It started with a disastrous investor meeting.
My co-founder and I were developing a safety wearable that could emit an audible alarm and get help in case of an emergency. At that point, it was little more than an idea and a rough prototype, but we had compelling market research and a solid strategy. We’d been accepted into a prestigious accelerator program called DreamIt, which, among many other benefits, gave us the opportunity to pitch to potential investors.
This particular meeting was one of those where you knew it was flowing. The presentation was tight, the investors were enthusiastically engaged, nodding their heads up-and-down throughout. It felt like great synergy. Until it all fell apart.
My co-founder, Yasmine Mustafa, is the one who had the idea for the company. She’s always had a passion for championing the underserved and coming up with ideas that can make a difference in the world. When she first pitched me on the idea, I thought it was terrific and stepped out of retirement to join her to build the company. We had a very focused mission: help save lives and empower women.
Toward the end of what seemed like this shoo-in investor meeting, Yasmine excused herself to use the restroom. At which point the two investors, both male, turned to me (a middle-aged white male) and said, “We’d invest if you were the CEO.”
The mission of the company meant a lot to us. We wanted to build an organization that could truly impact many people. So there was no way we would align ourselves with partners, suppliers or investors who didn’t share our values. Being a woman-led, women-empowerment company was core to our identify.
While we couldn’t directly control the regrettably all-too-common gender and race inequity in venture investing, we could