Culture 29 November 2018
There aren’t many bars or trendy locations that generate a lively nightlife and offer comedic, academic venues, where you can both learn and drink. Caveat, differs from many speakeasies and performance spaces on the Lower East Side. Other than it’s initial cave-like appearance, you’ll find bookshelves, an intellectual atmosphere and a lot of alcohol.
The atmosphere at Caveat is unique. Co-Founder & Creative Director, Kate Downey, and her team are passionate about what they do. They want their audiences to leave a little bit smarter and a little bit drunker. “It’s intelligent nightlife,” she explains. “We are working to create new forms of entertainment that mash up science and history with comedy and music.”
Kate, Co-Founder and Creative Director. Photo Courtesy of Caveat.
Downey’s vibrant personality illuminates the conversation as she shares bits of information about her career and background in theatre and museum work. This badass Co-Founder grew up in rural Maine. She moved to Boston for college and later on, to pursue a dream she had in New York. It’s been about nine years since she’s been living in the city, and a little over one year since Caveat has been in business. “I always knew I would end up in the city doing some kind of theatre and entertainment work,” she shares. Downey works closely with her team, which is mostly composed of women, and hosts a range of productions from comedy to science talks, trivia, podcasts, and so much more.
From being an Assistant Director at Cherry Lane Theatre to a Creative Lead at Museum Hack, Downey has taken on multiple roles, perfecting her craft over time. She was and still is immersed in the industry of arts and performance.
Museum Hack has especially played a major role in her career. “ [Museum Hack] does renegade museum tours of the Metropolitan Museum and The Museum of Natural History,” she begins. “I was writing a lot of tours [and] created [one] called The Badass Bitches Tour of the Met.” They were a startup and when Downey began working there.
She reminisces a few of the happy memories she had, as the company expanded and grew over the years. “Leaving Museum Hack was a hard decision because I had loved doing those tours and working with those people,” she says. “It was through Museum Hack that I kind of discovered my love of science and figured out how I like to build events and how I like to talk about very complex, scientific ideas.”
It was time for Downey to move on to something new -- and that’s exactly what she did. After Museum Hack she joined her Co-Founder Ben Lillie, in starting Caveat. However, this was not the first time that she founded a business -- specifically, startup theatre companies. “I love starting new things and creating new ways for people to build things creatively,” she emphasizes.
CAVEATAt Caveat they have a love for science and unconventional storytelling. Downey spends a lot of her time in this cave-like, artistic space. Her days usually begin at 12 p.m. and she describes having both glamorous and unglamorous days. “The adventure varies a lot day to day,” she begins. “Around 6 p.m. we start setting up for the show and the bar staff gets in; the tech staff is there; the show-folks show up and we usually do 2-3 shows a night.”
Once a week she meets with a team of six producers including her and Ben to go over shows, discuss feedback or go over any challenges that might come up. Her motivation, determination and inspiration are apparent when she speaks about an average day at Caveat. “We all try to problem solve for each other and offer solutions [to] get through the hard parts,” she mentions. At the end of a long day, there is one thing that Downey excitedly looks forward to. “I get to grab a beer, sit, learn and watch these shows,” she exclaims.
“I always knew I would end up in the city doing some kind of theatre and entertainment work,” Downey shares.
Learning something new can be a little mysterious sometimes. Downey recognizes The Bell House, in Brooklyn for their Secret Science Club. “That’s one of the OG’s of what we’re calling intelligent nightlife now,” she says. There are few events that take on this trend of scientific conversations and intellectual nightlife nowadays. What makes Caveat different from the rest is how Downey and her team encourage people to get involved by pitching ideas in addition to the shows that they produce and put on for their audiences.
“As far as I know, we are the only theatre dedicated to this kind of educational entertainment,” she says. “We specifically curate everything that goes up on our stage to be able to teach you something.” Each show can stand on its own success. “You [have] a drink, a great time with your friends [and leave] knowing a lot more than when you [walked] in.” For those looking for an affordable and eventful night out, ticket prices range from $10-$20 for most events. The bar serves a range of alcohol from craft beers on tap to wine, and specialty sodas.
“I love starting new things and creating new ways for people to build things creatively,” Downey emphasizes.
