts, how-to guides, and more. Alice hosts the Bumble Fund application, and every new applicant to Bumble Fund will gain access to the Bumble Fund community on Alice to find guidance, support and mentorship, whether they receive a financial investment or not. So far, more than 10,000 women have joined our Bumble Fund community on Alice.
Crunchbase News: Speaking of other investors, I know you recently partnered with (professional tennis player and investor) Serena Williams, but I know she also has her own fund, so how do you parse that out? Do you compete for deals?
Simmer: Not at all. One of our key mantras at Bumble is ‘instead of fighting for seats at the table, let’s build a bigger table.’ By continuing our partnership with Serena Williams, we’re able to amplify women entrepreneurs even more by collaborating on our efforts and increasing the pool of funding available. The companies that we co-invest in will be receiving investments from both Bumble Fund and Serena Ventures.
Crunchbase News: What is your criteria in investing? How many investments have you made thus far? And in what companies? What is your average investment size?
Simmer: Bumble Fund is open to all entrepreneurs (with a United States entity) who identify as women, prioritizing those with diverse backgrounds, experiences and perspectives. The fund, which launched in July 2018, focuses on early-stage investments, with an average check size of $25,000 to $50,000, with flexibility depending on the needs of the business. Bumble Fund has made 11 investments to date, including: Alice, BeautyCon, Cleo Capital, Female Founders Fund, Gixo, Mahmee, Nude Barre, Promise, Sofia Los Angeles, Translator LLC, and Virtue Health.
Crunchbase News: We noticed that you have invested in two funds (Cleo and Female Founders Fund). What was your strategy behind that?
Simmer: We are looking to invest in entrepreneurs whose company purpose solves a problem that disproportionately affects women. We admire the work that Cleo Capital and Female Founders Fund are doing and we’ve chosen to invest in their funds to help build a bigger table for women entrepreneurs.
Crunchbase News: Also, we noticed this phrasing (on your website) and wondered what you meant by it: “Technology to Reduce Recidivism, Minimize Costs and Promote Public Safety”?
Simmer: This is the mission statement from Promise, which was founded by Phaedra Ellis Lamkins to make a meaningful impact on America’s criminal justice system. Promise is one of the businesses that we have chosen to invest in through Bumble Fund. It is a tech company that creates cost-effective, equitable, and humane alternatives to incarceration. Their mission is to get people out of jail and provide ongoing support to help them stay out.
Crunchbase News: In general, do you believe more diverse founders are more willing to tackle difficult societal problems?
Simmer: Absolutely. Today more than ever, we’ve seen how impactful one woman’s voice can be when given a platform to speak and be heard. We’re passionate about building on this progress and opening doors for women of all backgrounds, especially women of color, to share their message and trust in their potential to accomplish great things. We need a diverse set of people to tackle a diverse set of problems.