The extent to which hedge funds and venture capitalists are using big data and artificial intelligence to inform their investment decisions is no secret to Jessica Schaefer, a public relations veteran with a keen eye for new trends, and founder of newly minted New York firm Bevel.
Not only are financial heavyweights increasingly relying on satellite imagery to assess, for instance, the health of the Chinese economy, or checking on apps like foursquare to predict the first quarter earnings of fast food chains like Chipotle, they’re also keen to invest in emerging technologies of all kinds.
But finding the companies that have cool technology to share can pose a challenge to investors, and that’s where Bevel comes in.
Schaefer founded the firm to help companies with all kinds of cool, new age technology articulate their mission and create their brand, in order to increase their visibility vis-à-vis the investment community. “This can help companies secure additional funding and increase their valuations” she says.
Prior to funding Bevel, Schaefer led communications and marketing for Point72 Ventures, the early stage-venture capital arm of Point72, which invests in disruptive technologies. She also served as Vice President of Corporate Communications at Point72, the family office managing the assets of billionaire and philanthropist, Steve Cohen, one of Wall Street’s leading hedge fund managers.
During her tenure, she not only amassed a wealth of key contacts in the world of high-power investing but also forged close ties with reporters dedicated to covering emerging technologies, artificial intelligence and big data at top media outlets like The Wall Street Journal and The Financial Times.
“We can introduce companies to leading venture capital firms and help them in other ways like securing high profile speaking events,” Schaefer says. “Many of these start ups don’t have the funds to pay for these and can’t afford expensive high branding fees. We can help them.”
Jessica Schaefer, Founder of Bevel
Currently, Bevel – the firm was launched in the middle of February – is working with six companies, but Schaefer has a growing list of new, cutting edge firms eager to partner with her to formulate their PR and media strategies.
“I really enjoy working with start-ups and entrepreneurs that are disrupting the financial services space,” she says.
One of her clients is Acorns, an app that connects a user’s credit and/or debit card with a savings account and allows them to automatically invest any spare change from their purchases into a diversified portfolio of exchange traded funds and stocks.
Bevel arranged a media tour for Acorns, introducing its CEO to key reporters from Yahoo Finance, Reuters, Fortune and others.
For Schaefer, though, what’s most important about Bevel is its focus on transparency when formulating strategies for its clients.
“One of the biggest problems with PR is that the client has no idea what the firm is working on,” she says. “We want to build a platform that is transparent and interactive with our clients, so that they can see exactly what we’re doing. That’s important to us and so we’re communicating with our clients frequently using an online sharing portal where we can IM them, post news and updates and share all documents so that everyone is on the same page at the same time.”
Bevel will partner with Cognito, a global finance and technology focused PR and marketing firm, to provide clients with a full suite of offerings, including marketing communications, media relations, advertising and media buying.
Prior to Point72, Schaefer had multiple sales and marketing roles at Moody’s Analytics, which included Head of Marketing Communications. She helped build the firm’s reputation and establish Moody’s Analytics among clients and investors as a leading player in risk technology and economic research.
She started her career at Prosek Partners, a leading financial services firm, where she was Senior Account Executive in the Financial Services practice. Her clients included First New York Securities, Jefferies, Lenox Advisors, OppenheimerFunds, RBC, RBS, Sterling National Bank, and Swiss Re. Schaefer has received multiple awards for her work including the most recent PR News Rising Stars 30 under 30 and Moody’s Rising Star Award
Women have come a long way in redefining beauty to be more inclusive of different body types, skin colors and hair styles, but society's beauty standards still remain as high as we have always known them to be. In the workplace, professionalism is directly linked to the appearance of both men and women, but for women, the expectations and requirements needed to fit the part are far stricter. Unlike men, there exists a direct correlation between beauty and respect that women are forced to acknowledge, and in turn comply with, in order to succeed.
