"The idea that there aren’t enough female founders is bullshit”, according to Susan Lyne, Founding Partner of BBG Ventures. Talking at Startup Grind SoCal in Los Angeles, Susan shared her unique insight on backing female founders as well as her thoughts on today’s hot trends in tech, raising venture funding and knowing when it’s time to do something new.
After a successful career in media and e-commerce that has taken her to brands like Disney, ABC and AOL - in addition to founding her own startup, Premiere Magazine - Susan founded BBG Ventures to invest in startups with at least one female founder.
This gives BBG a “different kind of competitive advantage” as female founders have been ignored by legacy venture capital firms, a proposition that is hard to dispute given that only 12% of venture dollars invested between 2010 and 2015 went to startups with at least one female on the founding team.
What’s on Susan’s radar?
Despite her long track record in media, Susan says that BBG is very cautious with respect to its investments in the space, explaining that “there is so much commodity content that we’ve been less focused on that than we might have been”.
When she does invest, she looks for “unique content for high value customers”, admitting that “if a company like Almighty had a female founder I’d be all over that”.
The important thing is finding a media company which “is speaking to an audience who has a voice that is hard to reach” - like BeautyCon, a global community of millennials and post-millennials that comes together to celebrate all things fashion, beauty and style.
Another trend that appeals to Susan is the evolution of home and family. She was keen to cite HopSkipDrive - literally, “Uber for kids” - as an example of how “if you find great female founders solving problem that they themselves have, and they know there are others out there like them, they create interesting opportunities”.
The last trend Susan believes to be attractive is the evolution of work, as “by 2020, there will be 60 million freelance Americans.” Her interest in tools that provide “different ways for this new workforce to adapt” is what led her to invest in a platform initially built to help independent musicians track their payments which she says will be “adaptable to other sectors over time”.
What is the fundraising environment like?
After being praised for not following the herd of other investors, Susan shed light on her view of the current funding environment: “There is still a lot of money for seed stage as there have been many micro funds set up in the last five to seven years that need to put money to work”.
Elaborating on this, she added “I don’t know a single founder that hasn't had to go to 30 pitches before finding a lead, but where it's gotten significantly tighter is series A”. Her advice to entrepreneurs is to “make sure you understand what it's going to take to be able to raise a series A”.
When she started, she explains, entrepreneurs needed $100k in monthly recurring revenue but “now it is double that, and in some cases even more”.
Nevertheless, she explains, it is crucial to spend time working out what you are going to be measured on, what metrics you need to hit and what your path to doing so looks like. And “if you don’t think you’re going to hit that, think about what you could do to raise a bridge. Then you REALLY have to hit those numbers.”
How do you know when it’s time to do something new?
Having made a number of career moves herself, Susan is no stranger to identifying the right time to move on and try something different. Her advice on this is that it comes down to experience and gut feeling, as “we all go through moments where we hate our job” but “over time you start to know what the difference is” between that and really being ready to go.
Susan also stressed the benefits of taking some time off. In 2004 she was fired from her role as President of Entertainment at ABC, which was the “first time [she’d] ever had time off since college”. This proved to be a pivotal moment in her career as it enabled her to “look at what was happening in world and what was different”, showing her that she needed to “get smarter with digital” and that she wanted to run her own company as a CEO.
Some would call that unfortunate… others would call it serendipity.