“Ninety percent of venture capital funding goes to the white guys.”
“Even when underrepresented founders do secure funding, they raise significantly less, are less likely to raise subsequent rounds, and retain less equity in their companies,” said Maria Worley, attorney and founder of Start.Law.
Worley believes that access to legal counsel can help the “other 10%.” In 2019, she launched Start.Law, a law firm providing virtual, subscription-based legal services to startups. Rather than rely on templates, founders work with an attorney whom they know and trust.
Worley currently represents Kushae, a natural intimate care company that raised a $1.25 million seed round in 2021. The Black women cofounders, entrepreneur Kimba Williams and OB-GYN Barbara McLaren, are two of just a handful of Black women to secure VC funding in 2021.
Williams credits Worley and the Start.law team as an essential component of Kushae’s ability to successfully raise venture capital funding.
“The odds were stacked against us,” she said. “I knew this would be the steepest mountain we’d ever face as entrepreneurs. Maria understood those challenges upfront and went through the process with us. Without her, we wouldn’t be here.”
Start.Law was created with clients like Williams in mind. Underrepresented founders do more to tackle problems that have a social impact, provide better benefits to their employees, and advance diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. But without access to capital, many of these startups fail. Without capital, you can’t scale or weather difficult times. The pandemic shuttered as many as 41% of Black-owned businesses, compared to just 17% of white-owned businesses.
Worley and the nationwide network of attorneys she works with believe that solid legal advice can help these startups succeed.
“Founders shouldn’t be excessively diluted because they have no idea what ‘super pro rata rights’ means,” Worley said, and “founders shouldn’t be forced to rely on legal templates because the cost of a real attorney is exorbitant.”
“Maria is the antithesis of the cold, money-hungry lawyer,” Williams said. “She is kind and patient. It’s a pleasure to know I’m not on the clock. And there are no dumb questions.”-30-