A Note From the President on Funding Women-led Startups

I had the pleasure of being on an excellent panel of women for SXSWi this past weekend, where we discussed the issue of funding women entrepreneurs. Christine Osekoski, publisher of Fast Company, was our moderator and I was joined by Jesse Draper, CEO of Valley Girl and Megan Quinn, Investment Partner at KPCB.

The broad topic we covered was:

There have been persistent discussions in the entrepreneurship and technology spaces in the past several years about the need to increase funding for women-led startups.

However, an increase in the actual numbers and dollars isn’t exactly being realized outside of a handful of high-profile cases.

With that in mind, most of us can agree that funding more women entrepreneurs is important and seems to be supported philosophically, but there are clear hurdles that are keeping it from being realized and actualized.

This panel will discuss the current state of investing in women-led startups and why it’s important to do so, and point to some of the existing problems and solutions.

We feel it’s important for everyone – male or female – to join in this conversation.

Several takeaways came from the session:

  1. Networks are important. People with the same values and people of like-minded views are important to have around you.  This is why women’s organizations can be helpful.  At Girls in Tech, I know we’ve gotten feedback from around the world that simply providing  a forum for women to come together, to realize there are others like them and have mutual support has been incredibly beneficial.  Additionally, simply knowing people to help you in your venture when you need it – especially in funding – can be invaluable.  Many VCs and angels take these network connections seriously when thinking about funding.
  2. Pitching is scary, but incredibly important. Unfortunately, women like pitching a lot less than their male counterparts, and are often sidelined in the process when in front of funders.  There are large differences in pitching styles between males and females – storytelling, big thinking, determination – that often leave women at a disadvantage, and I’ve had so much feedback in the past year about what a difficult process this is for many women. This points to a huge opportunity in training, preparation, etc for women entrepreneurs.
  3. There’s mentorship, and then there’s sponsorship. This is loosely connected to networking, however, there tends to be a difference in how men and women handle “mentorship”.  Women are excellent at career advice, guidance, encouragement and nurturing of mentees, but they often lack in truly “sponsoring” them, which is something men are generally seen as good at. “Sponsorship” takes it the next step further and adds a component of active and deliberate “door-opening”, if you will.  It’s not only guiding and coaching, but it’s seeking out opportunities for mentees, connecting them to influential people, and turning around and acting on their behalf.
  4. Women tend to not like to ask for money. This was pointed out by an audience member who’s been working in the startup field for many years.  She’s found that women have a real problem being direct and asking for money.  I don’t need to point out how inhibitive this can be when you’re literally asking for money from VCs and angels. How do we solve this? Is it a confidence issue?

There were a lot of great topics brought up during the process, and hopefully some that we’ll be able to tackle here at Girls in Tech in the coming months.

What else have you noticed – positive or negative – concerning getting funding as a woman entrepreneur?

Women Money and Power: Sexy Ensemble or Strange Bedfellows?

Women Money and Power. What comes to mind?

Did you note: Strange bedfellows? Complex intersection? Uncharted territory? Estranged relationships? Alpha females? Savvy Ladies? Old crones? Sexy? Unfeminine?

Can a woman earn, invest, grow, and use both money and power as means to an end, and still be seen as womanly? feminine? even sexy?

Let’s explore this territory together.

According to Allianz women money and power research, women made up half of all stock-market investors and controlled 48% of estates worth more than $5 million in 2006-2007. By 2011 women controlled over 50% of the United States’ wealth. No longer playing the role of secondary earner, 60% of women with business degrees out-earn their husbands, and according to the latest U.S. Census, regardless of educational attainments, women out-earn their male partners in 22% of households. The Allianz study, which included a survey of over 3,000 women and men also found:

The study found that women power and money relationships can be classified in 5 distinct categories: Alpha Female (18%) Confident, optimistic and pro-active, she feels like she must take care of herself and those she cares about financially – in part because it’s something she’s often had to do. Perceptive Planner (35%) She does thorough research and weighs all options before making financial decisions. Power Partner (24%) She is all about sharing financial power on an equal basis with her life partner. Uncertain Searcher (11%) She’s worried about money and confused by the complex financial choices she’s facing. As a result, she avoids making financial decisions. Supportive Traditionalist (8%) Here we find Cinderella who is comfortable relying on someone else to make the major financial decisions in her life.

