Kimmy Paluch is founder and Managing Partner of Beta Boom, a startup academy and pre-seed fund that unlocks the potential of overlooked founders by providing daily coaching from product, marketing and fundraising experts.
Prior to Beta Boom, Kimmy founded a Silicon Valley innovation firm which she ran for over a decade. She also developed and led the whitespace gaming division for LeapFrog Inc. and served as Director of Digital Marketing for a 3D printing toy startup. She currently sits on the board or executive committee of VentureCapital.org, Womenpreneurs, the W Collective and UnBank Ventures (a FinTech Accelerator).
Kimmy earned her B.A. in Computer Science from Dartmouth College and MBA from MIT Sloan School of Management.
Tell us about Beta Boom?
Beta Boom is a startup academy and pre-seed fund that unlocks the potential of overlooked founders by providing daily coaching from product, marketing and fundraising experts.
When did you launch it and what is your ultimate goal for the business?
We launched toward the end of 2017. Beta Boom's mission is to increase the likelihood of success for founders of diverse backgrounds by closing access gaps and helping them to build a foundationally strong businesses through intensive, daily coaching. Ultimately, we want to change the way the investment world enables overlooked founders and expand our presence globally.
What do you feel are some of the hurdles that impact female founders (and of course underrepresented groups) specifically?
The hurdles female founders face are more numerous than most imagine. To touch on a few, women face incredible bias in attaining opportunities not only earlier in their career, but certainly as founders. These biases stretch across many spheres, from gaining investment to acquiring customers.
Despite female founders out-performing all male teams and providing greater return on investment, they consistently receive funding less often, and when they do raise, they also tend to raise less. Additionally, research has shown that beyond wage gaps across industries, there are significant gaps in startup equity ownership, (with women holding just $0.49 for every dollar of equity held by men).
The biases that women face can be both overt and subconscious, for example research shows that traditional investment committees tend to ask more preventative questions, like "how long will it take you to break even?" versus promotion questions like "what growth rate do you expect?"
Another big hurdle worth mentioning is access to transformative human capital. We talk about the difference between mentorship and coaching/sponsorship, and it is a key distinction for many female founders. Women are often freely given advice and told what to do (and what not to do), but are less likely to have people in those same positions opening doors for them and making introductions that can help enable their success.
It should be noted that despite all these hurdles, women-led and diverse companies still are proven to outperform.
What are your suggestions as to what women can do to
reduce some of those hurdles?
Much of navigating these systems is first understanding the potential pitfalls and recognizing which persons can be strong advocates and enablers. In the end, business relies on people and human networks, so finding the right allies and support are immensely critical.
There is no one guideline that I would give all female founders. Each person and their situation is unique. When it comes to investment, one thing to consider is that the founder is also assembling a portfolio of investors. Consider targeting investors that will work hard on your behalf and bring a lot of human and social capital even if they may not have a big brand name. These investors can complement other investors that may have the brand but may not devote as much time or energy. When facing biased questions, I recommend repositioning the focus to expand on the opportunity and potential upside for the investor.
Also, it must not be taken for granted that one must be determined to not let these hurdles paralyze or deflate you. It's a long journey. As with much of the startup world, it is a rollercoaster of emotions and happenstance, so for all the hardship that you may face, understand that another win may follow. I can say from experience that no win is ever easy.
What are some of the changes that need to happen in the investment world that can help women get more funding, or at least access to it?
While it is positive that more firms are cropping up to invest in women and underrepresented founders, we should ask ourselves whether the venture capital model, which has changed little from the 1950's, can adequately unlock the promise of these groups. Not only do we need greater capital allocation, but we need innovation above all to overcome the access gaps that systemic bias has created.
We also need more representation on the other side of the table, and we need to make sure it's diverse. Checking the female box is not enough.
What are some of your favorite examples of successful female founded or co-founded businesses?
There are so many and it depends on how you define success. There are so many women that go unnamed because they may not have raised significant venture capital or may not have hit astronomical growth, and sometimes largely in part because of the biases we discussed above.
One company that I look up to for both achievements and mission is Black Girls Code and its leader Kimberly Bryant. This company speaks to me as a former computer science/developer and I hope to see her and her company have greater and greater levels of success.
Although not startups, I'll also name some of the female leaders that I look up to: Mellody Hobson, Melinda Gates, Serena Williams and Michelle Obama. These women are tearing down glass ceilings and paving the path for all women to rise.
How do you juggle the demands of being a mom and running a business? And, what are some of the things you enjoy doing with your family on your days off?
In short, I juggle. That's the essence of it -- there is no person that truly has it all; every day is a compromise. I'm blessed because I've found my purpose in life and so I enjoy doing my work. I feel at peace knowing it's the best way to use my time when I am away from my kids.
With any free time I have, I love playing with my kids, especially outdoors. I particularly love camping, playing tennis and watching my kids play soccer.
What is it that you most dislike?
The glacial pace of progress towards greater inclusion in the venture and tech space
What is your greatest regret?
I've let go of all the regrets I've had, because I would not be the same person I am now without both the highs and the lows. If anything, I would have wanted to start fighting the system sooner, but as I said, perhaps the journey to this point was important.
How would you like to die?
In a timely manner. As an optimist, I prefer thinking about how I want to live. As a pragmatist, I realize I have no say in the matter.
What is your motto?
Just f-ing do it! I remember a founder saying that when I was in business school and I like the perspective of being inclined toward action.