“Scandal” and “Little Fires Everywhere” star Kerry Washington won her first Emmy Award yesterday, but when she joined TechCrunch Disrupt today, she was much more focused on her job as an investor.
Washington attributed much of her interest in technology to the 2012 premiere of Scandal. It was “almost 40 years since a black woman starred in a network drama,” which meant the pressure was high – and this “scandal” was viewed as a “bubble show” with the network “taking a huge risk, by bringing a black woman to the top “.
Washington said she used her experience as a volunteer on Barack Obama̵
“From the very beginning of this show, we’ve used the power of technology to support the show in ways that traditional media didn’t support us – or waited to see what the public response would be,” she said. “Really, I think the Twitter verse gave us a second season, and then we kind of started from there.”
How this led her to invest her own money in startups, Washington suggested that she wanted to get more involved.
“When it comes to engaging in any creative relationship I’m in, I’m not really good at sitting at the table without a voice,” she said. For example, she noted, “I became drawn to becoming a producer very quickly in my career.”
Similarly, she said that technical tools are exciting to use, “but it was really exciting for me to figure out how to be more committed, more input, more creative voice and more ability to influence the technology itself.”
Washington’s first investment was in the female co-working space The Wing. She explained this as part of her commitment to “ideas of inclusivity and community, to celebrate identity in a truly inclusive way, to support women’s voices, to support marginalized voices”.
The wing A New York Times article reported that a number of employees (especially women of the same skin color) felt they had been mistreated. After this criticism, CEO Aubrey Gelman resigned this summer.
When asked about her answer to the controversy, Washington said: “As an investor, as a woman of color, it is important to me that transparency and accountability be increased.” She said her role as an investor had “really only assisted leadership in this transition” over the past few months while also expressing a “deep desire” for transparency and accountability.
Another investment includes the community that celebrities can use to manage SMS conversations with fans. (Washington has promised that if you text her she will really be the one to reply – although she also asked for your patience as she texted “thousands and thousands of people”.) What Washington said, that she uses herself.
Regarding her dream startup, Washington said she has an unannounced investment in a direct-to-consumer fashion startup, “and it feels really dreamy right now.”
So far, these have all been personal investments. Would Washington consider raising a fund or joining a venture capital company?
“I’ve been thinking about it, but at this point I really like to have a closer and more practical relationship with the investments I’ve made,” she said. “I feel like I am really able to create more value as an individual investor.”