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.

3 Min Read

Five Essential Lessons to Keep in Mind When You're Starting Your Own Business

"How did you ever get into a business like that?" people ask me. They're confounded to hear that my product is industrial baler wire—a very unfeminine pursuit, especially in 1975 when I founded my company in the midst of a machismo man's world. It's a long story, but I'll try to shorten it.

I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up—even if it involved a non-glamorous product. I'd been fired from my previous job working to become a ladies' clothing buyer and was told at my dismissal, "You just aren't management or corporate material." My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.

Over the years, I've learned quite a few tough lessons about how to successfully run a business. Below are five essential elements to keep in mind, as well as my story on how I learned them.

Find A Need And Fill It

I gradually became successful at selling various products, which unfortunately weren't profitable enough to get me off the ground, so I asked people what they needed that they couldn't seem to get. One man said, "Honey, I need baler wire. Even the farmers can't get it." I saw happy dollar signs as he talked on and dedicated myself to figuring out the baler wire industry.

I'd never been interested to enter the "man's" world of business, but when I discovered a lucrative opportunity to become my own boss, I couldn't pass it up.

Now forty-five years later, I'm proud to be the founder of Vulcan Wire, Inc., an industrial baler wire company with $10 million of annual sales.

Have Working Capital And Credit

There were many pitfalls along the way to my eventual success. My daughters and I were subsisting from my unemployment checks, erratic alimony and child-support payments, and food stamps. I had no money stashed up to start up a business.

I paid for the first wire with a check for which I had no funds, an illegal act, but I thought it wouldn't matter as long as I made a deposit to cover the deficit before the bank received the check. My expectation was that I'd receive payment immediately upon delivery, for which I used a rented truck.

Little did I know that this Fortune 500 company's modus operandi was to pay all bills thirty or more days after receipts. My customer initially refused to pay on the spot. I told him I would consequently have to return the wire, so he reluctantly decided to call corporate headquarters for this unusual request.

My stomach was in knots the whole time he was gone, because he said it was iffy that corporate would come through. Fifty minutes later, however, he emerged with a check in hand, resentful of the time away from his busy schedule. Stressed, he told me to never again expect another C.O.D. and that any future sale must be on credit. Luckily, I made it to the bank with a few minutes to spare.

Know Your Product Thoroughly

I received a disheartening phone call shortly thereafter: my wire was breaking. This horrible news fueled the fire of my fears. Would I have to reimburse my customer? Would my vendor refuse to reimburse me?

My customer told me to come over and take samples of his good wire to see if I might duplicate it. I did that and educated myself on the necessary qualities.

My primary goal then was to find a career in which nobody had the power to fire me and that provided a comfortable living for my two little girls and myself.

Voila! I found another wire supplier that had the right specifications. By then, I was savvy enough to act as though they would naturally give me thirty-day terms. They did!

More good news: My customer merely threw away all the bad wire I'd sold him, and the new wire worked perfectly; he then gave me leads and a good endorsement. I rapidly gained more wire customers.

Anticipate The Dangers Of Exponential Growth

I had made a depressing discovery. My working capital was inadequate. After I purchased the wire, I had to wait ten to thirty days for a fabricator to get it reconfigured, which became a looming problem. It meant that to maintain a good credit standing, I had to pay for the wire ten to thirty days before my customers paid me.

I was successful on paper but was incredibly cash deprived. In other words, my exponentially growing business was about to implode due to too many sales. Eventually, my increasing sales grew at a slower rate, solving my cash flow problem.

Delegate From The Bottom Up

I learned how to delegate and eventually delegated myself out of the top jobs of CEO, President, CFO, and Vice President of Finance. Now, at seventy-eight years old, I've sold all but a third of Vulcan's stock and am semi-retired with my only job currently serving as Vice President of Stock and Consultant.

In the interim, I survived many obstacles and learned many other lessons, but hopefully these five will get you started and help prevent some of you from having the same struggles that I did. And in the end, I figured it all out, just like you will.