The oh-so-biased branding risk in venture capital
Welcome to Startups Weekly, a nuanced take on this week’s startup news and trends by Senior Reporter and Equity co-host Natasha Mascarenhas. To get this in your inbox, subscribe here.
One of the quieter conversations in venture capital has only grown louder, in my DMs and interviews, over the past few months: The known bias in venture capital has been a branding issue for some of the emerging, diverse fund managers just now splashing onto the scene.
Everyone has a story, but they all sound a bit similar: A female VC is launching a fund, and she’s either compared to every other female VC with a fund, expected to only invest in female founders or have a diversity, equity and inclusion angle as a core thesis. The othering that happens, from an ever-homogenous group of LPs or even founders who see female VCs as monolithic, has led to some female VCs rebranding their firms altogether so they are seen as beyond their gender.
Read my full take on this topic with Rebecca Szkutak on TC : “For female VCs, bias is a branding issue.”
In the rest of this newsletter, we’ll talk about Upfront Summit 2023 and a surprising Better deal. As always, you can follow me on Twitter or Instagram to continue the conversation.
VC confab brings surprises and AI
All your favorite venture journalists were busy this week at Upfront Summit 2023, a two-day, invite-only event that brings together industry insiders — and celebrities — to talk about the future of capital. I interviewed the past and present guard over at Kapor Capital. I shook hands with Jamie Lee Curtis and stole interview tips from Kara Swisher. And Al Gore tried to recruit the entire audience to be more serious on combating climate change.
All in all, the conference basically fueled my story plans for the next month, so stay tuned for lots of follow-up angles. And some scoops too. I’ll start with a recap on the AI conversations all over stage.
Here’s why it’s important: If you ask me, AI was the omnipresent celebrity at Upfront. It’s not surprising: Hyped-up technologies often get outsized interest. But the atmosphere is different from what it was in 2021 when investors were throwing billions of dollars at 15-minute grocery delivery companies and web3. Venture dry powder is locked up, deals are getting done slower and some investors are still licking their wounds from the downturn thus far.
- My colleague Ron Miller will have a story up recapping the standout moments during the panel with Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff.
- He also has a great piece about Adobe’s Scott Belsky and the executive’s take on generative AI.
My colleagues took the mic this week on Equity to talk through the latest and greatest headlines. The whole show was a hoot. Unexpectedly, for all, was the return of Better.com. News broke earlier this week that Amazon is letting employees use their stock to finance home purchases and even second homes.
Here’s why it’s important: It’s a creative, but also surprising, partnership. Better has been an Amazon Web Services customer since 2015 and its loan origination system is powered entirely by the software, according to a statement. Still, Better has been through its fair share of struggles that have cast doubt on its future. Must we run through all the filings?
- Headline of the week goes to: “Uber is coming for Instacart.”
- Startups, assemble: Applications are open for the TechCrunch Startup Battlefield 200.
- Throwback Saturday: If you missed Startups Weekly last week, catch my last issue here: “AI’s hype isn’t going to be simply star-studded”
- Let’s hang on campus? TechCrunch is coming to Boston on April 20. I’ll be there with my favorite colleagues to interview top experts at a one-day founder summit. Book your pass ASAP! Speakers include Techstars’ Kerty Levy, Construct Capital’s Dayna Grayson and NFX’s James Currier.
Seen on TechCrunch
Everything Elon Musk and execs shared (and skipped) at Tesla Investor Day
Chamath Palihapitiya: It could take three years for the market to ‘accurately’ reprice late-stage cos
OpenAI launches an API for ChatGPT, plus dedicated capacity for enterprise customers
Gamers are fixing a video game ‘taken over’ by hackers
Seen on TechCrunch
Perhaps Substack can grow just fine without venture dollars
Pitch Deck Teardown: Gable’s $12M Series A deck
Does web3 need a venture bailout now that AI has all the hype?
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I’m a journalist who specializes in investigative reporting and writing. I have written for the New York Times and other publications.