The Vertical, an emerging media source for international entrepreneurs in the U.S., is raising the bar for diversity in tech. We spoke to Victoria Zavyalova, the seasoned tech journalist and publisher behind this project.
Could you tell us more about yourself and the “why” behind The Vertical?
The idea of starting a platform like The Vertical came to me during the pandemic. For over 20 years, I’ve been working with techpreneurs both as a journalist and a communications professional. I also helped launch a few NYC-based VC funds and acceleration programs with a focus on immigrant entrepreneurship.
According to the research, 55% of America’s most valuable billion-dollar startups were launched by foreign-born entrepreneurs. International founders are active contributors to the U.S. economy. And they made an impact during the pandemic.
For example, one of my former clients initiated Masks4All, a global movement for population-wide use of masks. A LatinX techpreneur The Vertical covered launched a free program helping NYC’s mom-and-pop stores bring their businesses online. As an immigrant, I relate to and identify with this community, and I felt the need to tell their stories.
How was The Vertical launched?
In March 2020, during the first lockdown, I was stuck in my apartment in New York. To tackle the isolation, I started talking to media professionals, entrepreneurs, accelerators, and VCs.
An idea was kind of in the air, so we just jumpstarted the project. At first, we wanted to support and inspire people. A few months later the situation improved: COVID-19 opened a window of opportunity to foreign startups.
Many of them have been able to raise rounds in the U.S. remotely. American investors were more open to meetings online and putting their money toward a startup based in Berlin or Prague.
How do your stories make an impact?
We’re providing information, inspiration, and cultural guidance to America’s immigrant techpreneurs. The Vertical covers startups and other ventures launched by foreign-born founders. We also report on VCs, accelerators, and other building blocks of the ecosystem, supporting immigrant founders.
For example, these are tips on how to sell in the U.S., one the world’s most competitive markets, updates on business visa regulations, or news about access to funding.
A story about Dalits, previously known as India’s untouchables, launching tech companies in the U.S. sparked heated debates on social media. An article about the impact of war in Ukraine on U.S.-based startups helped a non-profit fund. So I believe our stories have already made an impact.
What are your goals? What’s your future vision for The Vertical?
With minority media in decline, there’s a need for more information sources focusing on immigrants, as well as Black and Latinx entrepreneurs. Currently, The Vertical’s publishing partners include some major media titles.
More VCs are pivoting to focus on international entrepreneurs. In April of this year, Cognitive Ventures raised $200 million to continue backing immigrant and minority-run ventures. So there’s a consistent interest in immigrant techpreneurs‘ stories.
In June, a new Hispanic media company, the Latino Media Network, raised $80 million. It is one of the largest capital raises for a Latina-owned startup in the U.S., representing the latest momentum for minority and immigrant media.
We are hoping to become a part of this growing trend. The Vertical can bring immigrant founders to the spotlight, pave the way for unicorns. Our main goal is to report on “underreported” and help immigrant founders to grow billion-dollar companies.