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11 Diverse Startups Win At The 2020 SoGal Global Pitch Competition Finals

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We're on a mission to close the diversity gap in entrepreneurship.


After the 2020 #SoGalGlobal Pitch, we're one step closer.

Cherry Blossom Intimates Co-Founder Jasmine Jones pitching at the 2020 SoGal Global Pitch. Photo by Kathryn Lane Photography.

We are thrilled to announce that eleven women-founded startups won investment prizes at the 2020 SoGal Global Pitch Finals on February 29.

SoGal Foundation hosted the final global round of the largest worldwide startup competition for early-stage women and other underrepresented founders with an on-the-spot investment of $600K. The finals were made possible by the support of our generous sponsors Draper University, PayPal, Perkins Coie, Genki Forest, True, Bespoke, eBay Foundation, and Techstars. Their dedication to closing the diversity gap in entrepreneurship and investing allowed SoGal to receive over 1700 startup applications from 61 countries (that's a third of all countries!) and evaluated 330 live pitches in 25 international cities to source the 60 finalists.

On Saturday, February 29th, 60 regional round finalist startups traveled from Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and all parts of the US & Canada to Silicon Valley to compete for a portion of $600K. It was an amazing day, packed with fascinating pitches including a 3-D printer to create pre-surgery, practice organs for surgeons; a hijab and turban-friendly sportswear manufacturer; a hijab and turban-friendly sportswear manufacturer; a network of fully equipped pumping facilities; a recycling process transforming plastic waste into bricks for road and house construction; and many more.

Founders also participated in a three-day startup boot camp before the pitch, featuring a sales workshop, an executive recruiting workshop, an investor panel with women from top VC funds (Andreessen Horowitz, Lightspeed, Techstars, and Hustle Fund), a culture-building workshop, entrepreneur mindfulness exercises, panels where we heard candid advice from founders, a press panel (Vice Media, TechCrunch, Forbes and Tech Buzz China), a yoga session, a growth strategy workshop, and a gender-inclusive product workshop.

Photo by Kathryn Lane Photography.

Eleven companies won investment capital and prizes, beginning with ashes-to-diamonds memorial company Eterneva, who won the top prize of $250K from SoGal Ventures. Eterneva can transform loved ones, including pets, into diamonds using just their ashes or hair. Adelle Archer, who pitched for the Austin-based company, co-founded Eterneva after losing a beloved friend in order to "memorialize a remarkable life." Archer says:

"SoGal has created such an incredible community of female founders and female-focused investors — I don't feel like I've found that community anywhere else. It's a tribe that gets the human need behind what you're building. I'm delighted to have SoGal on our CAP table and tap into such a powerful community that will become our evangelists and our backers on a mission to change our culture around death, grief, and remembrance."

Post-mastectomy undergarments startup Cherry Blossom Intimates received a $100K investment. Co-founders Jasmine Jones and Dr. Regina Hampton, FACS are changing the way women shop for post-mastectomy lingerie. Jones, who was just accepted to the Fashion Institute of Technology Design Entrepreneur Program to continue developing a custom line of bras, says they are taking a two-pronged approach to growth with their investment. The first step is developing post-mastectomy bras and custom prosthetics. The second is launching a national fitting tour with their prosthetics. Jones says, "SoGal has connected me with countless investors and customers. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunity."

Other winners include Rosy, women's sexual healthcare app; Fiveable, an interactive student tutoring platform; Bold Health, a digital self-treating IBS therapy; Welbi, a senior wellness programming platform, and Lean Orb, a compostable foodservice packaging company. These companies all won $25 thousand each. The next tier of winners all won $10 thousand: Vishion, a color décor search engine; 1Export, a farming export platform; Genesis, a menstrual hygiene company; and RNA a company redesigning the approach to rape kits.

"Winning the $25,000 investment opportunity in the competition was an incredible honor and signal that we're onto something that could truly help all women," tweeted Rosy Founder Lyndsey Harper.

