It’s comforting to believe that the world of venture funding is a meritocracy.
It’s comforting to believe that a founder has a good idea, pitches successfully and gets money from a VC to turn said idea into a business.
But of course, in reality, there are many more complicating factors. Some founders have strategic advantages — perhaps they already know funders, or they know how to appeal to funders by speaking the language of venture capital.
For the rest, raising money is more difficult. Female founders are one group who have continually struggled when it comes to raising money from VCs. Despite some improvement over the years, a key study from 2014 showed that only 3 percent of all venture capital funding goes to companies with a female CEO. It’s hard to believe that female-led companies merit that small a slice of the pie.
Enter the Vinetta Project, a NYC-born collective that aims to solve the gender-based VC funding gap by creating opportunities to connect female founders to investors. The Project is currently active in seven cities, and expanded to D.C. in April 2015.
Amelia Friedman, cofounder of Hatch and, you might remember, co-creator of the 2016 Election Game, led the charge to establish the Vinetta Project in D.C.
A busy female founder herself, Friedman has since been running Vinetta events (all volunteer work) with the help of co-director Anna Kohanski Mason. Kohanski Mason moved to D.C. via New York and Los Angeles — she’s the cofounder of BurnThis, a social fitness app acquired by Beachbody (think P90X) in December 2015.
“I was massively impressed with what Amelia had done with Vinetta in D.C.,” Kohanski Mason told Technical.ly. So while she looks for her next project, she’s happy to help create a network like Vinetta in the District.
The duo also have the assistance of an all-star Advisory Council featuring MakeOffices CMO Shana Glenzer, LifeFuels founder Jonathon Perrelli, WDCEP Director of Tech and Entrepreneurship Tiffany Thacker and others.
In order to participate in the Vinetta Project companies must be a DMV-based, for-profit company, be seriously raising for a seed round or Series A but have not yet received any VC funding, have at least one female founder, be in the pilot or growth stage and be tech-focused or tech-enabled.
Companies that have pitched so far at Vinetta events include Create.io, Heartful.ly and Riide.
But Vinetta events go beyond pitch competitions — the organization also holds founder-funder dinners, workshops and fireside chats on a variety of topics.
Ultimately, however, Vinetta is trying to be more than an events organization — it’s trying to be a solid resource for female founders trying to raise capital. “We look at all the work we do for Vinetta through the lens of being founders ourselves,” Kohanski Mason told Technical.ly. “We’re trying to build something we would find valuable.”