Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

Cleo Capital, led by entrepreneur Sarah Kunst, raised $3.5 million for a debut fund that will invest in female entrepreneurs who act as scouts.

Why it matters: "There's a lot of response about diversity — gender and race — and there's a lot of conferences and panels and dinners celebrating or highlighting women in tech, but there hasn't been a change in where the capital goes," Kunst tells Axios.

Changing the ratio: Along with an abysmally small number of female decision-makers at VC firms (less than 10%), "most scout programs inside of existing firms are overwhelmingly male," says Kunst, who was a scout for Sequoia Capital in 2018.

  • Sequoia tells Axios that more than a third of its current class are women. Spearhead, a joint program run by AngelList and VC firm Accomplice, had 4 women out of its first class of 19.
  • "A lot of the scouts [Kunst] had in place were already people we really respected. ... It appeals to us because of the quality of founders," says Lightspeed Venture Partners' Nicole Quinn, whose firm invested in Cleo.

Along with a persistent wage gap, women also own just 9% of all startup equity, despite making up 33% of founders and employees.

  • "Things won't really change for women unless women become more liquid, and all of our money is tied in our companies," says Rachel Tipograph, founder of MikMak and a Cleo Capital scout. She's already an angel investor but says that scout money makes it possible for her to make bigger investments.
  • And because scouts get to keep much of the upside of the deals they make, Cleo Capital (and all other female scouts) could earn significant new cash if it proves savvy at picking investments.

Kunst initially aimed to raise $10 million, but says that many investors told her they were not backing new funds at the moment or that her fund was too small for their budget.

"The reality is that the bar is sometimes higher for people who try to do things that don't match the patter of what other people are doing," says Bloomberg Beta's Karin Klein, whose fund invested in Cleo.

Go deeper

Obama: Trump is "jealous of COVID's media coverage"

Former President Barack Obama launched a blistering attack on President Trump while campaigning for Joe Biden in Orlando on Tuesday, criticizing Trump for complaining about the pandemic as cases soar and joking that he's "jealous of COVID's media coverage."

Driving the news: Trump has baselessly accused the news media of only focusing on covering the coronavirus pandemic — which has killed over 226,000 Americans so far and is surging across the country once again — as a way to deter people from voting on Election Day and distract from other issues.

Wisconsin Democrats: Don't return absentee ballots by mail

Signs for Joe Biden are seen outside a home in Coon Valle, Wisconsin, on Oct. 3. Photo by KEREM YUCEL via Getty

Wisconsin Democrats are urging voters to return absentee ballots to election clerks’ offices or drop boxes after a Supreme Court decision on Monday prevented the state from extending its deadline for counting absentee ballots, The New York Times reports.

Why it matters: 1,344,535 of the 1,706,771 Wisconsin voters who requested absentee ballots have returned them, according to the Times. The remaining 366,236 could prove critical in the battleground state, where President Trump won by a thin margin in 2016.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
Updated 2 hours ago - Economy & Business

Winter coronavirus threat spurs new surge of startup activity

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

U.S. coronavirus cases and hospitalizations are surging, with cold weather arriving before even the best-case scenario for a widely distributed vaccine. Now we're also beginning to see an increase in coronavirus-related startup funding, focused on both testing and pharma.

Driving the news: Gauss, a Silicon Valley computer vision startup focused on health care, tells Axios that it's raised $10 million to accelerate development and commercialization of an at-home rapid antigen test for COVID-19.

Get Axios AM in your inbox

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!