AOL LAUNCHES WOMEN-FOCUSED START-UP FUND
AOL, #1 in Lifestyle Online and Creator of MAKERS, the Largest Collection of Women's Stories Online, Today Launches "The BBG Fund," a Venture Fund Focused on Women-Led Technology Start-ups, Under The Leadership of Susan Lyne
NEW YORK, NY, September 2, 2014 – AOL today appointed Susan Lyne to lead The BBG Fund, a new venture fund focused on early stage investments in women-led consumer internet start-ups. The fund will make seed and Series A investments, with a focus on multiplatform media, services and commerce. AOL has a long and successful history of investing in women's content: MAKERS, Thrive, Global Motherhood and the Cambio/Girls Who Code program all launched within AOL, which is consistently the leader in Comscore's Lifestyle category. With this new initiative, AOL is investing in women as builders, part of a broader initiative to bring more women and girls into tech. Lyne, who was previously Executive Vice President and Chief Executive Officer of AOL's Brand Group, will continue to be based at the company's headquarters in New York City and will report to AOL Chairman & CEO, Tim Armstrong.
"As head of AOL Brands, I had the opportunity to contribute to the growth and profitability of our portfolio of premium brands," said Lyne, President of The BBG Fund. "In my new role, I am looking forward to contributing in a different way. We have a huge megaphone at AOL so we can have an outsized impact on the way girls and women perceive their options, and on the breadth of entrepreneurial ideas that have a chance to compete. But this is also good business: women are the majority of users on the fastest-growing sites and services on the internet. We believe we can get strong returns by focusing on entrepreneurs who know the customer best."
The challenges facing women in technology are real. Only 7% of venture funding goes to women entrepreneurs [i], in part because only 4% of the partners at venture firms are women [ii]. 75% of consumer internet startups have zero women on the founding team; at enterprise software and hardware startups that number climbs to over 80% [iii]. And while the fraction of female CS graduates increased in 2013 to 14%, it is still significantly below 1984 levels [iv]. Organizations like Girls Who Code and Made With Code are leading a growing movement to change the gender equation, and AOL is committed to doing its part. The BBG Fund is part of a broader initiative that Lyne will introduce at Ad Week next month. Stay tuned for #BUILTBYGIRLS.
"Susan has done an excellent job in her time at AOL at a board and operating level, and we are excited to be putting her vast skills and expertise to work to replicate this success at The BBG Fund," said Tim Armstrong, Chairman & CEO of AOL. "AOL has a strong track record of investing in women, women's leadership, and we are adding to our investments in the most important space for women entrepreneurs. "
Since February 2013, Lyne has successfully overseen all aspects of AOL's Brand Group growth strategy, including increasing traffic across properties, maximizing partnerships with advertisers and publishers, attracting top talent and returning the segment to profitability. Going forward Maureen Sullivan, President of Media Brands will continue to lead AOL.com as well as AOL's lifestyle brands and money portfolio; Luke Beatty, President of Media Brands, will lead AOL's technology, autos and entertainment properties as well as the Experimental Products team; and Arianna Huffington and Jimmy Maymann will continue to run The Huffington Post.
Before joining AOL, Lyne served as Chairman of Gilt Groupe, Inc. an online fashion and luxury brand retailer, since September 2010 and as Gilt's Chief Executive Officer from September 2008 to September 2010. Prior to that, Susan served as President, Chief Executive Officer and director of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. from 2004 to 2008.
Before joining MSLO, Susan served in various positions at The Walt Disney Company, including President, ABC Entertainment from 2002 to 2004, Executive Vice President, Movies & Miniseries, ABC Entertainment from 1998 to 2002, and Executive Vice President, Acquisition, Development & New Business, Walt Disney Motion Picture Group, from 1996 to 1998. Prior to joining Walt Disney, she worked for News Corporation Ltd. and K-111 Communications as Founder, Editor-in-Chief & Publication Director, Premiere magazine.
Susan previously served on the AOL Board of Directors from December 2009 through 2013 and on the Board of Directors of CIT Group Inc. from 2006 until 2009. She currently serves on the Board of Directors of Gilt Groupe, Inc. and Starz, LLC.
AOL Inc. (NYSE: AOL) is a brand company, committed to continuously innovating, growing, and investing in brands and experiences that inform, entertain, and connect the world. The home of a world-class collection of premium brands, AOL creates original content that engages audiences on a local and global scale. We help marketers connect with these audiences through effective and engaging digital advertising solutions.
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[i] Dow Jones, Women at the Wheel: Do Female Executives Drive Start-up Success, Sept 2012 Report
[ii] Forbes/Pitchbook analysis for "Just 3% of Venture Capitalists Are Female But There Are Reasons to Be Optimistic", Hollie Slade, May 2014
[iii] Silicon Valley Bank, Startup Outlook, 2013 Report
[iv] CRA Taulbee Survey 2012-2013