WOMEN AT CAVEAT
Downey re-imaged the average night scene and science-based social space. She expresses how most of the venues she’s seen and heard of are run predominately by men, and have been for many years. “I’m really happy and excited to have a space that is majority women run and I think avoids a lot of issues that come up in other clubs,” she says. “We have a bunch of shows are specifically geared towards women.” They include, Yeah She Did, where “kickass women” share the stories of others within their industries that have inspired them and didn’t receive proper recognition. In October, they had a themed show called Witches Get Stuff Done. They tell the stories of women who were at one point in history accused of witchcraft for being the smartest or the most outspoken. There is a diverse range of entertainment offered.
What are they planning next?
In the years ahead, Downey and her team would like to make performances at Caveat available for everyone. “The big thing that we want is eventually [developing our] shows in to TV shows, podcasts, video specials,” she says. “ I would love to be able to [get] people access to this the same way [they] can watch TED Talks.” Whether it is on platforms like Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime, she’d like to have Caveat specials. In the meantime, they are going to keep developing and experimenting with shows, gathering more talent and giving talented performers a place and platform to build their career.
We're here. We're queer. Now that it's pride month, it feels like every store and corporation is flooding us with their best rainbow merchandise, capitalizing on a $917 billion dollar consumer market.
The rainbow flags are out. The mannequins are sporting pride tees. And corporate newsletters are full of interviews showcasing all their queer employees ("Look, we have a gay person here! We GET you!").
To me, this is blatant evidence that the future is queer.
These corporations follow the money, and with 20% of millennials and 31% of Gen Z openly identifying as queer, these businesses have to capitalize on the growing purchasing power of LGBTQIA+ consumers. With a recorded market size of $917 billion dollars in 2016, and a growing interest in socially conscious brands among young consumers, this is clearly a market opportunity that corporations cannot afford to ignore.
However, I'm always surprised by how little attention investors and the entrepreneurial community devotes to this undeniable trend, despite being constantly inundated with overwhelming statistics proving the importance of diversity and inclusion in entrepreneurship. Only 2.2% of venture capital funding went to women in 2018, less than .1% of funding has been allocated to black women since 2009, and only about 1% of venture-backed companies have a black founder or Latinx founder. These statistics are over-quoted but underacted upon.
This gender and diversity inequality significantly hinders economic growth, since 85% of all consumer purchases are controlled by women, and startups with higher ethnic diversity tend to produce financial returns above their industry norm.
The data is clearly leading to one direction: investing in women, people of color, LGBTQIA+ people, veterans, immigrants, and other minority groups in entrepreneurship leads to higher revenue and better business results.
As data-driven and forward-thinking as this industry claims to be, we haven't caught up to the queer founders, particularly queer women, who are rethinking the future. These founders understand and speak to a generation of increasing numbers of LGBTQIA+ people whose market share will only continue to grow exponentially. VCs and investors are already behind the curve.
SoGal Foundation, a non-profit on a mission to close the diversity gap in entrepreneurship, is helping bridge this divide between queer women founders and investors with the launch of applications for the second annual Global Pitch Competition for diverse entrepreneurs. Hosted in 25+ cities across five continents, and culminating in a final global pitch competition and 3-day immersive educational bootcamp in Silicon Valley, this is the first and only globally-focused pitch opportunity for diverse entrepreneurs.
Startups that are pre-Series A (raised less than $3M) with at least one woman or diverse founder, apply here to pitch! The top teams selected from each regional round will join SoGal's final global pitch competition and bootcamp in Silicon Valley for guaranteed face time with dozens of top Silicon Valley investors, curated educational programming, unparalleled 1:1 mentorship, press exposure, and a chance to win investment capital.
Women, people of color, and LGBTQIA+ founders: what's the best way to kick off pride? Apply to pitch!
Regional pitch rounds will be held August-November 2019; final pitch competition in Silicon Valley in February 2020. Details and additional cities to be announced.
SoGal Foundation is a 501(c)(3) non-profit and the largest global platform for diverse founders and funders in 40+ chapters across 5 continents; our mission is to close the diversity gap in entrepreneurship. SoGal Foundation's global startup competition represents the first and largest opportunity for women and diverse entrepreneurs and investors to connect worldwide. Join the SoGal community & follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook.