Real Estate

My take on Silicon Valley Bank failure, gender bias in small business funding by VC's, Investors, Banks and my Dad.

By Joy A. Kennelly

I had an interesting chat with a Wells Fargo Bank Board Member on my flight recently in light of the crash of Silicon Valley Bank (SVB). He said as a Board Member, he is held liable for the decisions of his bank and as a result, he is very concerned about how it is run. He felt that the SVB board of directors should be sued and/or go to jail because of the collapse. 

I didn't realize he worked for Wells Fargo when we started speaking and said I didn't like their fees. I'm sure he was happy hearing that. LOL The conversation did peter out rather early come to think of it.

Then, I read this article in Tech Crunch entitled, Women-founded startups raised 1.9% of all VC funds in 2022, a drop from 2021This makes my blood boil as a former female founder because when I was involved it was 4%. Even that was terrible back then, but what gives white rich guys? Because this is your fault, nobody else's.

"Last year, U.S. startups with all-women teams received 1.9% (or around $4.5 billion) out of around the $238.3 billion in venture capital allocated, according to the latest PitchBook data."

Then I read this article entitled,  Mpls business owner on why the Silicon Valley Bank collapse is hurting women-owned business, and I see that this bank actually tried to do the right thing and support female-run, minority-run businesses. But the author points out that this is rare in the banking world and I quote, 

"Many folks don't realize that women founders specifically are underbanked. In the United States, the World Economic Forum suggests that there's about $300 billion worth of small businesses run by women across this country that have not been able to get proper access to financial instruments that help every business run."

And here's more data this author provides in the article,

"When you look at the data, Silicon Valley Bank actually put $17.5 million into Black and Latinx founders last year to help support that underbanked population as well, this isn't just a female founder issue. This is basically an issue for any founder who is not a white man in America."

When will women ever be treated fairly and judged on other merits rather than male-dominated versions of what will create success? Women may appear riskier in certain perspectives, but then, why is this not taken into consideration? According to Prowess, the following facts are stated in their article: FACTS ABOUT WOMEN IN BUSINESS

  • Around 30% of all US businesses are majority female-owned. The number of women-owned businesses continues to grow at twice the rate of all US firms, and they are increasing in economic clout.
  • Women also bring a diversity dividend as non-executive directors of companies: gender-balanced boards are more successful than mono-cultural boards on every measure. (McKinsey & Co 2007).
  • Placing greater value on female-dominated personal and social services, community and social services is an important part of decoupling prosperity from pollution-based growth. (‘Prosperity without Growth’, Jackson, 2009).
  • Increasing numbers of women are studying science, engineering and technology (SET) degrees, but over 70% drop out of SET careers, compared with half of men. This is a huge waste of investment, talent and opportunity, especially as the key challenges of our time – renewable energy, food security, medical advances – require diversity of technical and societal engagement. (UKRC for women in SET 2011)

Ironically, my Dad holds this exact same bias with me and my sisters. Because my youngest sister is married to a man who makes 6 figures, my Dad has opted to loan them money to build a real estate EMPIRE at a measly 1% interest rate. Yes, it's varied all the way up to 5% sometimes, but the majority of the time, it's a simple 1% which is worse than what a bank would offer him if he just stuck it in a savings account. AND they're not charged for insurance, experience no penalty for late payments, and so far there's been no oversight, just here's my money...

My middle sister has paid thousands of dollars in interest on her home in Austin and she feels the same way as I do about how Dad discriminates against us both. It's his era mindset to undermine single females, but what's the excuse of the tech and banking world I wonder. Many white men were raised by single white mothers, yet they think all women are meant to struggle all their lives. 

I only recently discovered my sister's travesty while helping my Dad get his trust organized and was appalled to discover that ALL his money is tied up in Glori and Dwayne's real estate dealings.

This means, now that he's ready for assisted living or any other medical option he may need, Glori, will need to sell off a real estate holding before he will have money to cover his care because she's not liquid enough to give him the settlement of the remaining balance of the loan without doing so.

It makes me mad, but it also is heartbreaking to me to learn how she has, in my mind, taken advantage of him all this time. And that he goes along with it like a horse following a carrot held out in front of him. What has he really gained from this transaction? What benefit has he personally received by giving all his money to Glori? Other than her calling him to stay in touch and her jumping when the next funds are available? Does he relive his real estate glory days? Does he enjoy feeling he's still in the real estate game? What is the benefit?

When I challenged him and asked why he chose to invest so much money with Glori he said well Dwayne (her husband) is good for it. Never mind, Dad isn't benefitting financially AT ALL, only them. And Glori will refuse to look at this for what it really is because she's SOOOO busy managing her 1.25 million real estate empire built on Dad's money (last time I checked.)

I've dealt with this bias my entire life and that's why it infuriates me, even more, to see other women getting screwed over too in the general workforce and especially in the tech sector. 

