Barry Diller. Michael Eisner. Ted Turner. Rupert Murdoch. The history of American cable and television is decorated with CEOs and founders who are mostly men.
But media mogul Kay Koplovitz shattered the industry’s glass ceiling in 1977 when she launched USA Network, where she served as CEO and executive chairwoman until 1998, when it was sold for $4.5 billion.
Koplovitz isn’t just the founder of USA Network, but the inventor of one of the most leveraged business models in the cable industry, tapping both licensing and advertising opportunities as revenue streams. In addition to being an industry innovator, Koplovitz is a trailblazer.
When she launched USA Network in 1977 (at the time it was called Madison Square Garden Sports), she was the first woman to helm a television network. She led USA Network to first place in cable prime time ratings and it remained there for 14 years. In 1992, she launched the Syfy Channel (formerly Sci-Fi Channel) which also became a leading network. In 1994, she helped both USA Networks International and the Syfy Channel expand globally, into 60 countries worldwide.
Long after her tenure at USA Network, her leadership continues to make an impact.
As the cable industry boomed, so did Koplovitz’s passion for advancing women in the workplace. In 1998, President Bill Clinton appointed Kay Koplovitz to chair the bipartisan National Women’s Business Council. While in this role, she was inspired to create Springboard (SB.CO) to help emerging female entrepreneurs grow and scale their businesses, and to help them raise venture capital funding. But with only 2% of venture capital flowing into female-founded and led startups, Koplovitz and team have major obstacles to overcome. That’s why she and her co-founder Amy Millman designed the nonprofit as a 360-degree resource center and global community of advisors and experts. Springboard identifies, trains, and propels women founders in the male-dominated waters of Silicon Valley.
Based in New York City, Springboard Enterprises serves women across the country. It has since inaugurated more than 800 companies into its program, guided 27 companies to IPOs and helped create more than $36 billion in value across its portfolio of mentees. Here, Koplovitz shares more about what drives her passion to grow Springboard Enterprises, and uplift the next generation of female founders:
What is your mission for Springboard Enterprises?
Springboard’s mission is to accelerate the growth of entrepreneurial companies led by women through access to essential resources and a global community of experts. It is the leading network of influencers, investors, and innovators dedicated to building high-growth companies led by women who are transforming industries in technology and life science. Our programs and proprietary screening process are how we source, qualify, advise, support, and showcase the most promising high-potential businesses seeking capital or partnerships for product development and expansion.
After your tenure as a hugely successful CEO in the cable industry, you could have easily rested on your laurels. Why build a new venture from scratch?
We launched Springboard Enterprises in 2000 because there just wasn’t an on-ramp to equity capital for women entrepreneurs in technology and life science, and someone had to create it. And I just didn’t want women to be left stranded in a burgeoning market. That’s why we launched the first class of Springboard, had our demo Day in January 2000, and we’ve been launching cohorts ever since.
What were the top lessons learned after launching your first cohort?
One of the things we realized at our first entrepreneurial cohort is that it isn’t simply a connection between entrepreneurs and investors. It takes an entire ecosystem of entrepreneurs and investors, lawyers and accountants, and business partners who are at the ready when entrepreneurs need them. That’s what we are at Springboard, a powerful community of all these experts spanning industries and circling the globe.
You stress the importance of community and networks. Name other founders who have inspired your mission at Springboard Enterprises.
We had a vision for a community of women entrepreneurs transforming industries. Women like Helen Greiner, Co-founder and CEO of iRobot, creator of the Roomba, and selling more than 40 million consumer robotics worldwide. Linda Hall, the creator of MinuteClinic, is located in over 1,100 CVS and Target locations, serving more than 37 million patient visits. Julia Cheek, MD, founder of Everly health, where a breakthrough in direct-to-consumer lab testing. At the first rumblings of the deadly COVID-19, Julia and her team developed the first consumer home test for COVID-19 in 8 weeks! Obsess Founder and CEO Neha Singh, who transformed her virtual reality company into a retail online and mobile platform for shopping in a visual with brands Ralph Lauren to NBC Universal and Charlotte Tilbury. Melanie Perkins, a co-founder of Canva, an online design company used by over 100 million users a month, is an alum of our first class of entrepreneurs in Australia in 2013. You can find her on the cover of the current issue of Fortune magazine as the woman founder establishing the largest valuation ever: $26 billion! Talk about breaking into the boys’ club! Melanie has done it. She is the first but won’t be the last.
You’re a maverick at marketing, and paying attention to little details that make a huge difference for branding. Why did you opt for .co for the Springboard website?
The .CO domain name became trendy because it was the next best alternative to .com. We wanted something short and easy to remember, Sb.co. Many start-ups have since rebranded their domain name, moving to .CO.
What’s next for Springboard?
On to the future. Just imagine:
Imagine the future when women raise capital as readily as men.
Imagine the power of our 5,000 experts who advise each entrepreneur at the right stage and right sector as they travel their journey to success.
Imagine an investment fund that can invest in these entrepreneurs as they grow their companies to scale, sustainability.
Imagine these alumnae investing in entrepreneurs coming after them, sharing their direct experiences to benefit others.
That’s our network effect, our flywheel effect for exponential growth. This is our blueprint for the future, and we are here to seize the opportunity.
Imagine the role you would like to play in closing the gap for funding women entrepreneurs transforming industries.