From left to right, Fave CEO Jacquelle Amankonah Horton, The Luupe CEO Keren Sachs, Lili CEO Lilac Bar David and Curastory CEO Tiffany Kelly. Photos courtesy of the companies.
Dec. 16, 2021 6:00 AM PST

In 2019, Keren Sachs was pitching her new startup, which connects female photographers with business clients, to a partner at a midsize New York venture firm when he gave her some disheartening advice: Ditch entrepreneurship and focus on keeping her husband happy. A year later, when she was on the phone to discuss joining a fundraising accelerator program, a male interviewer asked if her husband should get on the line to help make the decision.

“My husband has nothing to do with my business,” Sachs, the CEO and sole founder of startup The Luupe, told the man before hanging up. Instead, the former Shutterstock director took on more clients and tapped $100,000 previously invested by friends and family. Not until August of this year did the two-year-old business raise its first venture investment: $3 million in seed funding led by Wave Capital.

Encounters like Sachs’ illustrate some of the hurdles facing the women founders and CEOs of creator economy startups, a booming niche that’s set to attract $5 billion in funding this year. Growing recognition of the financial potential posed by online performers and other creative entrepreneurs has made the startups that serve them among the most sought after by venture capitalists. But not all founders are finding investors so receptive.

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