RNA Founder Antya Waegemann pitching. Photo by Kathryn Lane Photography.

Additionally, stress management platform Neolth and Cherry Blossom Intimates received final round Techstars interviews for a potential $120K investment and program participation. Cattle diagnostic disease company Creative Protein Solutions won a $100K investment from Draper University, and cancer immunotherapy company Torigen won a scholarship to Draper University's upcoming accelerator.

All of these startups range across a variety of verticals — from healthcare, tech, financial services, consumer goods, B2B, and beyond. All startups participating must have raised less than $3M, with at least one woman or self-identified underrepresented founder. All eleven winning companies are founded or co-founded by women.

"Almost all the pitches were 8s, 9s, or 10s," says investor judge and Techstars MD Ethan Austin. "There were several fintech companies I am going to reach out to for our Techstars Western Union Accelerator, and I'm hoping to personally angel invest in one company as well. Cherry Blossom Intimates and Eterneva's pitches even made me cry!"

Out of 1,700 applicants, 75.26% of founders self-identify as women, 60.4% people of color, 42.02% women of color, 29.16% black, and 8.22% LGBTQIA+. "Since only 2.2% of venture capital funding went to women in 2018," says SoGal Foundation Co-Founder Elizabeth Galbut, "and less than 0.1% of funding has been allocated to black women since 2009, these applications represent the incredible and untapped potential of underrepresented entrepreneurs."

SoGal Foundation & SoGal Ventures Co-Founder Pocket Sun delivers keynote speech to over 300 attendees. Photo by Kathryn Lane Photography.

"As a VC, I actually don't care much about the technology you develop. I care about how technology is used to serve people, who you're serving, and whether you're serving them with love and empathy." SoGal co-founder Pocket Sun said during her keynote. "Startups are our hope. We look to startups to be rebellious, to disrupt the status quo, to democratize access, and to show us new ways of getting things done."

"I am humbled beyond words to be a part of SoGal," said LA Chapter Lead Lauren Crist. "The value I've personally received from just three days in the Bay Area is immeasurable in many ways — with more than a dozen truly impactful connections made and reaffirming my passion to contribute more to a growing global community of incredible women founded businesses. Looking forward to all that's to come!"

Here are some heart-warming SoGal shout-outs from the weekend:





April Domnguez, Founder and CEO of HANDSOME who pitched at the SoGal Global Finals, said, "Just got back from @IamSoGal and met so many inspiring women with bad ass innovative companies. It made me realize two things. 1 — When women are in charge people show up and things run on time. 2 — Beauty is about to take over the world." She also wrote a heartfelt wrap-up article with her takeaways here.

This year's SoGal Global Pitch Finals proved that diverse founders are everywhere, eager for an opportunity to pitch their vital work. SoGal is bringing founders together through investment opportunities, startup-oriented education and invaluable connections that will last a lifetime.

The 2020 #SoGalGlobalPitch was a blast. We can't wait to see what 2021 brings.

Photo by Kathryn Lane Photography.

To sign up for updates to our 2021 SoGal Global Pitch Competition, subscribe to our newsletter. Look out for us on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and our website.

Written by Hannah Kate Kelley

*Due to the spread of COVID-19, which has greatly changed the globe since our competition, we're highlighting special opportunities from 2020 SoGal Global Pitch Companies and three SoGal Ventures portfolio companies. SoGal supports women-owned and diverse-owned businesses, especially in times of crisis.

