Highlights from M13's Office Hours for Underestimated Founders
We partnered with BBG Ventures and Everywhere Ventures to offer candid one-on-one mentoring to founders during Los Angeles Tech Week.
By M13 Team
October 9, 2023
From our attendees:
Showing support for underrepresented founders means not only opening up your checkbook, but your address book, and introducing them to the people who have the knowledge and expertise to help them grow their business. Sometimes you really just need that expertise—whether that be legal, financial, go-to-market strategy. We don't know it all, so we need to have access to the people who do.
—Gigi McDowell, Fêtefully Founder
The connections that we've gotten here from M13 and Everywhere VC are a huge support in themselves. Networking events like this not only broaden your horizon, they give you ideas on how to execute your vision as a company and help you out in revenue. [Events like this] are where we’ve gotten some of the contacts for our biggest clients.
—Miko Lorenzo, Probiotic Labs Co-founder
All the people I've talked to today are super approachable, which is very different from standard institutional investing and other VC firms. Being able to have one-on-one conversations with people and ask very honest questions was something I really loved about this experience.
—Diana Tan, Brief Founder
Many founders today are overlooked and underestimated, regardless of their talent. Too often, the spaces where founders can connect and grow cater toward a narrow type of founder. Data from Diversity VC finds that VC-backed startup teams are disproportionately men (89.3%), white (71.6%), and Ivy League educated (13.7%).
We believe that all talented founders should have access to the advice, networks, spaces, and communities they need to refine their ideas and build stronger companies. That’s why at LA Tech Week this year, M13 partnered with our friends at BBG Ventures and Everywhere Ventures (The Fund) to host our first “Office Hours for Underestimated Founders” event at our Los Angeles office.
“We want to be accessible to a wider audience than the ‘traditional’ founder pipeline,” says M13 Partner & Head of Propulsion Lizzie Francis, a former founder herself. “We’re inspired by creativity and bold thinking, and we know that underestimated founders can also be some of the strongest founders.”
She goes on, “We also know founding and operating companies is hard, and every day founders are expected to wear a lot of hats. That’s why we decided to team up with other firms to offer our time, expertise, and connections.”
“One of my first jobs was in finance, and I was the only female on our investment team—so I've experienced that kind of underrepresentation firsthand,” says Claire Biernacki, Principal Investor at BBG Ventures. “Having access to mentors outside of my day-to-day role has been really helpful for me throughout my career.”
At the event, we hosted 39 pre-seed and seed founders who sat down one-on-one with mentors from M13, BBG, and Everywhere, meeting in 30-minute sessions to get concrete advice from people who have been there before.
One of the hardest parts of being a founder is not having personal experience in the many different areas where you’re expected to operate—and VCs can help fill the experience gap, so founders can focus on the things they do best. Alongside mentors from BBG and Everywhere, our M13 mentors included several former founders, like Partners Anna Barber, Lizzie Francis, and Rob Smith and Director of Product Mary Lara.
“We’re giving these founders the best advice we possibly can, with no strings attached,” says Rob. “A lot of events talk through best practices. But I prefer this style: sitting down side-by-side and practically talking through the toughest challenges and most exciting ideas, with the freedom to give really raw feedback.”
LA Tech Week also marked M13 Partner Anna Barber’s announcement of PledgeLA’s “50 in 5” commitment—a pledge to support investing 50% of all LA VC dollars in underrepresented (Black, Latinx, and female) founding teams by 2028.
“We believe strongly that in order to build the future that we all want, we need to include everyone, we need to include the full community, and that future has to be built by founders that look like everyone,” says Anna.