Latest on Rethink Impact, our investments, and the space

March 13, 2017

It’s a well-documented fact that female founders receive less venture capital funding than their male counterparts. What is perhaps more surprising is that things haven’t improved—and have actually worsened—over the past year.

Venture capitalists invested $58.2 billion in companies with all-male founders in 2016. Meanwhile, women received just $1.46 billion in VC money last year, according to data from M&A, private equity, and venture capital database PitchBook. That massive disparity is due both to the differences in the number of deals and the average deal size by gender.

Number of deals

First, consider the volume of deals. In 2016, 5,839 male-founded companies got VC funding, compared to just 359 female-founded companies. In other words, companies run by men got more than 16 times more funding than companies run by women. (Companies with both male and female founders fared slightly better than those founded exclusively by women with 1,067 receiving funding.)

There was some positive news last year: Women-led companies made up 4.94% of all VC deals in 2016—the highest percentage in the past decade. It’s a paltry number, but a noticeable improvement from 10 years ago, when female founders were involved in just 2.95% of deals. (read more)

Rethink Impact fund invests in female-led companies creating transformational social and environmental change


NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)–UBS Wealth Management Americas partnered with Rethink Impact, a venture capital fund, to contribute to raising $110+million, more than half of which came from UBS clients, including high net worth individuals, family offices, private foundations, and universities, for the closing of Rethink Impact. Rethink Impact is an impact investing venture capital fund investing in gender diverse, tech-enabled companies working to solve the world’s biggest challenges based on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

Rethink Impact, invests in social impact companies with a gender lens. The fund is particularly focused on the health, education, environmental sustainability and economic empowerment sectors and includes companies that merge strong businesses with a social mission. Rethink Impact investors span the majority of the states across the country, are balanced in terms of gender and are a mix of individuals, foundations, universities and beyond. (read more)

December 1, 2016

A Redwood City, Calif. startup called Neurotrack Technologies Inc. has created a brain health app that is helping scientists unravel the mysteries of memory, and work to find a cure for Alzheimer’s.

Its simple browser-based app screens users for signs of cognitive decline based on their eye movement as they watch a few images presented on their screens. These tests used to take about 30 minutes, and were available only at the doctor’s office using hugely expensive equipment.

Neurotrack has been able to shrink their scans down to a 5-minute, home-based process thanks to technological advances around eye tracking technology, data analytics, machine learning and computer vision, according to the company’s CEO and cofounder Elli Kaplan. (read more)

July 2016

EverFi, a D.C.-based edtech company, announced a $40 million Series C round of venture funding, Wednesday.

The round was led by Amazon CEO and Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos, Alphabet (formerly Google) CEO Eric Schmidt and other investors including New Enterprise Associates. Three new investors, Advance Publications, Rethink Impact and Silicon Valley Bank, were also announced as part of the funding round. Advance Publications is the parent company of American City Business Journals, which owns DC Inno. (read more)

July 2016

Jenny Abramson was interviewed by Fortune’s Nina Easton in the popular Smart Women, Smart Power podcast and speaker series (which features Melinda Gates, Samantha Powers, and others). Access the free podcast here.

March 2016

Rethink Impact’s Founder & Managing Partner, Jenny Abramson’s panel on “Building an Inclusive and Modernized Workforce-Key Issues in Women’s Labor Force Participation” at the United Nations for International Women’s Day begins at 3:15:00, click here for the link.

March 2016

“Meet the Social Impact Firm that Wants to Change the World.”

Unlike other businesses, social startups are focused on creating a long-lasting social or environmental impact while working in traditional business markets – a feat many quickly realize requires a new investment model. In fact, social impact investors committed $8 billion in 2012, $10.6 billion in 2013, and an estimated $12.7 billion in 2014 to social businesses, according to a report by the Social Impact Investment Taskforce, an international organization established by the G8.

