When Monique Idlett-Mosley was twenty-two years old, she talked herself into a sales job at USA Today that she was in no way qualified for. The woman interviewing her decided to play the long shot and give her a chance. That gamble paid off and now Idlett-Mosley works to help other woman in the same way she was helped – by giving them a break in a way the majority of others will not – by funding their business ideas.
Idlett-Mosley makes the magic happen via Reign Venture Capital, which she founded with business partner Erica Duignan Minnihan. It was in business school that Idlett-Mosley met Minnihan. Idlett-Moslet was smart to partner with her as Minnihan was already active in angel investing and involved with 1000 Angels.
“Together we are able to provide our portfolio with unique guidance on both capital and business strategy needed to accelerate growth, build a successful company, and get them to exit,"
Minnihan has spent her entire career in finance, working with public companies in investment banking at both Citigroup and Credit Suisse for the first eight years of her career. For the last twelve years, she's been investing in early-stage private companies, with transactional experience on hundreds of investments spanning over a decade. “Together we are able to provide our portfolio with unique guidance on both capital and business strategy needed to accelerate growth, build a successful company, and get them to exit," Idlett-Mosley says.
It was meeting and talking to Minnihan that led Idlett-Mosley down the investment trail and to found Reign Ventures, a $25 million fund. Reign is “an early stage investment firm that focuses on women and minority led startups.
The fund invests at the Seed and Series A Stage in promising technology and tech-enabled startups with high-potential founders" and has worked with companies that include LISN and Appy Couple. Since 2009, black women have received only .0006 percent of all tech venture funding. In an effort to change that, Reign ventures also serves as a mentorship network.
Idlett-Mosley's career has included working in sales, marketing, and public relations for clients that included Kanye West, Verizon, Burrell Communications, T.I., and Timbaland. Then, in 2008, Idlett-Mosley married Tim “Timbaland" Mosley and then served as CEO of Mosley Brands and Mosley Music Group, whose roster includes Timbaland, One Republic, Nelly Furtado, and Chris Cornell.
She is also the Founder and Executive Director of Always Believing Foundation, which seeks to find innovative and empowering solutions to combat childhood obesity and to promote healthy lifestyles and expression through education and communication. Since 2014, she served as a National Trustee for The Boys & Girls Clubs of America. In addition to the previously mentioned roles, Islett-Mosley is also on the Board of Directors for The Miami Bridge, a south Florida based nonprofit organization that provides emergency shelter, food, and counseling for at-risk youth and has previously served on the board of the Ryan Cameron Foundation.
Idlett-Mosley offers a unique approach to leveling the playing field for women and minorities when it comes to raising capital. Women and minorities receive less than 1% of total venture capital dollars annually. Why? Because of the homogeneity of investment managers, she says. “Take a look at the top Venture Capital funds, and you'll find the investment team is 99% white males."
It doesn't make sense considering that women and minorities contribute billions in investment dollars to the institutions (such as pension funds and insurance companies) allocating capital for investment, she explains. “It is critical they be active as investment managers and as founders receiving that funding. A big roadblock for black and women founders is 'unconscious bias' on the part of investors. As black women, we don't suffer that handicap when evaluating a deal."
Idlett-Mosley has truly taken a page from her background in entertainment (and managing artists) to build a machine that allows startup founders to find real success. “In the music industry, we find the 'it' factor and in-house we nurture the artist, from a development perspective and we provide all support through a machine." Within that “machine" they have PR, marketing, digital, legal, and any additional else that might be needed to build a successful brand and artists. “There are many correlations between the two. I have not experienced any successful person get there alone."
One of the most important things women need to do, Idlett-Mosley says, is to support one another and be more willing to invest in one another. “We will see women who don't blink an eye at contributing hundreds of thousands to charity, but are absolutely paralyzed by the idea of making a $25,000 investment into a woman-led startup. Men, on the other hand, often get their funding from the guys they went to college or business school with. She says that as women, we have to be more comfortable talking with each other about investing, and supporting each other as business leaders. “It's not a favor. It's not charity. It's an investment. That's the way men look at it when they invest in their friends and colleagues."
"In order to achieve greater success, women need to start thinking bigger," Idlett-Mosley says. “We tend to aim much lower than we could, because we have fewer role models to look to when it comes to building a billion dollar business." From her point of view, many founders make the mistake of not realizing they need an addressable market of at least a billion dollars to be investable. “Instead of pitching investors their outsized goals, they present a “conservative" scenario that doesn't get any interest." She and her partner are making great strides to change that, one company at a time. “It takes an ecosystem of founders, investors, mentors, and employees; but that work is being done and we are on our way there."
WRITTEN BYJenny Block