Annie Brown

Creating a blockchain-enabled social platform built for women, the LGBTQ+ community, & their fans.

location: San Diego, CA

Company: Lips

Role: Founder

On Lips.

I myself am a member of the LGBTQ community, as well as an abuse and eating disorder survivor whose mental health was made worse by the lack of diverse bodies and honest discussions of sexuality in popular media. I am also an older sister, and aimed to create a space in which my sister and others could avoid hate and express their authentic selves.

On being a founder.

For me, being a woman founder to me means using my identity as a woman to bring awareness to gender inequality that exists, as well as form meaningful relationships with other marginalized founders based on shared experiences of oppression.

Hands down, the best thing about founding Lips has been the community of women, non-binary and LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs, investors, creators, and technologists I’ve met along the way. They’ve energized and inspired me when in moments I find the world especially resistant to positive change.

Our lead investor, Silvia Mah is such an incredible advocate for women and the LGBTQ+ community. When the room is silent in the face of discrimination, she speaks up. She has such a kind heart, and her compassion for others inspires me to be a better person. Barbara Bickham is Lips’ technical advisor and getting to know her has been one of the greatest gifts of building this company. Barbara is one of the smartest people you will ever meet. She is also honest, giving, and is absolutely dedicated to giving marginalized communities a voice. Last but not least, I am inspired everyday by my Lips founding team members Val Elefante and Julija Rukanskaitė - their drive and commitment to building inclusive technologies at such a young age keeps me motivated to always do better and dream bigger in my work.

The most glaring resistance our team has encountered so far has been first-hand gendered-discrimination from investors. I knew it would be hard going into fundraising, but I had no idea how prevalent the problem of sexism among investors was or that it would be so hurtful. Even when you are prepared for it, being told you need a male co-founder, or having your experience questioned, or being met only with negativity still stings. Additionally, as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, I find that many investors say that they support diversity, but when it comes to actually taking the time to understand and empathize with different lifestyles and views of the world, they often fall short.

To young women entrepreneurs, remember that It’s not you. Don’t feel like you have to work harder, push harder, or that you are doing something wrong. Women founders often exhaust themselves trying to please folks who are biased to start – putting their own wellness on the back burner. Instead, find allies to whom you don’t feel the need to prove yourself to over and over again.