Jan 20, 2023 - Technology
Column / Signal Boost

Ousted Netflix worker scripts new career as investor

Photo illustration of B. Pagels-Minor with money elements and abstract shapes.

Photo illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios. Photo: Alevtina Kalashnik

Fifteen months after their high-profile firing from Netflix, B. Pagels-Minor is setting out on a new career, aiming to be what they believe to be the first Black transgender venture investor.

  • "I’m not necessarily someone who likes to be in front of a camera or the face of things," Pagels-Minor said, but their experience at Netflix prompted a shift: "You have to stand up or you really will be run over."

Flashback: In 2021, Pagels-Minor was fired (while 8 months pregnant) from their role as a program manager at Netflix after the company alleged they were the source of leaked information regarding Dave Chappelle's comedy special "The Closer." (Pagels-Minor has denied leaking the information to the press, admitting only to posting data on an internal message board.)

  • Within Netflix, Chappelle's relationship with Netflix had been a point of contention for years in both the Black and transgender employee groups, both of which Pagels-Minor co-chaired.
  • Of concern was Chappelle's outspoken criticism of transgender identity, including his acknowledgement in "The Closer" that he is on "Team TERF" — a reference to trans-exclusionary radical feminists who push an anti-trans agenda.
  • Employees weren't calling for the special to be banned, but had sought some sort of content warning, similar to one that Netflix had added to its series "13 Reasons Why."
  • Netflix co-CEO Ted Sarandos told employees that there was no connection between anti-transgender content in the media and real-world violence and vowed to keep the special on the service as it was — comments that further deepened worker concerns and eventually led to an employee walkout.

Pagels-Minor quickly found that not only were they out of a job at Netflix, but the door was largely shut to similar roles elsewhere, despite a resume that included Apple, Sprout Social and Cars.com.

  • They would apply for a job and have a good interview or two, only to hear through the grapevine that a VP said no, concerned with "the optics."
  • “I was lowkey blacklisted after Netflix," Pagels-Minor said. "Since I couldn’t find a role that was reflective of my experience and background, my response was to see if i could apply those same skills in other areas.”

So Pagels-Minor expanded a consulting practice that they had been doing on a smaller scale, initially for Plume, an Internet-based health service that specializes in care for trans and non-binary people.

  • But while they continue to consult, Pagels-Minor discovered that their true passion lay in combining funding with consulting to accelerate a company’s growth.

With that in mind, Pagels-Minor has now pivoted to venture capital — setting up a new firm, DVRGNT Ventures, focused on pre-seed and seed stage companies.

Details: Pagels-Minor said they are actively raising money for a $10 million fund, with plans to have the first investments by the end of March and be fully funded by Jan 2024.

  • The fund is focused on people and places that are currently being overlooked by a culture focused on a few big cities.
  • Though open to companies in a range of industries, Pagels-Minor says they are most interested in companies looking to improve key areas of life including healthcare, transportation and food sustainability.
  • "I’m looking for off-the-beaten-path founders who are in those in-between cities, [and] that are trying to solve real problems," they said.
Go deeper