Women Money and Power: Why Does it Matter?

Power makes things happen. Powered by gasoline, a car moves from point A to point B. Powered by money and the resources money can buy, Bill and Melinda Gates are improving health in developing countries and stopping the spread of diseases such as malaria. Money and power, despite their bad reputations, are neutral. What we do with money and power causes either good (valued) or bad (not valued) results. Women, according to the research behind Women and the Paradox of Power, seek power roles in corporations to bring about positive change in the company and the communities in which the business operates. So, if you want to make something happen, in your company, in your community or the world at large, get in charge of money and your power. Be deliberate about your goals, as well as the money and power required to achieve them.

If you aren’t concerned with healing some aspect of the world, you still have solid reasons to get in charge, or at least be knowledgeable, about your finances. Divorce and longevity statistics indicate that every woman stands an 80 – 90% chance of being solely responsible for her own or her family’s finances, at some point in her life.

Now, to the question of women money and power as being sexy or feminine. Unless it’s sexy to be poverty-stricken, worried, and focused on where you next dollar will come from, I vote that women who are powerful and financially in charge are both sexy and feminine.

Women Money and Power: Here’s the Rub

In her recent Harvard Business Review article about women and finances, Whitney Johnson references the sentiments of a friend who is among Fast Company’s League of Extraordinary Women. Said friend chose to, “designate her business a non-profit because women were willing to make donations hand-over-fist, but they wouldn’t invest.” ZAP! How will we ever bring to bear our much-needed influence in a world that revolves around economics, if we aren’t willing to become knowledgeable about, invest in, and gain power in our own economies?

A penny (little value) for your thoughts (more value).

Care or dare to test your knowledge of simple finances?

Author – Anne Perschel: Co-Founder of 3Plus International www.3plusinternational.com


Lady 2.0: why Silicon Valley is Better for Women

pamelaryckmanBy Pamela Ryckman, Author of Stiletto Network: Inside the Women’s Power Circles That Are Changing the Face of Business

Spend a little time with women in Silicon Valley, and you start to wonder: Who are these advanced creatures, with their super-glued networks and willingness to roll the dice? What makes them willing to open not only their Rolodexes, but also their wallets on each other’s behalf?

Many believe the region’s singular entrepreneurial ecosystem encourages everyone — and women, disproportionately — to revel in possibilities.

“It’s a culture of risk-taking,” says Sue Siegel, the C.E.O. of Healthyimagination, G.E.’s $6 billion global healthcare initiative, and a former partner at Mohr Davidow Ventures, a venture capital firm in Menlo Park. “Entrepreneurship is so embedded here. It’s what everyone talks about. If you don’t participate, you’re on the outside. When I did a counseling event at my son’s school, every single junior in his high school class knew what a venture capitalist was.”

Siegel says that when she first joined Mohr Davidow after having been an entrepreneur, she tried to determine why 40% of venture investing occurred in the Bay Area, rather than in Boston or other major cities. Boston also has world-class universities and research facilities, and in Boston, just as in Silicon Valley, founders benefit from infrastructure and support — lawyers, accountants, HR executives, and consultants willing to work on a project-basis to buttress the budding entrepreneur. If neither research resources nor professional scaffolding was the distinguishing factor, then what was so special about her hometown?

Siegel decided it was a deep and ingrained ethos, a set of unique cultural norms developed after three decades watching companies congeal and fall apart. Astounding victories and cringe-inducing failures are everywhere, so it’s second-nature for locals to gamble on start-ups. “Boston has the Brahmin bow-tie society and status thing. Failure in Boston is unacceptable. You cannot fail and feel good about it,” Siegel says. “But you fail in Silicon Valley and the next VC hires you because they see you’ve learned from it. They see you’re not going to repeat your mistakes now that you understand the landmines. Look at Google. They got turned down by so many venture firms and they’re proud of it. Here we wear failure as a badge of experience and honor. I survived!”

