Despite substantial work and progress across many fronts, ours included, the percentage of venture capital invested in women founders has barely budged in the past 3 years.
In a system as entrenched as this one, change is slow and hard to see in the short term. We measure leading indicators and trust that they will compound and result in something meaningful over time. But really, we won’t see that meaningful impact in a while.
But then sometimes, change happens so fast that you don’t even see it coming. I want to tell you the story of how FFA created credit for hundreds of women founders nationally.
FFA is a sponsor-driven Social Purpose Corporation. Our revenue comes from corporate partners, like Microsoft for Startups, IBM, Bank of America and dozens more, who in turn get visibility to our large network of companies and executives. Frequently they will extend a benefit or a special offer to our members as a way to support them and sign up new customers for the long term. This is a good thing – we want everyone who supports FFA to get huge success out of it, and we want our members to have access to the best products and services from companies that are also mission-aligned.
Last summer, we secured a sponsorship from Brex, a hot Silicon Valley startup that offers credit cards to other venture-backed startups. As part of our sponsorship, they made a special offer for FFA members that we promptly promoted to our community.
Less than an hour later, the feedback started pouring in. Our founders are highly engaged and the offer as it stood was not meeting their needs.
“If I had that much cash to park in my account to get a credit card, I wouldn’t need the credit card!”
We emailed our partners at Brex immediately and had a phone call shortly after. I explained the situation. I understood that the innovation in their model is using the VC investment itself to de-risk the line of credit. But only 3% of VC is invested in women. Until that changes, very few women can get a Brex card.
Brex asked us to give them some time to figure it out, and we did. Shortly after, I received the following message from them:
“Brex is excited to announce that they’ll be extending special access to companies that are part of the FFA community. For these companies, the minimum cash balance required to qualify for Brex as a self funded company is now just $10,000 (previously $100,000). Sign up at www.brex.com/ffa for waived fees for life.”
(PS. If you want this offer you have to be an FFA verified company).
Now this may not seem like a big deal to the general public. But FFA has thousands of current and future women and non-binary founders in our community. The vast majority of them struggle to get the investment needed to get their business off the ground. And with this single action, FFA and Brex just made a credit card available to all of them. A credit card that can pay for your incorporation fees, early prototyping, ad testing, trademark and patents, coworking desk, cloud usage, and more. One that can pay for your travel so you can pitch to those Silicon Valley VCs. And that can help keep your lights on in the days when your revenue is spikiest.
To a business owner, having a credit card without mortgaging your personal assets is huge. It makes a difference.
We made a difference.
I’ve heard that Brex has since extended this offer more broadly than the FFA community. Which means we made a difference way beyond our walls. It is breathtaking.
Thank you Brex, for your leadership and responsiveness. Thank you for putting your money where your mouth is. We hope you’re on board with us for the long haul, and we hope we make you as successful as your offer will make our community.