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A female startup founder is opening up about Silicon Valley ‘casting couch’ as she turns to equity crowdfunding to raise $1.5 million


The female cofounder of an Aussie startup has revealed the hidden misogyny and sexual harassment that exists within the Silicon Valley investment world.

In an honest and at times uncomfortable open letter to anonymous angel investor ‘Phil’, Charlie Thompson, CEO of profit-for-purpose business The Clean Collective, exposes the manipulation and gas-lighting experienced by female-led start-ups, when raising capital in the predominantly male world of venture capital funding.

Having met angel investor ‘Phil’ at a Silicon Valley conference, Thompson found herself inappropriately propositioned when attending a follow-up lunch meeting to discuss his interest in The Clean Collective.

Unknown to Thompson, the lunch reservation had been made within walking distance of the investor’s photography studio, where he expressed a desire to photograph Thompson.

“During lunch, he confessed he’d wanted to ‘capture’ me at his studio as soon as he met me at the investment conference, despite the level of business discussion he’d engaged me in at the time; that if I went to his studio, which was conveniently located near the restaurant, “he couldn’t be sure what would happen” and that my dismissive reaction was unusual, as most women become CEOs “because they want fame”.

“This well-rehearsed act and his exploitation of financial power demonstrate some of the flaws in the broken system of capital funding,” comments Thompson.

How did she move on from this harrowing experience?

Thompson’s first-hand experience in Silicon Valley sent her back to Australia with next-level amounts of clarity, grit and determination to find investors that respect people and respect the planet.

Fuelled by her experience on the investment circuit, Thompson and her business partners Charli Ferrand and Georgia Lawson are proud to be utilising new legislation around equity crowdfunding, working alongside the country’s leading platform Equitise, to raise their target of $1.5 million.

“By opening up equity to everyday Australians and the crowd, we’re looking forward to bringing in investors who are passionate about changing the future of our planet and the future of humanity, together.

“Equity crowdfunding provides us a way to remain a community-owned by our community, rather than selling capital to a single party that doesn’t align with our ethics or purpose,” Thompson said.

“The Clean Collective’s mission is much bigger than an investor’s cheque book. We’re using technology to empower people to tackle climate change and take ownership of their health,” she added.

What does the money they raise mean for the startup?

Looking to raise up to $1.5 million from the ‘crowd’, TCC is raising capital to fast-track its plans to create a digitised regulation app.

The TCC app will be a consumer-friendly platform that will allow consumers to scan personal care and cleaning products to identify their true safety and sustainability status.

The TCC app will become a personal shopping assistant for consumers seeking safe and sustainable options during their daily purchasing experiences in bricks and mortar stores.

TCC will also introduce a series of personal development e-courses with leading experts focusing on sustainability for schools, individuals and businesses that will be accessible worldwide as part of the funding round.

In addition to only stocking the most sustainable of products, every purchase results in a charitable initiative.

In the last year alone, TCC has prevented almost $2 million litres of toxic-chemical products from coming into contact with people and the planet, diverted more than 1.9 million single use items from landfill and removed 6,090 pieces of plastic from the ocean.

What exactly does the startup do?

The Clean Collective is the fastest-growing marketplace for sustainable purchases in Australia. The online hub brings together products and information on wellness and sustainability to empower people to tackle environmental epidemics and take ownership of their health.

Having built a new standard that guides safe and sustainable consumption, The Clean Collective sells approved personal care, cleaning and reusable products on its online shop, while publishing information on ways to create a healthier and more eco-friendly lifestyle on its personal development blog.

In less than two years, the company has earned more than $600K in revenue from over 10K transaction, attracted over 400,000 visitors, and amassed over 80,000 followers and subscribers.

Now, they’re seeking investment to scale the brand domestically and overseas to drive bigger impact for humanity and our planet. Investors will profit from The Clean Collective’s success; receive discounts, early-bird access and exclusive passes; and help the company remove 37,500 pieces of plastic pollution from the environment and plant 12,500 trees when they hit their target of raising $1.5M on the Equitise crowdfunding platform.

How is the startup performing so far?

Achieving $600,000 in its first full year of operation, TCC is the fastest growing marketplace in Australia and NZ for sustainable purchases. TCC has attracted 400,000 readers, 80,000 followers and subscribers and 500
industry and brand partners.

Identifying a gap in the market, Co-Founder Charlie Thompson, says there’s a pressing need for a more regulated way to check what products are actually sustainable and safe.

“It’s estimated that we’ve got just 135 months until an unprecedented climate disaster takes place and that our babies are being born pre-polluted with 200 chemicals in their umbilical cords. What we’re leaving to the next
generation is a crisis and threatened future,” says Thompson.

“Never before has there been a more urgent need for a platform like The Clean Collective. Pretty labels and clever marketing has sold us on the short-term solutions instead of true and safe sustainable options.

“There’s growing health and environmental epidemics, but without a standard for consumption or umbrella body communicating that these two issues are born from the same problem: our consumption habits, consumers are largely uneducated in their choices.

“However, this is starting to change with 13 million searches a month on Google for the information and solutions hosted on TCC and the #zerowaste hashtag amassing 2.9 million posts on Instagram,” said Thompson.

Co-Founder of Equitise, Chris Gilbert says he is very proud to be partnering with The Clean Collective in its first Equity Crowdfunding campaign.

“We’re really excited to offer The Clean Collective equity crowd fund on Equitise, Equity crowdfunding is all about startups changing the game and in this case, it is change that needs to happen, ” he said.