Heidi Roizen, a partner at Draper Fisher Jurvetson, the venture capital firm, and former entrepreneur, agrees, saying Valley denizens — both male and female — have no choice but to hustle. “I was employee number one at a start-up and if I didn’t make meaningful connections, follow up, and sell things, I wasn’t going to eat. When you’re in an entrepreneurial situation, you have to motivate people and you have to reciprocate and be helpful to others,” she says. “Life here is in constant beta, and that’s a really good thing. We constantly have to reinvent ourselves because of the way the world is evolving.”
Silicon Valley is the crucible. There’s no notion of status or society or lineage, and many of the wealthiest “locals” are fresh off the boat. While some insist it’s not a completely level playing field, this region remains the biggest meritocracy the U.S. has to offer. In chaos lies the opportunity.

By founding or joining start-ups, women see an opportunity to be judged on the merit of their ideas, rather than their gender. “The tech industry as a whole has been one of the most long-standing meritocracies. The start-up is the door to the palace. It’s always been the path for innovators to fast-track themselves to success,” says Amanda Reed, a partner at Palomar Ventures, the venture capital firm. Reed sees women streaming into the Valley in record numbers. “For women, there’s no climbing the corporate ladder or doing time in a male world. West Coast women don’t have that ‘I win-you lose’ competitiveness — the blue suits, the hard shells.”

Reed, who is in her mid-40′s, was raised in Silicon Valley and her father was an entrepreneur in the early days of the PC revolution. She spent all but three years of her career close to home, but she says her former Dartmouth classmates who remained on the East Coast tell a different tale. “I live under an equality bubble that sits over the San Francisco Bay area. I never felt the glass ceiling growing up and working in Silicon Valley,” she says. “When I went back to my college reunion, I had a lack of things to contribute when my friends wanted to commiserate about the plight of the sisterhood. Because I’d never felt it.”

Despite the bombshell sex discrimination lawsuit filed in May 2012 by Ellen Pao, a partner at Kleiner Perkins, one of the most illustrious VC firms, Reed says Silicon Valley gals are less organized because they don’t have a common enemy. They don’t feel the same oppression. Instead, these women credit male colleagues with providing milieus where they can thrive.
“Our work-life dynamic is just different. We work with male partners who take the afternoons off to coach their sons’ football teams. They’ll say, ‘I can talk to you after 6 p.m. tonight, but not before,’” Reed says. “Here in the Valley, you don’t feel like you have to hide the fact that you’re a girl. My partners would stop marathon Monday partner meetings and check emails while I went to use my breast pump. As long as I’m making money for the fund, they make it an easy place for me to work.”
Silicon Valley promotes better partnerships between the sexes, both at home and in the workplace. As a result, when women are disgruntled in their careers, they’re more likely to vote with their feet. “Why stay in a job where you’re unhappy? If you’re good, you leave and it’s their loss,” Reed continues. “We work seamlessly with men. We appreciate men. I’ve had the chance to mentor both my partners’ daughters. If it weren’t for the men we work with being pro-women, we wouldn’t be in a position to invest in their daughters’ companies. Their mothers said, ‘I kicked the door open, Sweetie. Now you run through it.’”
© 2013 Pamela Ryckman, author of Stiletto Network: Inside the Women’s Power Circles That Are Changing the Face of Business

Author Bio
Pamela Ryckman is the author of the forthcoming book, Stiletto Network: Inside the Women’s Power Circles That Are Changing the Face of Business. She has written for The New York Times, Financial Times, Fortune.com/ CNNMoney, International Herald Tribune, The New York Observer, and The New York Sun, among other publications. Prior to becoming a journalist, she performed strategy work for Merrill Lynch and Goldman Sachs. She lives in New York City.
For more information please visit http://www.pamelaryckman.com, and follow the author on Facebook and Twitter