Lauren Washington is the CEO and Co-Founder of the fintech platform, Fundr. She has been an entrepreneur for 8 years and has started 4 companies.
What were your initial years of growing up like? Tell us about your life before the venture/ corporate journey?
I was born and raised on Staten Island, NY. I went to UNC Chapel Hill where I got my BA in graphic design. After I graduated, I was a teacher with Teach for America and then did social media marketing at InStyle and TV Guide magazine. I then went to get my MBA at the Kellogg School of Management and worked on the agency side for a few years creating strategy for over 100 global companies. I then decided to take the plunge in 2014 to launch my first startup, KeepUp.
Every industry that is now a large-scale, top-notch business once started as a small idea in the minds of entrepreneurs. What was that idea or motivation that made you start your business/initiative? What motivated you within to say “YES, go for it!”
My motivation for Fundr came from my own experience fundraising for my first company. I struggled to get access to investors and understand the process, terms and lingo. When I created my second business, Black Women Talk Tech, I saw all the same issues reflected in not only the founders, but new investors as well. That’s when I knew there was a larger, systemic need for a product that brought efficiency, access and removed bias from early stage investing.
Tell us something about your initiative or current role. What is it about, and what impact are you trying to make?
At Fundr, we’re removing bias from the seed investing process by using data and AI to empower decision making. Startups take an evaluation that scores their companies on team, market, traction, founder personality and more. We then match them to investors and track their progress long term through monthly reporting. Our long term impact is to close the funding gap and give everyone the opportunity to create world changing technologies and startups.
Your journey and your vision are very inspiring, but are there any achievements or accomplishments you would like to mention?
While we’ve won awards and had prestigious press, the greatest achievement is making change among our customers and the industry. When we help startups raise funding or show an investor the improvements they can make to remove bias from their process, it keeps me going.
Would you like to share with our young budding women entrepreneurs the change you would like to see in the world if given an opportunity?
I want to bring equity to the entrepreneurial space so everyone has an equal opportunity to create great businesses. That’s a big shift from where we currently are. The funding gap, particularly for women, is dismal but I’m hopeful about the growing number of funds run by women and the number of women creating businesses on their own terms.
Women are a growing force in the workplaces worldwide, standing shoulder to shoulder with their male counterparts. There are cracks in glass ceilings everywhere, with many women breaking through to carve out a space right at the top of the pyramid. What are your thoughts about women’s leadership today?
Women are leading in their own way and we’re seeing the impact of this. Women run businesses have greater ROI. Women on corporate boards bring greater profitability. Women investors have better returns and make more social good investments. Getting to real equity in leadership is going to take time, but if we continue to show up in ways that are authentic to ourselves, we can make lasting incremental progress.
What would you want to say to our young women leaders/audience reading this?
Go for your dreams! We still live in a world where bias can hinder opportunity, particularly in the venture world, however, I don’t believe this should stop anyone from pursuing their dreams. Your journey may look different and may be a little harder in some ways, but if you truly want to bring change into the world you owe it to yourself and those you want to impact to try.