Navigating a new leadership role during the COVID-19 pandemic is surely challenging, but the new Vinetta Project DC director, Dawn Myers, has a plan to keep the organization’s work going strong through the year.
Myers took over as director of Vinetta’s D.C. chapter in January following Kelly O’Malley’s departure last fall to manage the Georgetown Venture Lab. Meyers has a law background, previously serving as an advocate on the Hill, but now — besides this new role — she also leads her own venture, THE MOST, which designs tools and appliances for the styling of textured hair.
“As a founder myself, I am particularly sensitive to the obstacles faced by women in the tech sphere,” Myers told Technical.ly. “I believe that, as an underrepresented founder, I couldn’t wait for an exit to give back to the space. Vinetta serves as a powerful platform and for advocacy for elite women and underrepresented entrepreneurs in the tech sphere.”
In past years, the Vinetta Project has hosted semifinalist pitch rounds in March and June, where two women founders from each event advance to the finals hosted in September. The organization hasn’t been able to host its in-person events since the coronavirus hit, but Myers said Vinetta plans to take its semifinalist pitch rounds now set for May and July virtual.
“Going virtual doesn’t have to mean a loss of community or networking opportunity. We are structuring the event to give up-and-coming founders and investors a chance to ask questions to our pitch contestants,” Myers said. “We’re really excited to give our community the same outstanding opportunities for networking and learning virtually as we have at our in-person events in the past.
The organization received 174 applications after extending the deadline for its 2020 Venture Challenge through last Friday. The first virtual pitch event is scheduled for May 12, and four semifinalists will be announced on May 4.
On the 12th, viewers can expect to hear four women founders pitch their ventures and vie for $20,000. The expert panel of judges includes:
- Seth Goldman, CEO of UrbanStems
- Jeff Grass, CEO of HUNGRY
- Betsey Bluestone, commercial discovery leader at P&G Ventures
- Lolita Taub, venture partner at Next Gen Ventures
- Aia Sarycheva, senior associate at Revolution
As a perk to registering for the event, HUNGRY and UrbanStems are offering discounts to attendees.
The second showcase will take place on July 7. If you applied and your venture is not accepted for the first showcase, applications will be reconsidered for the next. Vinetta will host a pitch application seminar to help applicants improve their chances for the second semi-final.
Myers said the July 7 event will also be virtual regardless of D.C.’s timetable to reopen the region amid COVID-19. Still, she said Vinetta hopes it “will be able to safely host at least one in-person pitch event this year,” so the organization is holding out on locking in the final Venture Challenge date for the fall.
Outside of the organization’s annual pitch events, Vinetta is also hosting Wine Down Wednesday virtual happy hours featuring D.C. founders over the coming months.
“We will continue to provide virtual programming to help our founders navigate fundraising, marketing, client retention, and other critical issues during this time,” said Myers. “As always, we are committed to helping women thrive. I’m happy to make myself available for women founders who are grappling with specific business issues.”