The world of startups and entrepreneurship is not for the faint hearted. It is an extremely competitive place where only the most dedicated, passionate and driven founders survive. One of the most visible inequalities in this sector is lack of female entrepreneurs.
Some say that market is the best regulator and it will help sort out the situation one way or another. At Startup Grind we believe that if it is in our powers to help, we should. Here is why.
Before we jump right in, let me share with you a story. A true story.
Melody McCloskey was in many aspects just like any other woman. She was dreaming of building a company in an area that she really cared about: styling and make-up. When Melody started her marketplace company 3 years ago, she had a co-founder who was a developer. As a female CEO she found it extremely difficult to raise funding. As she puts it, most investors were men of a certain age who didn't really understand the market. There were several nights when Melody came home from work and just cried from frustration. The seed round ended up being raised only from friends and family.
Photo: Melody McCloskey shares her story at Startup Grind 2015
Today StyleSeat powers more than 300,000 businesses and collects hundreds of millions in revenues. After proving herself initially, Melody raised her pre-emptive series A round of $10 million in just one meeting. What is interesting, most female entrepreneurs also find it very hard to raise money, but those who do, have a higher chance of succeeding than male entrepreneurs.
NUMBERS DON'T LIE
According to Entrepreneur magazine, in the U.S. alone female-owned businesses account for almost $3 trillion in sales, employing one in seven employees. What is more important, gender-balanced boards are more successful on every measure, confirmed a McKinsey & Co study. Let's look at the UK: women in the U.S. are twice as likely to be be entrepreneurially active as women in the UK. RBS has calculated that boosting female entrepreneurship could increase the UK economy by $95 billion.
Interestingly, there are no significant differences between men and women when it comes to their attitudes towards entrepreneurship as a career choice. Around 8% of women have an interest in starting a business, compared to 13% of men. The big difference is attitude towards risk: according to Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, a third of female population would start a business if it wasn't for the fear of failure! These numbers give us not only a better understanding of the situation, but they also provide hints of how to help.
FEMALE HEROS ARE WORTH PAYING ATTENTION TO
Why are female entrepreneurs real heroes? Because they inspire and motivate a whole generation of future female entrepreneurs and everybody benefits. Let's look at a few inspiring female entrepreneurs.
Jessica Livingston, Co-founder of YCombinator
Jessica co-founded together with her husband Paul Graham and a few other people arguably the world's best accelerator: YCombinator. She balances out strengths of her co-founders and they are known to select startups after talking to them for only 10 minutes. They have yet to miss a successful billion dollar company that applied to YC. They rigorously analyse data when selecting industries, ideal founder mix and skill sets or speed of execution. Jessica is known for adding another dimension and pays attention to things like do the founders get along and have a good vibe, how long have the co-founders known each other, do they understand their domain, are they defensive, are they coach-able, etc.
Photo: Jessica Livingston at Startup Grind 2014
These little things add up to a why YC is the best accelerator in the world. Jessica plays a very big role in that. Only a few know that YC would now even be incorporated, if it were not for the business-savvy Jessica. By the way, Jessica also organises Female Founders Conference.
Julia Hartz, President of Eventbrite
The story of Eventbrite, a company that sold over $3 billion worth of tickets to date, started in an unusually romantic way. Kevin Hartz first asked Julia to marry him and then he asked her to start a company with him. Julia was used to work for big corporations like MTV and at first did not have much confidence to start a startup. It took some convincing for Kevin.
Photo: Julia Hartz and her co-founders sharing their story at Startup Grind London 2014
Today Julia is President of Eventbrite and deserves all the credit for making the company one of the most admired companies to work for. Julia is one of the world's foremost experts on corporate culture, even though she modestly describes herself only as a student. What is even more important, Julia is not quiet about it. She often speaks at business conferences and shares her experiences with other female founders.
Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook
The biggest revolution in the world of female entrepreneurship was caused b Sheryl Sandberg. She openly raised the issue that in the last 30 years women have been getting more college degrees than men, but they still account for only 4% of CEOs (15% of board room members) of Fortune 500 companies in the U.S. Sheryl is determined to help women increase this number. She honestly admits that she noticed an unhealthy self-doubt in many smart and hard working women.
"I say it unapologetically, the data is clear. When it comes to the ambition to lead, men outnumber women. My message is this: aim high, seek challenges, take risks and fight the instinct to hold back. Do not lean back, LEAN IN."
Sheryl started a whole movement in 2010 when she delivered her TED talk called 'Why we have too few women leaders'. She raised the point that women systematically underestimate their abilities and made it her mission to help change that. Yet data shows also another interesting fact: if both husband and wife work full time and have a child, the woman does twice the amount of work at home and 3 times the amount of child care. Interestingly, studies show that households with equal earnings and equal responsibilities have half the divorce rate. Finally, Sheryl summarised her views of female leadership in her book 'Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead'.
OUR ANSWER IS SIMPLE: #SGWomen
The data is clear, we all win when there will be more female entrepreneurs. The companies will be more successful, employees will be happier and economies will grow faster. If data shows that women need more encouragement when considering starting a business, they should get encouraged.
Just like in 2014, this year at Startup Grind we also dedicate the month of May to celebrate female entrepreneurship. We mean it from the bottom of our hearts. That is why we invited over 60 female founders to share their entrepreneurial story in over 40 countries literally around the world.
Do you know why London is playful in May? It's because we will make it so. We will talk about games with Divinia Knowles, President of Mind Candy. A company that she, together with the iconic Michael Acton Smith, grew to an empire with over 80 million users. May will be an exciting month for us, because we decided to celebrate female entrepreneurship. We hope that you will too.