Enter Jenny Abramson, founder and managing partner at Rethink Impact, a venture capital fund that invests in social enterprises. Her company partners with businesses that use new technologies to make the world a better place, empower people and find untapped market opportunities. (read more)

September 14, 2014

At the time, the ad campaign — modeled on efforts to curb drunk driving — was considered shocking. It was 1994, the year that OJ Simpson would be arrested for murder, his history of domestic abuse exposed. Yet even so, domestic violence was not a crime that anybody seemed willing to talk about back then. It was, as then Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala put it, “our dirty little secret” — something that happened, and stayed, behind closed doors. (read more)

January 24, 2014

Rachael Chong, founder and CEO of Catchafire, explained how she left the world of investment banking — a job she said she actually enjoyed — to become an entrepreneur.

“While I was banking I still wanted to be able to give back and at the time the only opportunity was, once a year we’d get put on a bus and go build a house,” Chong told HuffPost Live at Davos on Saturday. “All volunteer work is good, but when you think about maximizing impact, bankers building houses is not necessarily the best use of their time.” (read more)

August 13, 2014

Shopping for presents, finding a great restaurant, binge-watching TV shows — in many ways, the Internet has made life simpler with just a few clicks. Fortunately, advocating for good is a little less complicated now, too, and is in part to thank.

Since 2007, the free online petition tool has helped transform the world of viral activism. Enabling its more than 75 million global users to mobilize roughly 900,000 petitions advocating for progress, has been used time and time again to make this planet a better place to live. (read more)

April 10, 2015

Purpose and two of its partners were recognized this week in the 19th Annual Webby Awards.  The video, “Scenes from Everytown: 4:08pm,“ created by Purpose in partnership with Everytown, was honored along with #WalktheWalk, created in conjunction with Here Now (a Purpose incubation).  Both were selected as Official Honorees, a distinction only given to the top 20% of entries.  #WalkTheWalk was recognized under Activism, in the Website category, and “Scenes from Everytown: 4:08 pm” was under Public Service and Activism, in the Online Film and Video category. (read more)

October 4, 2015

Rachael Chong is a modern-day matchmaker, but her clients aren’t looking for love.

Her company, Catchafire, is an online platform for nonprofits and social enterprises to find skilled professionals willing to volunteer their services, from photographers to technologists to accountants. Think of it as a cross between OkCupid and the classifieds.

“A matchmaking service between talent and purpose,” as Chong says. (read more)

July 1, 2015

Classy, a four-year-old San Diego startup that provides online fund-raising services for Teach for America, Oxfam, and other nonprofit organizations, has raised $18 million in a growth-funding round led by Mithril Capital Management, according to a statement from the company. Mithril is the San Francisco investment firm founded in 2012 by PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel and Ajay Royan.

Salesforce Ventures, Bullpen Capital, Venture51, Galileo Partners, and Rethink Impact joined the round. (read more)

News on Impact & Gender

September 27, 2016

Companies run differently when more women hold power.

In the management suites of Adobe Systems Inc., Best Buy Co., Target Corp., Gap Inc. and Kimberly-Clark Corp., women occupy as many as five of eight spots on the male chief executive’s leadership team. These female executives often serve as role models for other women in the company. They push for better diversity practices and help men overcome hidden biases.

They also are reshaping attitudes about how women’s careers progress, and championing nontraditional ways to get ahead.

Change is coming slowly, but corner offices are looking a bit less like exclusive boys’ clubs lately. At S&P 500 companies with men in command, 11.9% of the four other highest-paid officers are women, up about four percentage points from a decade earlier, according to an analysis for The Wall Street Journal by researchers Equilar Inc. Overall, 19% of C-suite executives are female—a slight increase from 17% in 2015, according to an analysis by McKinsey & Co. and LeanIn.Org. (read more)

July 12, 2016

‘You can’t be what you don’t see.’

There’s still a lot of work to be done when it comes to including more women in venture capital, summed up by a collective chorus at a panel of Silicon Valley and Boston venture capitalists at Fortune‘s Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen on Tuesday.

“Everyone has a role to play, including the press, existing VC firms, and entrepreneurs,” said Megan Quinn, a growth investor at Spark Capital, who was previously a partner at Kleiner Perkins. “I don’t buy the argument that there aren’t enough qualified women to be in venture capital,” she added.

