Technological innovation is exploding and venture capitalist are continually looking to invest in the next big thing. But while female pioneers are making remarkable strides across a wide range of emerging tech fields, they’re also only getting a small fraction of the available funding. Well, our next guest is doing something about that.
She’s tech investor Nisa Amoils, and in her book, WTF Is Happening, she profiles a dozen female founders whose remarkable work will make a profound difference in the way we live tomorrow. I loved hearing about all these incredibly smart and inspiring women, and you will too.
Nisa Amoils: As I wrote in the introduction, I was meeting with a blockchain venture capital firm last year, and I asked one of the partners, a man, “How many female founders are in your portfolio?” He said, “Does that exist in this sector?”
I was morally obligated to write the book at that point, because they didn’t know how to find female founders, and the female founders obviously were not making their way to the male VCs.
Rae Williams: Why do you think that is, especially in this industry?
Nisa Amoils: I think it’s in most industries. Female founders still receive 2% of all venture capital funding in 2019.
Rae Williams: What is the first step that you took in preparing to write this book, and what is the unique ideas did you want to come across?
Nisa Amoils: In terms of steps preparing, I had been writing for Forbes on different topics in disruptive technologies, and that is the area that I had been investing in as well. I knew about all these great women in the world, female founders, and I felt like they were not getting enough attention from the media.
So I thought, I could write about each of them in Forbes or I could just put together a book and then I could also make the case for investing in them to achieve Alpha-generating returns.
Women Tech Founders on the Rise
Rae Williams: Tell me a little bit about how you came across some of the founders and what they are facing.
Nisa Amoils: Eight out of the thirteen women have blockchain based businesses that I came across just in the course of being an investor in that space. For instance, Dawn Song at Oasis Labs is revolutionizing cloud computing using blockchain. Cristina Dolan at iXledger is revolutionizing the insurance industry using blockchain.
Breanna Faye from RLoop is using what I call convergence theory, which is the inner section of IOT, internetof things, artificial intelligence and blockchain, in the area of transportation. Our Loop is an extension of the hyper loop, and she is very unique because she had a design background.
What I love about what she says in the book is you don’t need to have a STEM background—science, technology, engineering, math—in order to achieve. STEM is being marketed to young girls in a way that’s scary, and she thinks it should be marketed in a way that you can envision something and then design it, which was her backbone, and then have those tools to actually build it. Take your idea to life. So I thought that was really interesting, much better way of marketing STEM.
Marcie Terman runs a crypto currency exchange, Elizabeth Rossiello from BitPesa is doing cross border, digital payments using blockchain.
Leanne Kemp from Everledger disrupted the diamond supply chain industry using blockchain. Alison Jennings, Filament, is using IOT to operate independent of the cloud or WiFi or cellular using mesh networks and Tongtong Gong from Amberdata is examining data from public and private blockchains.
Those were the eight women that were in blockchain. In artificial intelligence and machine learning, I had two, Olga Egorsheva of Lobster was solving a social media licensing problem of images used by ad agencies and being able to license diverse images using artificial intelligence to find them. Then Rachel Thomas of Fast.ai, and her background’s as a teacher. She actually created a learning lab to teach other women about artificial intelligence, which I think is amazing.
Then in the robotics or aerospace drone industries, we had Melonee Wise of Fetch Robotics, who is creating robots to automate warehouses and factories, and Fatima Hamdani of Kraus Aerospace who is using satellites to solve some of the problems in with Aerospace.
And then in virtual reality, Carrie Shaw of Embodied Labs is started out as a medical illustrator and then was taking care of a sick mother and wanted to know how it felt to be the patient in order to be a better caregiver. And so was motivated to create a program to do just that for caregivers, using virtual reality.
Rae Williams: Awesome. Aside from funding for these women, what else are you hoping to achieve just by sharing their stories, sharing what their businesses are and just giving them that visibility?
Nisa Amoils: I’m hoping that investors recognize what’s out there, these incredible women, there are many more like them. It was hard to narrow down and put them all into one book. I talk about the fact that women are building businesses at the fastest rate and also outperforming. It’s really an undervalued asset class, so there’s classic arbitrage opportunity there.
