Female-Led Startups & Investing: My Story

Female-Led Startups & Investing: My Story

It is no secret that women-led  startups have a much harder time than their male counterparts getting funding from investors. Today we have an opinion editorial from 1010ParkPlace’s founder Brenda Coffee who shares her experience with us. It’s well worth the read! 

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“The only thing wrong with your deal is that you don’t have any testosterone between your legs.”

That mind-blowing statement came from a male investor who hadn’t looked at my deck, or my business plan, and had barely listened to my pitch. I wish I could say that was a one-time social faux pas, but it wasn’t. What’s more, it happens to lots of women, like me, who are out there raising investor money.

Less than 4% of women-led companies find funding. It isn’t because women don’t have well-thought out business plans, great teams, or we haven’t proven our concept. It’s because we’re women. I’ve never considered myself a feminist, so I never expected these words to come out of my mouth, but sexism and ageism is alive and well.

I’m raising investor money for Phase II of 1010ParkPlace. We produce original content, custom branded advertorials and curated affiliate marketing, targeting the wealthiest, best-educated, yet most underserved demographic in history: women over 45. There are 71% more 45+ women than women between 20-39. We spend far more money than all of them put together, and we’re craving a sense of community and relevant content, created just for us. Brands and advertisers grasp the deep pockets of women over 45, but they don’t understand us or know how to reach us. The hardest thing about 1010ParkPlace isn’t getting women to subscribe, or brands to partner with us. It’s raising money from a male-dominated investor community so we can grow the company.

I can’t tell you how many men have prefaced our conversation with “Honey…. “ It makes me want to slap a sticker on their foreheads that says, “I Think With My Little Brain.” I have survived being kidnapped by the Honduran Military Commandos, the death of two husbands and selling a public company to Big Pharma–and I didn’t go through all of that to then have some guy tell me he’s looking for sexy deals, or that there’s nothing sexy about women over 45. Men don’t encounter this when raising capital–just the opposite.

Who would have thought two men would find funding for a content site, targeting 20 to 30-something females? Refinery29’s Philippe von Boories and Justin Stefano did just that. In addition, this spring they raised a $50M Series D round. According to AdAge, last year Refinery29 generated between $55 and $60 million in revenue, entirely from advertising and branded editorial content. That is the same revenue model as 1010ParkPlace.

I’m a woman of a certain age, raising money for a ‘Refinery29 for women of a certain age,’ but most men aren’t interested. I do understand and appreciate the investors who tell me they aren’t familiar with the space, or that we’re too early for them. 

Most men, however, don’t care that women over 45 spend more than all of Refinery29’s demographics put together, or that we’re the fastest growing demographic on social media; we spend $47 Billion a year on fashion and control 80% of discretionary spending.

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In addition to wanting sexy deals, here are some of the things investors have said to me:

  • I don’t invest in women because I don’t like how they think.
  • Do women that age even know how to use a computer?
  • Why do women need their own website?
  • I’m tired of hearing about what women want and what women need. When are you going to do something about what I want and what I need?

Then there’s the prominent early-stage, angel group—that’s never had an exit—that told me they don’t invest unless a company has 10M unique visitors a month. That’s crazy! Early-stage companies like 1010ParkPlace need angel investors so they can reach 10M uniques.

I’ve also approached women with money. While women are comfortable with philanthropic giving, most have never been on the investor side of the fence. That’s good to know. 1010ParkPlace is creating a dialog and a series for women about investing and financial planning.

The women who are interested, often want to ask their husbands, who don’t get it or don’t want to hear about it. One seemingly savvy woman, who loves 1010ParkPlace, said “yes” and took me to her business manager, who writes her checks. After telling me he didn’t understand the internet, in front of her, he said, “I like my job. All I have to do is protect her $50 million principal. Why should I take the time to understand your business?” I said, “For the same reason you wrote a check for her new car. Because that’s what she wanted,” to which he replied, “She doesn’t know what she wants.”

Then there was the investment banker with whom I’ve been meeting for several months. He even put my deck into his format. He told a story at breakfast when we last met. When I made a comment that let him know I was intimately familiar with the subject, he asked, “How old are you?” When I asked if it made any difference, he said, “You bet your !@#$%^&* it does! No one will invest in a woman over 50, so you need to hire a 20 to 30-year-old frontwoman.”

Philippe von Borries, co-Founder and co-CEO of Refinery29 was recently quoted as saying, “Over the next five years, multi-billion dollar media brands will grow out of the digital core, from which Refinery29 was born and is the leader.” Are you listening, Philippe? Like Refinery29, 1010ParkPlace operates at the intersection of content, shopping and social media. Let’s talk.


Agree? Disagree? Have your own story to share? Shout out to us at @1010ParkPlace and @3rdWaveFashionTo learn more about Brenda Coffee, and to follow her journey, check out her blog here and 1010ParkPlace’s website here. Featured image is courtesy of Jennifer Denton

Third Wave Fashion has been your fashion tech think tank since 2011. We publish the first ever printed fashion tech magazine, Third Wave.  Follow us on Twitter or subscribe to our newsletter to stay on top of the latest in fashion tech + wearables. You look nice today!