By Jordan Crook
Chief, the social network dedicated exclusively to women in professional leadership positions, announced today that it has $15 million in funding from its existing investors, including General Catalyst, Inspired Capital, GGV Capital, Primary Venture Partners, Flybridge Capital and BoxGroup.
The startup is a highly vetted network of women who are leaders in their business, either managing a budget, a large team or both. The women are often at the VP or executive level. The company has more than 2,000 members in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago, from companies like Google, IBM, HBO, Chobani, Walmart, Visa, Teladoc, Doctors Without Borders and The New York Times.
Chief was founded by Carolyn Childers and Lindsay Kaplan, who saw an opportunity to bring community, mentorship and guidance to a very underserved client: the female business leader.
Childers was SVP of Operations at Handy and led the launch of Soap.com, serving as GM there through its acquisition by Amazon. Kaplan was on the founding team of Casper, serving as VP of Communications and Brand, before leaving to co-found Chief.
Chief members are placed into a Core Group, which is industry-agnostic, to receive training from one of the company’s contracted and vetted executive coaches alongside their peers. In these peer groups, members talk about their challenges and receive support and guidance from one another, as well as an executive coach. Members also have access to a community chat feature, and Chief’s events, which include leadership workshops, conversations with industry leaders and community roundtables.
Obviously, the coronavirus pandemic has put a damper on in-person features of the platform, such as Core Groups and live events. But Chief has moved swiftly to put all these core services on the web for members to attend and participate virtually.
The company has also fast-tracked the launch of its hiring board, which gives members the ability to privately list great candidates and open positions to the broader network.
Chief vets its members to ensure that the women on the platform “get it,” as Kaplan likes to say.
“We all know it gets lonely at the top, and it gets a lot lonelier a lot earlier for women,” said Childers. “Women are on panels or on the circuit and they’re exhausted. This is a community they don’t have to be the one in the spotlight and feel all the pressure, but can actually be supported in a network of women who feel the exact same way. These women are the only person or one of the few people in their organization who have hit that level of leadership, and really need support from people who get it.”
The company looks at the applicant’s experience, the size of their organization and immediate team, the reporting structure, budget size, awards and credentials, thought leadership and impact, as well as current member nominations.
Interestingly, no more than 9% of the Chief membership work in a single industry, which leads to cognitive diversity within the community. The average age of a Chief member is 43, and members manage over $10 billion in collective budget at their organizations and more than 100,000 employees.
Executive-level members pay $7,900 annually, while VP-level members pay $5,800 each year. Chief says that 40% of its members are Executives; the other 60% are VPs. The company says that 30% of its membership base are women of color.
Chief also operates a Membership Grant program, created to promote diversity of background and thought among members, that brings the cost of an annual membership down to $3,800 for folks coming from non-corporate or underfunded organizations. The company did not disclose what percentage of customers are on the grant program.
Some napkin math then tells us that Chief is likely generating more than $10 million in revenue in 2020, on the conservative end. Kaplan and Childers say that they have a waitlist of 8,000 to join.
The new funding will be used to accelerate growth to meet demand in new cities and support the build-out of technology infrastructure. This latest round brings Chief’s total funding to $40 million.