Think of all the wonderful technology that is created by women, but dies a slow death because the female founders can't receive funding to move it forward. That's what is discouraging to me and why I left that industry years back.

But I'm not the only one pissed off about this inequality. Here's another woman's view of the scant support for female founders if you want to read: Congratulations investors. We’ve now stooped to a new low of 1.9%.

But let me share some highlights because they're just too good! LOL And I quote,

  • "Firms creating mini funds to earmark capital for traditionally underrepresented founders. And by mini, I mean less than 2% of their overall AUM (pay attention to the numbers here!), run by fund managers who are not even afforded full decision-making capabilities to write out cheques. Good for you.
  • Investors congratulating themselves for making that one investment into that one woman-led company, and it’s doing pretty well! Good for you.
  • Fund managers speaking on panels and getting quoted in the press about their commitment to leveling the playing field – sometimes even with “Women Founders are the Future” tee shirts on! – while actions behind the scenes would suggest otherwise. Good for you.
  • Firms writing out the largest cheques we’ve ever seen to non-women founders who’ve not only gloriously failed before (“failure is good!”), but are known quite globally for being absolutely toxic additions to the ecosystem. Good for you.
  • Investors continuing to lean on stats about making deals into mixed-gender teams – teams with at least one woman – (or media continuing to highlight the “good news” have “skyrocketed” to, in this case, 17.2%), with a complete lack of acknowledgment that little to no research or data collection has been done on this particular sub-set of startups in regards to gender dynamics (it needs to be done), and that it’s likely “skyrocketing” because of the exact same awful set of behavior that’s also gotten us to the 1.9%. Good for you.

Or full circle, how about this extremely simple, but stark one:

Traditional investors patting themselves on the back for any of the above or 100 other “good deeds”, and still being 100% responsible for a 30% decrease in capital allocations to women startup founders from two years prior. A reminder that it’s a 30% decrease from the already pathetic number of 2.7% in 2020."

What part of you don't understand and you're causing more poverty in the world by your actions don't you get? At a certain point, men need to be honest with themselves and with others that they DO NOT WANT WOMEN TO SUCCEED! They just don't. And no matter how many times we beat them over the head with this truth that their actions speak louder than their words of support, they refuse to change.

I got so fed up, I left that community despite investing 4 years of my life into building a travel startup and really liking many of the people I came in contact with. I ultimately decided I was tired of writing about men's success in tech and not seeing myself and other females being provided the same opportunity to achieve the same.

I've given up on my Dad and have decided I am not here on earth to serve him, but I'm serving God by honoring my Dad regardless of how he treats and mistreats me. I refuse to allow my sister to poison my relationship with my Dad despite the favoritism, the catering to, or the negativity she spews to him about me every chance she gets to maintain her chokehold on his finances and the financial support he so willingly provides at every turn. That is on her conscience and God will deal with her selfishness, lies and greed, not me.

All I can do is focus on my business, and what I have in my control to provide quality travel services to those who hire me and not worry about the rest. Dad is going on a 20-day trip with Glori and maybe then she will see how much he is declining and recognize she needs to begin caring for him in ways that are foreign to her. Like allowing him time to recuperate. Making sure he eats meals that are healthy and filled with nutrients to maintain his brain health, not just whatever she thinks is ok.

Like preparing to sell properties to pay him back to cover his care because as it stands right now she has taken so much of his money he won't be able to provide the financial coverage himself. That's why I keep pushing the man who is helping Dad to move faster and close out his trust. Protect my Dad. Care for my Dad. Honor my Dad's final wishes. Finish the job, Paul. Do right by him.

This has been an interesting life and it's only bound to get more interesting as I free myself of caregiving responsibilities and turn them over to the one sister who has benefitted the most, while contributing the least to his overall care. I will still be there for him, but I sincerely hope she steps up more too. That is my prayer.

It is also my prayer that the Tech industry will begin to recognize they are missing out on not only supporting females who build amazing things but also supporting our society as a whole since women care for society in unique ways that men just don't consider.

We need more women represented in all aspects of improving society which I truly believe technology has the capacity to do, but when the nurturing, innovative, and unique perspectives of the female brain are ignored, discounted, and reduced to begging for 1.9% of funding, it's debilitating, reduces our society to a lower operating level and is just not as valuable overall.

And because female founder and CEO of Minneapolis-based Soona Studios, Liz Giorgi, puts it so well, I will close with this:

"And the final thing I'll say, which really just blows my mind every single time is that when you look at the data, quite bluntly, women-owned businesses are more likely to survive.

They're more likely to be profitable, and they're more likely to grow sustainably year over year. When you compare those data points alone, it's baffling to me that there aren't more bets made on women-owned businesses."

Do better white men in positions of power. We know you can. Just do it, like Nike.