The lack of women who invest in startups in Silicon Valley is an issue that has come to light over the past few years. Fewer than 6% of all decision-makers at U.S. venture capital firms are women, according to data compiled by Fortune, showcasing the glaring gender inequality issues in the investment industry and Silicon Valley as a whole. (read more)

June 16, 2016

The finance industry presents a bewildering array of options for anyone looking to increase their savings, from “60-40” portfolios to newfangled concepts like “smart beta”, but rare is the investment strategy that has been blessed by the Pope.

When the Vatican assembles investors, entrepreneurs and academics for its second Impact Investing Conference later this month, it will do so as the mainstream wealth management industry has started to catch on to the term. Impact investments are made with the aim of generating not just a financial return but also a measurable social or environmental one. It is an alluring — if often elusive — proposition: doing good while also making money.

Pope Francis has made it a theme of his papacy that capital markets should be redirected to help the poor, and the conference will explore how the Catholic Church might channel some of its riches to impact investing. Wealth managers are perhaps more concerned with mammon than with God: they have watched as some very rich clients pulled their money from firms who cannot offer impact investing advice. (read more)

April 1, 2016
Fewer than 6% of all decision-makers at U.S. venture capital firms are women, according to data compiled by Fortune. It is a pathetic figure, but also a slight improvement over the last time we examined the data.Our analysis began by using PitchBook to compile a list of all U.S.-based venture capital firms that had raised at least one fund of $100 million or more since the beginning of 2011. That worked out to 282 firms that had raised over $130 billion.

We then researched each firm go determine how many investment decision-makers were women. This proved a bit tricky since not all firms use the same terminology, so we generally looked for the most senior “layer” of investment professionals. Sometimes that was “general partners,” sometimes “managing directors,” etc. We excluded anyone who serves primarily in CFO or other administrative positions, unless they also represent the firm on portfolio company boards. Finally, we only used current staffing, as opposed to who may have been with the firm at the time funds were raised. In short, science buttressed by a bit of art. (read more)

March 22, 2016

Technology companies have disrupted other industries with apps that dispatch cars, housekeepers or pizzas in a matter of minutes. But tech firms lag behind those old-line businesses when it comes to advancing women. (read more)

March 18, 2016

A daily barrage of humiliating remarks.

Anita Brearton and Sheryl Schultz have advice for other post-50 female entrepreneurs: Don’t give up, no matter how many ridiculous, insulting things are said to you by the mostly male venture capitalists you will inevitably encounter.

The two businesswomen, both entrepreneurs and both in their late 50s, should know. For the past year, as they looked for investors for their latest venture, Brearton and Schultz heard all kinds of unhelpful suggestions, including:

  • “You should tell the investors in the room to close their eyes, send in some hot babes and let them start talking for you.’”
  • “Start-ups are really, really hard. You gals are really smart. Why don’t you just take CMO roles?”
  • And then there was, “Don’t even bother trying to raise money, you’re too old.” (read more)

February 3, 2016

For years, women have had to adapt to the male way of doing things, even when starting our businesses. But things are changing! The number of women growing their businesses beyond $1 million has reached a tipping point. An impressive 24% of all businesses have more than 50% ownership by women, according to a report by the U.S. Women’s Chamber of Commerce.

I just finished reading Being Equal Doesn’t Mean Being the Same: Why Behaving Like a Girl Can Change Your Life and Grow Your Business by Joanna Krotz. It’s an exciting time for women who recognize that trying to climb corporate ladders is limiting and too rigid. Instead, they are striking out on their own. These women are rewriting the rules for business, families and society.

Krotz shows how using our unique strengths women are blending purpose and profit to the betterment of all. (read more)

January 22, 2016

Here are the lucky few who raised the most.

Startup funding, once flowing through Silicon Valley like Red Bull through a coder, may be starting to dry up. While that’s bad news for any young company chasing a fresh infusion of cash, it appears to be having an especially pronounced effect on one particular group of founders: women.