Before stepping foot into the workforce, women who choose to opt out of conventional beauty and grooming regiments are immediately at a disadvantage. A recent Forbes article analyzing the attractiveness bias at work cited a comprehensive academic review for its study on the benefits attractive adults receive in the labor market. A summary of the review stated, "'Physically attractive individuals are more likely to be interviewed for jobs and hired, they are more likely to advance rapidly in their careers through frequent promotions, and they earn higher wages than unattractive individuals.'" With attractiveness and success so tightly woven together, women often find themselves adhering to beauty standards they don't agree with in order to secure their careers.
Complying with modern beauty standards may be what gets your foot in the door in the corporate world, but once you're in, you are expected to maintain your appearance or risk being perceived as unprofessional. While it may not seem like a big deal, this double standard has become a hurdle for businesswomen who are forced to fit this mold in order to earn respect that men receive regardless of their grooming habits. Liz Elting, Founder and CEO of the Elizabeth Elting Foundation, is all too familiar with conforming to the beauty culture in order to command respect, and has fought throughout the course of her entrepreneurial journey to override this gender bias.
As an internationally-recognized women's advocate, Elting has made it her mission to help women succeed on their own, but she admits that little progress can be made until women reclaim their power and change the narrative surrounding beauty and success. In 2016, sociologists Jaclyn Wong and Andrew Penner conducted a study on the positive association between physical attractiveness and income. Their results concluded that "attractive individuals earn roughly 20 percent more than people of average attractiveness," not including controlling for grooming. The data also proves that grooming accounts entirely for the attractiveness premium for women as opposed to only half for men. With empirical proof that financial success in directly linked to women's' appearance, Elting's desire to have women regain control and put an end to beauty standards in the workplace is necessary now more than ever.
Although the concepts of beauty and attractiveness are subjective, the consensus as to what is deemed beautiful, for women, is heavily dependent upon how much effort she makes towards looking her best. According to Elting, men do not need to strive to maintain their appearance in order to earn respect like women do, because while we appreciate a sharp-dressed man in an Armani suit who exudes power and influence, that same man can show up to at a casual office in a t-shirt and jeans and still be perceived in the same light, whereas women will not. "Men don't have to demonstrate that they're allowed to be in public the way women do. It's a running joke; show up to work without makeup, and everyone asks if you're sick or have insomnia," says Elting. The pressure to look our best in order to be treated better has also seeped into other areas of women's lives in which we sometimes feel pressured to make ourselves up in situations where it isn't required such as running out to the supermarket.
So, how do women begin the process of overriding this bias? Based on personal experience, Elting believes that women must step up and be forceful. With sexism so rampant in workplace, respect for women is sometimes hard to come across and even harder to earn. "I was frequently assumed to be my co-founder's secretary or assistant instead of the person who owned the other half of the company. And even in business meetings where everyone knew that, I would still be asked to be the one to take notes or get coffee," she recalls. In effort to change this dynamic, Elting was left to claim her authority through self-assertion and powering over her peers when her contributions were being ignored. What she was then faced with was the alternate stereotype of the bitchy executive. She admits that teetering between the caregiver role or the bitch boss on a power trip is frustrating and offensive that these are the two options businesswomen are left with.
Despite the challenges that come with standing your ground, women need to reclaim their power for themselves and each other. "I decided early on that I wanted to focus on being respected rather than being liked. As a boss, as a CEO, and in my personal life, I stuck my feet in the ground, said what I wanted to say, and demanded what I needed – to hell with what people think," said Elting. In order for women to opt out of ridiculous beauty standards, we have to own all the negative responses that come with it and let it make us stronger– and we don't have to do it alone. For men who support our fight, much can be achieved by pushing back and policing themselves and each other when women are being disrespected. It isn't about chivalry, but respecting women's right to advocate for ourselves and take up space.
For Elting, her hope is to see makeup and grooming standards become an optional choice each individual makes rather than a rule imposed on us as a form of control. While she states she would never tell anyone to stop wearing makeup or dressing in a way that makes them feel confident, the slumping shoulders of a woman resigned to being belittled looks far worse than going without under-eye concealer. Her advice to women is, "If you want to navigate beauty culture as an entrepreneur, the best thing you can be is strong in the face of it. It's exactly the thing they don't want you to do. That means not being afraid to be a bossy, bitchy, abrasive, difficult woman – because that's what a leader is."