The Fourth Floor: A Platform for Founders and Funders


Breen Sullivan, founder and CEO of The Fourth Ground, shares her journey from a serial startup standard counsel to leader of a system that is breaking ceilings and supporting ladies-led startups attain obtain to funding and essential advisors.

CCBJ: Be sure to share a very little little bit of your background with us.

Breen Sullivan: My history is as a general counsel for tech startups. For two, I was the 1st lawful use and built out the legal functions. At the 3rd I was the Main Administrative Officer, CHRO and General Counsel. As a generalist for tech startups, I commenced to understand a little something: in all 3 businesses, male colleagues ended up angel investing and serving on advisory and governing boards of startups (and having promoted!) and woman colleagues weren’t. When I tried out to locate similar ‘under-the-radar’ board and financial investment options for myself, there was no clear place to go. As a tech attorney, I also knew lots of startups never just take total benefit of advisory boards or fill all of their open up board or observer seats, which means fewer opportunities than there have to have to be.

We usually hear about deficiency of obtain for women to general public and huge organization boards but we in no way seem to be to listen to about lack of accessibility for ladies to the fewer hot, a lot less significant profile alternatives, like advisory board positions or smaller sized enterprise company board roles, etcetera., that extra often than not lay the foundation for the form of networking and expert advancement (and for-earnings board working experience!) that gals have to have to gain accessibility to larger sized, much more-sought-immediately after alternatives down the road. Access to these ‘feeder’ board alternatives, however, are controlled nearly solely by an invisible and informal network that ladies commonly are not a element of.

Then when I achieved Katrin de Haën, a serial entrepreneur, I recognized girls business owners encounter related obtain problems when it arrives to funding and progress chances, and do not generally have the tools, assets or network to choose advantage of the value that advisory board or impartial directors could deliver to their startups. It grew to become crystal clear that bringing these two groups of girls collectively who do not commonly fulfill every single other would create a mutually helpful market that could crack open that monopoly.

This insight (and annoyance!) led me to make The Fourth Flooring to be this new variety of position exactly where women of all ages can hack the procedure, initiate and progress their for-income board professions, earn fairness, and get started investing. Appropriate away, we started off encouraging females-led startups come across advisors and funding which led us to mixture women-led startup board opportunities into a board seat trade accessible to experienced girls.

In 2021 we recognized two more things: 1). We had created a marketplace for below the radar board and investment possibilities and they had been slowly and gradually but absolutely changing the demographics of the pipeline of ‘board-prepared candidates’ by obtaining gals on to the boards and cap tables of girls-led startups, and 2). It was not more than enough. We needed to do much more.

Gals require to be on boards, but they also need to have funding, and they require to be writing checks. So The Fourth Ground made a ‘Back Room’ for founders, women of all ages-led resources, angels and constrained partners to really encourage women to commit in each individual other and open up up their boards and cap tables as a way to even more degree the playing industry.

When you to start with conceived of founding The Fourth Floor, what was your general eyesight and how has that evolved as you have labored with additional candidates, buyers and founders?

Terrific dilemma. At the commencing, the worth proposition that we were focused on was really clear: the price that women (primarily legal professionals!) could bring to advisory boards and governing boards of early-phase, ladies-led startups and the mutual added benefits that could be reaped by the exchange.

On the other hand, we often realized that we necessary to do far more and our mission was larger sized. We want to near the gender wealth and funding hole by diversifying boards and cap tables. We want to get a lot more gals on boards, far more gals funded and more females writing checks. So how do we rework the price creation circle we crafted with ladies founders, candidates and traders into a industry alternative?

We realized there was prospective to drive systemic transform on a substantially larger scale and make a dent in the gender wealth and funding gap if we could incentivize the entire business enterprise group- male-led corporations incorporated- to commit to tangible ways that would make variety at the board degree a truth and ensure a steady stream of board chances and capable candidates, so that is what drove us to arrive up with the Spend It Ahead Initiative.

The latest moves by NASDAQ (diversify or delist), the Securities and Trade Fee and gamers like Goldman Sachs, not to point out the legislation in California demanding board variety, all suggest we require an economical, transparent ‘Market Network’ for varied board candidates sooner fairly than later on. The Fourth Flooring believes it can be that useful resource and aid to speed up the adjust that is already in the air.