I’m also hoping that more women enter into these fields in order to build the future, and women have an equal say in what that future will look like. For instance, if we are programming artificial intelligence, we can’t have only have half the population programming what the computers are meant to “learn.” We have to have women’s voices in there as well, same for virtual reality and all of these technologies.
So I am hoping that more women will read this. You can’t be what you can’t see. So that they’ll see what is out there and that they’ll want to enter into these types of fields in the future.
Who Can Get Involved
Rae Williams: So what is your particular unique background in the tech industry?
Nisa Amoils: So I am actually not a technologist. I started out as a corporate lawyer. I’ve spent time in the media business. I was an entrepreneur and then I have been investing in these technologies for about the past decade.
I represent what a lot of the women are saying in the book, that you don’t have to have this STEM background in order to be in these industries that you can learn it. My unique perspective is that as an investor, I get to see all of these different types of businesses and all of these entrepreneurs. I was able to write this from that perspective.
Rae Williams: In the years that you’ve been investing, do you have an example of a particular investment that you made that is an example of the success that you can have when we give these women the proper attention and the proper funding?
Nisa Amoils: I have a recent example but it is not in the technology field per se, but these two women started something called The Wing, which is a women’s only co-working, co-living space, and that was just an idea a few years ago. Nobody was really sure, before the election you know, whether women were going to want to have their own working spaces. So it was a big chance. But given how things played out and a lot of the activism that followed the election demand was overwhelming.
So these women in two years built up a business that’s opening locations across the country. They had their Series C, led by Sequoia, and they are doing really well.
I think there are fewer examples in these areas of frontier technologies yet, just because they’re newer. So the businesses haven’t grown yet, the technology is still being built, and the infrastructure. So you will start to see many more of these examples in the areas I am talking about.
Rae Williams: What else can investors or even people like me do to make sure that even though I maybe don’t have tons of capital that I am still investing in women’s tech?
Nisa Amoils: Actually under the Jobs Act, which passed a few years ago there is new crowd funding rules. So even unaccredited investors can invest in startups now. So we’ve seen the build out of a number of different platforms that allow everybody to invest in startups even as little as $10. So what we’ve seen on those platforms is more like 40% or 50% women getting funded. I think that is because they’re not going through the traditional venture capital system.
Their stories are reaching everybody, so that’s a very telling statistic about the disparity that we have. So it is great that we have all of these different angle groups popping up now across the country where you have organizations like SheEO where you can also invest in women and then get a tax deduction for that. So there is all these different models popping up. I think we’ll continue to see the evolution of the capital formation.
Connect with Nisa Amoils
Rae Williams: I’d love for you to tell us what you predict is going to happen just in the space in the next five or even ten years?
Nisa Amoils: I agree with a lot of what the women said, is we are going to see convergence of a lot of these frontier technologies. You will see the creation of new tools. For instance, in blockchain, there’s a lot of backlash right now against companies like Facebook and Google for containing the data, our own personal data and us not having control over it or us having yielded in exchange for convenience control over our data.
I think you’ll start to see a lot more decentralized platforms where users can control their own data, that will play out in healthcare, you’ll be able to go to different doctors and have control of your own data instead of filling out forms everywhere and having them transfer it around.
You’ll probably be able to drive in an autonomous car the next five, ten years and take of something called VTOL which is vertical takeoff and landing—a combination of drone and helicopter, be able to get around that way. I think that a lot of this is happening, sooner than people think because the technology is already there. So now it’s just a matter of how we build it to interact with each other.
Rae Williams: If you had to issue a challenge to your readers, our listeners, young women who may be in the tech industry that have questions, what would that challenge be?
Nisa Amoils: I mean, the challenge to investors is to seek out these female founders and try a little bit harder to find them, and then the challenge to the female readers is to come up with solutions to problems and build a future.
Rae Williams: Awesome. How can people contact you if they’re interested in learning more? Of course they’ll pick up the book, but what else can they do to get in touch with you?
Nisa Amoils: They can follow me on Twitter, they can contact me on LinkedIn, those are probably the best.