A new report from Female Founders Fund (F Cubed), a seed investment firm that specializes in companies run by women, finds that Silicon Valley’s women-led startups lost ground last year. Just 16 female-founded Bay Area startups raised a Series A in 2014, compared to 23 in 2014. And while the overall number of Series A raises in the San Francisco area dropped by 11% last year, companies with female CEOs were disproportionately affected, falling a whopping 30%. (read more)

September 2015

Gender inequality is not only a pressing moral and social issue but also a critical economic challenge. If women—who account for half the world’s working-age population—do not achieve their full economic potential, the global economy will suffer. While all types of inequality have economic consequences, in our new McKinsey Global Institute (MGI) report, The power of parity: How advancing women’s equality can add $12 trillion to global growth, we focus on the economic implications of lack of parity between men and women.

A “best in region” scenario in which all countries match the rate of improvement of the fastest-improving country in their region could add as much as $12 trillion, or 11 percent, in annual 2025 GDP. In a “full potential” scenario in which women play an identical role in labor markets to that of men, as much as $28 trillion, or 26 percent, could be added to global annual GDP by 2025. MGI’s full-potential estimate is about double the average estimate of other recent studies, reflecting the fact that MGI has taken a more comprehensive view of gender inequality in work. (read more)

October 2, 2015

It’s no longer acceptable for a website to not render well on mobile. In the next decade, it won’t be enough for a company to merely be profitable — customers, employees and investors will all demand that a company produce positive impact, as well.

This might seem unlikely, but so did businesses moving to the cloud as quickly as they did, or web traffic moving to mobile with such haste. The early data looks quite similar to these past two revolutions, as the number of benefit corporations (companies that can legally maximize for positive impact on society in addition to profits) is showing hockey-stick growth. (read more)

October 30, 2015

THE rock star Jon Bon Jovi was in London three years ago this week when Hurricane Sandy wiped out the New Jersey beach towns that played a big part in his childhood memories. He flew home to New York to be with his family and then headed south to his home state to see the devastation firsthand.

Mr. Bon Jovi used his celebrity to bring in relief money. He said he persuaded Gov. Chris Christie to put his hometown Sayreville, which was hit hard by the storm but is not on the coast, on the list of towns receiving federal money to buy home sites that couldn’t be built on again. He donated $1 million of his own money to Sandy relief and was one of the headline acts at a concert that raised $50 million more to help the affected areas. (read more)

October 9, 2015

One of the biggest debates in impact investing is whether investors must sacrifice financial return to achieve their desired social or environmental impact. Researchers at the Wharton Social Impact Initiative found that wasn’t the case when they analyzed the financial performance of 53 private-equity funds that focus on impact investments. The funds made 557 individual investments in social-purpose companies.

The researchers chose funds that seek market-rate returns, on the assumption that the tension between financial performance and social mission would be most pronounced for them. But when the researchers compared the impact-investing funds’ performance to the Russell 2000 and other public market indices, they saw that the funds had achieved comparable financial results without the companies they invested in abandoning their social or environmental missions. (read more)

August 14, 2015

ELLEN REMMER had wanted to align her investments with her values for years, seeking to put her money into stocks and bonds that would have an impact beyond the returns. For her, this meant investing in organizations that either improved the lot of women and girls or helped the environment.

Doing so took longer than she expected. Even though it was her money, it was held in trust. She said it wasn’t easy to persuade the trusts’ advisers to change their investment policies.

“I kept bringing it up, but I really got just no good response,” said Ms. Remmer, a managing partner of the Philanthropic Initiative, a philanthropy advisory service. “They were doing the classic, ‘We invest for the highest financial return.’ They subscribed to what I think of as a myth, that you’re going to have a lower return if you do impact investing.” (read more)

October 6, 2015

Chamath Palihapitiya, the opinionated venture capitalist who once got into a public spat with Ron Conway over income inequality and challenged founders to have the “courage to move to Oakland” a few weeks ago, has catalogued detailed racial and gender diversity data on venture firms throughout Silicon Valley in a report with the subscription technology news site, The Information.

Palihapitiya‘s firm Social + Capital and The Information pulled data on 71 firms representing more than $160 billion in assets under management and broke out the racial and gender mix of the investment leadership. This distinction is key because many firms have women or minorities, but they might be in non-investing roles like marketing or HR. Women, for example, make up 60 percent of non-investing roles at venture firms in the survey, but only 8 percent of the senior investment team. (read more)