By Sara Gepp
I first started following Arlan Hamilton on Twitter in 2018, after she had appeared on a podcast. While I’ve since forgotten the name of that podcast, what truly resonated with me was Arlan’s unwavering perseverance and her belief in her own capabilities.
Over the years, I've attended Masterminds, served on Arlan's book launch squad, and acquired valuable skills through Arlan's Academy. Being selected as a member of the inaugural cohort of Backstage Capital's Apprentices was a truly life-altering experience.
In the pilot program of Backstage Capital's apprenticeship in 2021, we evaluated companies based on several attributes, including grit, product-market fit, the strength of the idea, and the challenges involved in bringing the idea to market.
I came to appreciate the value of being around people who can overcome any obstacle, people who are strong. I personally had the opportunity to review 200 pitch decks, and I encountered some truly brilliant ideas. Strong people, we see you, and we need you!
We must all acknowledge the sobering fact that in 2022, women received only 2% of venture funding, and for Black and Latinx women, that figure plummeted to 0.085%, according to Project Diane. It's disheartening to witness that many venture deals are based on social networks rather than the merit of ideas.
That's why the sight of 30,000 women, non-binary individuals, and allies at the Orange County Convention Center last week was so inspiring and affirming. I felt like I could have evaluated everyone based on their grit, as the circumstances that brought people to Orlando and through those doors were a testament to our collective perseverance. The energy was high vibing!
We began reviewing pitch decks for GHC '23 back in March, with a crew of about a dozen previous apprentices. It was very hard to narrow down the companies, given the wealth of fantastic ideas. We had so many Zoom meetings, and it was just so HARD to decide!
Arlan and the Backstage crew guided us in remembering our investment theses and what we felt was a good basis for creating VC investments. Between market opportunity, founder grit, and idea-market fit, we started identifying potential Backstage Headliners for this round.
The night before the PitchHER competition, we had a chance to experience the pitches during rehearsals and learn more about the eight companies that made it to the finals. Each founder had a unique pitching style, and they all made the most of their three minutes.
Our panel of final judges included Arlan Hamilton and Brittany Davis of Backstage Capital, Jully-Alma Taveres (@investinglatina), and myself, Sara Gepp (@applegreentech).
Choosing which companies and non-profits to award $100,000 in investment to during the PitcHER Competition was incredibly challenging. We asked some challenging questions during the judges' five minutes following the three-minute pitches.
What struck me most about the process and what I admired about the founders was their deep understanding of their customers, clarity about their target market, and unwavering focus on their organizational visions.
We all gained invaluable insights from our experiences at the judges' table. I genuinely believe that every company that applied to PitcHER has something exceptional to offer. Together, we are rising as women, non-binary individuals, and beyond the confines of societal definitions, especially considering recent setbacks in our rights.
We are rising together. The decision for the Anita B. Foundation to relocate from Florida to Pennsylvania reflects our strength in pushing back against the challenges we face, knowing that this political moment will pass. We will continue to evolve, innovate, and grow as a community.
I eagerly look forward to seeing everyone and celebrating Grace Hopper's legacy in Philadelphia in 2024.