For Krisztina “Z” Holly, the sky is the limit. Not only is Holly an incredible tech entrepreneur, engineer, and innovator, she's also a licensed skydiver and scuba instructor with a passion for creation. Named champion of free enterprise by Forbes in 2009, Holly now runs the podcast, “The Art of Manufacturing” where she aims to put the manufacturing process under a different light, in order to popularize the importance of it. Cited as the creator of the first TEDx event, Holly is also the Founder and Chief Instigator of MAKE IT IN LA, introduced after working as Entrepreneur-in-Residence for LA Mayor Garcetti.
Holly started her impressive career with engineering degrees from MIT in hand. Fifteen years ago at an alumni cocktail party, she had the opportunity to lead an innovation center at MIT, which eventually led her to found the USC Stevens Institute For Innovation. It was through these leadership opportunities that Holly realized she loves helping other people make an impact on the world with their ideas.
When she started the initiative at USC, Holly said her focus was figuring out how to stimulate such a large and diverse university. One challenge, Holly notes, was coming into a a large organization that already had its own traditions. "Where do I need to get to and what do I need to get to that point?,” she said, is a question that she continually asked.
Eventually Holly was invited onto the National Advisory Council on Entrepreneurship and Innovation for the Obama administration, which she said was provided the opportunity to enact policy and get the community on board.
Next, Holly was invited to become a part of the World Economic Forum Council, which helps identify global trends and focuses on global impact and the power of convening the different nations. Talk about a resume builder!
After realizing that LA is the largest manufacturing center the US, but 58% of factories in LA county are sitting idle and unused part of the time, Holly aimed to connect the dots.
That’s exactly where Holly comes in. With her work, the main mission is to support and connect educational programs for businesses and manufacturers to meet each other and figure out who is the best fit. It so happens that the people Holly interviews in her podcast are mostly women, which is another white space she saw in the business world.
According to Holly, creation and innovation are different, as creativity means coming up with new ideas; and innovation is turning those ideas into real impact.
So, how to pitch a project to investors?
The first step is to pick the right audience. Ask yourself, who are you pitching and why are you pitching them? Figure out the pain points of your product and listen to the feedback that is given instead of continuing to try and sell your product. Everyone is different, so it's most important to figure out why your audience should care and that’s only happens by listening.
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.