The Importance of Representation: Women in Cleantech & Sustainability Vice-Chair Interviews WCS Pitch Competition Team
A CONVERSATION WITH KELLY RATCHINSKY, CO-LEAD ON THE PITCH COMPETITION COMMITTEE AND SARA FUENTES, VICE CHAIR OF WCS
Sara: Let’s hear about your role and the history of the Pitch Competition.
Kelly: The Pitch Competition is coming up on January 21st at 4 pm Pacific Time by registration on Eventbrite. We built the Pitch Competition in 2018. Besides myself, the founding members included board members, Julia Murphy and Melanie Lucas Conwell.
Sara: What inspired this Pitch Competition and what makes it unique and special?
Kelly: In 2018 we realized there was not cleantech and sustainability-focused Pitch Competition for female founders and we thought we need to we need to put this together for our community. So we now put women founders in front of 300 plus people along with four VCs who are also kind enough to give an hour of their time to the winner.
Something new that we’re bringing in this year is a youth judge panel; we’ll have three high schoolers who will have a say and also get a free membership with WCS. What we’ve started to focus on is how can we influence and support high school age women who may be climate activists who want to pursue this kind of career. I think it’s really exciting that we can bring younger women into the mix. Also for me personally, it’s the female VC judges who are an inspiration.
Sara: What are the outcomes that you are seeing among the Pitch Competition winners?
Kelly: Besides the VCs themselves stepping in as judges, the prize pool also includes some technical communications and PR. So the winner gets a deeper connection into the Silicon Valley ecosystem.
We recently got some great news about a past winner – eIQ mobility, which provides software analysis for companies to implement electric fleets. They were acquired by NextEra energy last month. We are seeing our companies and our past winners growing already.
Sara: So it’s fair to say that participating – even applying – to our Pitch Competition can open up some opportunities for the founder?
Kelly: For sure. We get a lot of applicants for six-pitch spots. And we encourage all of the applicants to join WCS with a special discount code. We want entrepreneurs and investors in the audience because we make it a social and professional opportunity to connect. Moreover, the audience gets a vote.
Sara: We know why doing a woman’s Pitch Competition is so important. There’s a four trillion dollar gap of opportunities that these VCs are missing because they’re not investing in start-ups led by multicultural persons.
Kelly: Absolutely. About 60% of VCs are acknowledging that there is a gap. Morgan Stanley says there’s been a 6% increase by venture capitalists who say they are now focusing more on women-owned and multicultural businesses in order to grab a piece of that. But those are still pretty low numbers.