The former president of ABC Entertainment and CEO of Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia is now also the former CEO of AOL’s Brand Group. She just left the job that she took in February 2013 after the Internet company asked her to be president of its new venture entity, The BBG Fund. The name of the fund is an acronym for Built By Girls and AOL says it will be “focused on early stage investments in women-led consumer internet start-ups.” AOL will put about $10M into it, but investments will be performance based — meaning that AOL expects to see a return. Lyne will continue to report to CEO Tim Armstrong. The fund is one of several initiatives that Lyne will unveil next month during Ad Week, a series of ad-related meetings and presentations in NYC.
“We have a huge megaphone at AOL so we can have an outsized impact on the way girls and women perceive their options, and on the breadth of entrepreneurial ideas that have a chance to compete,” Lyne says. “But this is also good business: women are the majority of users on the fastest-growing sites and services on the internet. We believe we can get strong returns by focusing on entrepreneurs who know the customer best.”
AOL says that the investment community gives women short shrift. Just 4% of the partners at venture firms are female. Women entrepreneurs receive only 7% of venture funding.
As head of the Brand Group, Lyne oversaw AOL media properties including Engadget and TechCrunch — but not The Huffington Post, which of course is run by Arianna Huffington. With Lyne’s move, Media Brand President Maureen Sullivan will continue to oversee AOL.com as well as the company’s lifestyle brands and money portfolio. Another Media Brands President, Luke Beatty, will be in charge of AOL’s technology, autos and entertainment properties as well as the Experimental Products team.
In April, Lyne helped to lead AOL’s effort to persuade advertisers to spend some of the cash that they traditionally devote to TV on digital video platforms including AOL’s. “We need to be scouts, curators, wide open to talent … on every platform the tech world is dreaming up,” she said in her Newfront presentation. In addition to her work at AOL, Lyne sits on the boards of Gilt Groupe (she’s its former CEO) and Starz.