The Fourth Floor’s Pay back It Ahead Initiative will spearhead this transformation by enlisting countless numbers of providers in between now and 2025 to take a pledge to close the gender wealth and funding gap by diversifying boardrooms and cap tables. The Initiative kicked off March 29th of this year and is targeting a purpose to advance for-gain board professions for 75k ladies by the stop of 2025.

We figured out a way to incentivize corporations to assume in different ways about their boards and revolutionize how they evaluate DE&I: Pay out It Forward Associates obtain a seal (consider Very good Housekeeping) and credits for the quantity of opportunities they develop (form of like carbon off-sets). Pre-start partners by now consist of CCBJ, NYSERDA, PEWIN, The Innovation Room and Stella Labs, Trulieve, Vivid Electric power, Archetype and Open up Grants with lots of a lot more lining up. The Initiative will officially launch in Could.

Fork out It Forward incentivizes all corporations to ‘pull far more chairs up to the table,’ deliver diversity into their boardroom, and empower females executives to initiate or progress for-profit board occupations all when saving income from the bottom line. Sorry for the shameless plug, but if you are a CEO, CHRO, board member or selection maker, now is the moment to not get remaining guiding! You can acquire the pledge and start advancing board occupations for women of all ages appropriate now. If you are intrigued in nominating your self for a life span Board Candidate Membership or nominating your employer to come to be a Spend It Ahead Associate, understand additional on The Fourth Ground web page.

As for obtaining much more women of all ages funded and more women of all ages crafting checks, that is the mission of our ‘back room’ financial commitment club. There are a great deal of reasons why bringing jointly ladies business owners with girls-led resources and accredited investor Board Applicant customers just can make perception. Ladies-led cash will need a lot more funds in their coffers, gals will need more accessibility to investment chances, and ladies-led startups have to have funding. For the reason that females are additional probably to commit in women of all ages founders and they are a lot more likely to commit aligned with their values, these 3 networks need to have to be connected. We have major ideas for The Back Space, but absolutely discovering its possible will likely not take place till immediately after the Pay It Forward Initiative is in whole swing. So remain tuned!

What is your assistance to gals searching to obtain access to board company and/or funds, and what problems have you found climbing stars make alongside the way?

Community, community, network—and being familiar with that one’s qualified community is different from a board community. You require to go outside your consolation zone, to acquire hazards, to meet up with teams of people who you wouldn’t normally meet up with. That is a seriously crucial component of attaining obtain to for-income board company and having begun in investing.

When it comes to boosting money as a female founder, there is no straightforward route, but gals-led resources are three situations additional probable to spend in women of all ages-led ventures, so networking with ladies who are composing checks of any type can be particularly practical. To the extent you can faucet into differentiated networks outside the house of your individual closed circle (specially types that are united with a widespread mission or purpose connected to receiving you funded or finding you on a board), it will be exponentially beneficial.

Girls also are likely to be extra threat adverse than males. It can really feel overwhelming starting off a board occupation or an financial investment portfolio and it is terrifying! But it’s extremely significant we place ourselves out there, and that we consider threats. They can be smart hazards, educated hazards, but we want to soar in and get commenced. And section of staying in a position to do that is reframing how we feel of ourselves. Great is the enemy of superior. We’re under no circumstances heading to be great but we need to consider that we’re fantastic adequate. There are 10 million board rooms in this place stuffed with imperfect guys- it is time for some imperfect girls to join them at the desk!

What are your membership requirements and how does the plan get the job done?

At the person level, we acknowledge the subsequent types of associates:

Startup Founders: We settle for gals and ladies-determining founders and co-founders of early-stage, scalable and expansion-oriented startups, plan phase as a result of collection B. Founders qualify for a no cost membership if they list at the very least just one prospect in our board seat trade and/or back again area investment decision club.