Bold Health has a free app for anyone experiencing IBS issues during the COVID-19 outbreak. PurelyB took 18% off their Traditional Asian Superfood blend known for its immune-strengthening properties. Eterneva created code SOGAL for $100 off their ashes to diamond memorial Welcome Kit. EnrichHER offers 10% off of Women Who Lead Digital Conference with code WWLSOGAL. See ROSE Go is a plus size fashion brand with 20% off sitewide with code WFH20. Angela at Notarum is offering free access to their workflow, collaboration and analytics tools. Rosy offers 20% off Rosy Premium subscription until April 19 so you can stay home and prioritize your sexual health. Fiveable is prepping AP students during COVID-19 school closings. Real (SoGal Ventures portfolio company) made all their salons, events, mental check-ins free & digital. EverlyWell (SoGal Ventures portfolio company) is working with the LA mayor's office to offer COVID-19 test kits to seniors and homeless people. Anomalie (SoGal Ventures portfolio company) is teaming up with SoGal to get medical masks to healthcare workers in need.

How to Learn Much More From the Books You Read

It is one thing to read and another thing to understand what you are reading. Not only do you want to understand, but also remember what you've read. Otherwise, we can safely say that if we're not gaining anything from what we read, then it's a big waste of time.

Whatever you read, there are ways to do so in a more effective manner to help you understand better. Whether you are reading by choice, for an upcoming test, or work-related material, here are a few ways to help you improve your reading skills and retain that information.

Read with a Purpose

Never has there been a shortage of great books. So, someone recommended a great cookbook for you. You start going through it, but your mind is wandering. This doesn't mean the cookbook was an awful recommendation, but it does mean it doesn't suit nor fulfill your current needs or curiosity.

Maybe your purpose is more about launching a business. Maybe you're a busy mom and can't keep office hours, but there's something you can do from home to help bring in more money, so you want information about that. At that point, you won't benefit from a cookbook, but you could gain a lot of insight and find details here on how-to books about working from home. During this unprecedented year, millions have had to make the transition to work from home, and millions more are deciding to do that. Either way, it's not a transition that comes automatically or easily, but reading about it will inform you about what working from home entails.

Pre-Read

When you pre-read it primes your brain when it's time to go over the full text. We pre-read by going over the subheadings, for instance, the table of contents, and skimming through some pages. This is especially useful when you have formal types of academic books. Pre-reading is a sort of warm-up exercise for your brain. It prepares your brain for the rest of the information that will come about and allows your brain to be better able to pick the most essential pieces of information you need from your chosen text.

Highlight

Highlighting essential sentences or paragraphs is extremely helpful for retaining information. The problem, however, with highlighting is that we wind up highlighting way too much. This happens because we tend to highlight before we begin to understand. Before your pages become a neon of colored highlights, make sure that you only highlight what is essential to improve your understanding and not highlight the whole page.

Speed Read

You might think there have been no new ways to read, but even the ancient skill of reading comes up with innovative ways; enter speed reading. The standard slow process shouldn't affect your understanding, but it does kill your enthusiasm. The average adult goes through around 200 to 250 words per minute. A college student can read around 450 words, while a professor averages about 650 words per minute, to mention a few examples. The average speed reader can manage 1,500 words; quite a difference! Of course, the argument arises between quality and quantity. For avid readers, they want both quantity and quality, which leads us to the next point.

Quality Reading

Life is too short to expect to gain knowledge from just one type of genre. Some basic outcomes of reading are to expand your mind, perceive situations and events differently, expose yourself to other viewpoints, and more. If you only stick to one author and one type of material, you are missing out on a great opportunity to learn new things.

Having said that, if there's a book you are simply not enjoying, remember that life is also too short to continue reading it. Simply, close it, put it away and maybe give it another go later on, or give it away. There is no shame or guilt in not liking a book; even if it's from a favorite author. It's pretty much clear that you won't gain anything from a book that you don't even enjoy, let alone expect to learn something from it.

Summarize

If you're able to summarize what you have read, then you have understood. When you summarize, you are bringing up all the major points that enhance your understanding. You can easily do so chapter by chapter.

Take a good look at your life and what's going on in it. Accordingly, you'll choose the material that is much more suitable for your situation and circumstances. When you read a piece of information that you find beneficial, look for a way to apply it to your life. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge isn't all that beneficial. But the application of knowledge from a helpful book is what will help you and make your life more interesting and more meaningful.