The weather and Boris Johnson have been the only two hot topics of conversation in a sweltering July in London. So to broaden my mind and expand the conversation, I’ve been looking at what’s going on in the world of start-ups this month. Here’s my round up.
Razors for womankind
There’s been talk of razors since Harry’s and the Wet Shave Club came from nowhere, smashed an unimaginative category out of the park, and challenged that what the market offered was ‘the best a man can get.’ But women’s razors have lagged behind – still see the inflation of prices for a pink product. Well, Billie’s, the New York based razor subscription service has entered the market with a bank, raising $25m earlier this year.
Not only do they donate 1% of revenue to female causes worldwide plus offer a ‘pink tax’ rebate, but their adverts have caused massive waves – by showing women actually removing body hair. Put aside the preposterous concept that an advert which demonstrates how to use a product is radical but still. Check out their Project Body Hair here.
From oceans to labs
Long gone are the days when the veggie burger meant unidentifiable mushed legumes. Lab grown meat has become a mainstream conversation - Silicon Valley’s investing in companies like Beyond Meat like there’s no tomorrow, restaurants like Honest Burger are presenting it on their menu and carnivores are begrudgingly admitting that it really does ‘taste quite good’. But in a world where we’re increasingly cognisant of our consumer pressure on ever limited world resources, let’s not forget the seas and fishing, a more commercially fragmented and opaque industry.
A third of the world’s fisheries are beyond their biological limits; bycatch (catching other species of fish by accident) causes the needless loss of many marine creatures; and some species have been commercially fished to extinction. So interesting to see here the innovation in lab-grown fish. Blue Nalu’s a Californian company working to make that a possibility, while Finless Food grows fish out of water, reducing waste and toxins. However, it’s still to be proven whether the taste and texture of fish can be fully replicated – and of course, how this can be scaled. (Couldn’t resist that one).
Venture capital, or VC to those in the know - that's the organisations and individual that invest in early stage businesses to help them grow. And this world is not without its problems. The organisation Diversity VC has just released its second study examining the diversity of the UK VC Scene – and the figures don’t look too inspiring. While the proportion of participation in more junior roles is increasing, representation at senior levels has stayed flat, and 63% of funds have no senior women.
You can’t help but correlate this to the investment in female run businesses – just £1 in every £100 in the UK (and $1 in every $100 Stateside). It’s even tougher for female founders operating in female-oriented industries - something we experienced first hand. A seasoned angel investor once said to us, "I just don't believe women buy jewellery for themselves." Insert eye roll.
So how do you fix it? Well, proactive recruitment strategies are an obvious fix, but there’s still an absence of senior women at the top of the early stage investment organisations. Getting more women investing is something that could really change that. Historically, the gender pay gap means that women have less access to capital for personal investment, and there’s a disproportionate gap of women in investment banking, one of the big feeders to venture capital, so fundamentally shifting the spectrum will take some time. But it's somewhere to start.