Board Candidates: In order to join us as a Board Applicant Member, you will have to have a requisite degree of experienced encounter, which we’ve determined to be at least 10 decades, even though we also seem at the excellent of that professional encounter and the level of seniority that that man or woman has attained in excess of the course of their occupation. You can both invest in a Board Applicant Membership right from our system or you can get a daily life-long, free membership as a Board Applicant Nominee as a result of our Pay out It Forward Initiative. Eventually we hope to be in a position to offer you no cost, everyday living-very long Board Prospect membership to all certified women of all ages. As the range of Pay out It Forward Spouse firms boost, so will the pool of out there nominations to give out. In the interim, we stimulate all Board Prospect Customers to inform their employer about the Pay out It Ahead Initiative.

Dream Backers: We are about to get started supplying a ‘Dream Backer Membership’ for gals interested in remaining a part of The Again Space Investment Club only. This membership is for women of all ages who are fascinated in angel, venture and/or other types of investing. To qualify, women have to be accredited traders.

At the organization degree, we take the next categories of members:

Pay out It Forward Companions: Open to all for income corporations

Better Influence Partners: Open up to innovation labs, accelerators, funds, B2B organizations, experienced provider provider corporations, NGOs, Communities, Governing administration Agencies and Associations

Females-led Funds: funds that are ‘women-led’ (50% or extra owned and operated by a girl).

What are some milestones that you have established for The Fourth Floor?

The largest and most crucial milestone is the just one we gave ourselves for the spend-it-ahead initiative. We hope to advance 75,000 for-income board professions for women by the conclude of 2025 and to obtain that objective we need to get close to 15-20k organizations to participate in the initiative. We assume we can accomplish this by forming larger impact partnerships with organizations that can support link us to hundreds and countless numbers of possible pay back-it-ahead partners and also by means of amplification of this initiative.

The Pay It Forward Initiative is a industry resolution to a social trouble which we consider has probable to travel extra systemic improve in the small phrase than a legislative alternative. Of program we need to have more laws like the rules in California and more actions like all those taken by NASDAQ and the SEC, but we also want a sector approach that incentivizes firms throughout this region to consider a phase again and imagine a very little in another way about their boards. If the Spend It Forward framework can help firms see some discounts versus their bottom line, raise variety in their boardroom, commit in their executive females expertise and earn them extra organization or expense dollars, then they will take part, and by participating, they will aid us build new board chances and mixture current kinds into a board seat trade that will get started to change board demographics in this nation.

Membership progress is yet another milestone and a good deal of this goes hand-in-hand with the spend-it-ahead initiative. If we can strike that 75,000 number, it will indicate a huge influx of Board Candidate Members at The Fourth Floor. The exact goes for the somewhere around 20,000 new board-similar alternatives we have targeted for our Board Seat Exchange. So these are some pretty massive ambitions.

We also system to grow our founder and investor membership simultaneously. As our back again room financial investment club grows, we will be capable to offer you more funding opportunities for women-led ventures and extra investment decision prospects for females hoping to take the plunge and start investing with a gals-led fund or a girls-led enterprise.

And lastly, there are our amplification and messaging milestones. We actually want to get the term out there about what is achievable and why it is so essential to push systemic transform when it will come to the gender wealth and funding gap in this country—and then all over the world.

On a small little bit more of a own take note, we would enjoy to know who and what has influenced you along your specialist path.

I was born and elevated in Alaska so I have normally been a bit of an outsider, primarily on the east coast, which is where I have invested significantly of my grownup daily life. My atypical track record and experience has served me recognize there is the way most people today do items and then there are other means to do issues. There is normally an outside the house-the-box strategy, a way to make that pie more substantial.

I also realized early on that you can take control of your narrative and that can get you to a different position. Also, most matters are not as lousy as they feel and most points are achievable if you actually remain targeted on that objective and you are open up to rolling with the punches and taking alternate routes to get there. I also had a few fascinating troubles when I was getting begun skillfully – I was dwelling in Morocco when 9/11 occurred and in New Orleans when Katrina strike. I finished up possessing an atypical entrée into the lawful profession as a result. These experiences taught me versatility and not just accepting issues as they are.

I observed a lot of organizations where the entrepreneurs and board members ended up all white men. You can possibly just acknowledge that or you can assume about it differently. Why not create an on ramp for women to get on boards quickly? Why do we have to wait?

4 or 5 time in my life I was forced to obtain an choice route to accomplish what I needed. It was generally possible then, so why just cannot the same detail be true listed here?


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