Female Founders Gaining Ground

Female founders play an important role in startup success

Gender in entrepreneurship has recently gained well-deserved attention. In Silicon Valley, start-ups are still dominated by men. Globally, twice as many men become entrepreneurs. But disrupting the status quo are ambitious female founders who bring a new level of innovation, versatility and perspective to tech startups.

Female founders face more obstacles getting funding

Founding a new company is hard but female founders battle against additional obstacles. Unfortunately, female founders often encounter gender bias from critical partnerships, prospective clients and venture capitalists.  Harvard Business School has recently published data showing that only 7% of total VC funding is allocated towards female-owned businesses. But investors ignore female founders at their own peril.

Startups with female founders significantly outperform all-male teams

Last year, venture capital firm, First Round Capital published an analysis based on information gathered on over 300 companies and nearly 600 founders. They included founder characteristics such as age, gender, education, firm location, prior work and startup experience. What they found was that companies with a female founder performed 63% better than investments with all-male founding teams. In fact, three of First Round’s top 10 investments of all time, based on value created for investors, had at least one female founder. 

Female founders aren’t just important in the women’s movement for equality

Having females on the core team is important for the success of the start-up. This is especially true during the early stages, when there are just 3-10 people making all of the hard decisions.

A recent HBS study makes the point clearly: “What Makes a Team Smarter? More Women.” And they’re not talking about an all-male team with a female office manager or receptionist. The dynamics that women bring to the table are crucial to the success of a start-up for a variety of reasons.

Women tend to listen better and empathize more. Women have an uncanny ability to understand what a user wants. They factor in how a user is feeling when using a product or service.  Women are particularly good at conducting user interviews and synthesizing user feedback into prioritizing features, designing wireframes, and ultimately, communicating business needs to the technical team.

All startups should look at what percent of the targeted user base is women 
Startups in e-commerce should make sure that women have a fundamental role in designing products and determining distribution—because they have the strongest buying power and influence over financial decisions within a family.

mystartupxx – the first accelerator to support female entrepreneurs in STEM

Recognizing the importance of female founders to emerging economies in technology, science and engineering, Athena San Diego has partnered with UC San Diego’s Rady School of Management on mystartupxx – San Diego’s first accelerator focused on female founders in STEM industries. The partnership will serve to champion female innovators and close the funding gap. 

mystartupXX is the only local accelerator exclusively for women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics). It promotes the next generation of women founders and technology companies through education, funding and mentorship. It is open to all UCSD undergraduate, graduate and postdoctoral students, as well as recent alumni, with a business idea. At least one founder must be a woman. Up to 10 teams are accepted into the program at one time.

Accelerator teams will be mentored by select individuals from Athena’s member base of connected and influential women in STEM

“Mentors are the key to success in developing exceptional female founders,” said Karen Fisher, chairman of Athena. “Athena’s member base includes top tech and biotech leaders who are actively closing the gender gap for female founders and leaders in STEM careers. We intend to enlist our mentor network to support mystartupXX and increase diversification in San Diego’s innovation economy,” Fisher states.

Athena members come from all sectors of STEM industries, including life sciences, healthcare, defense, engineering and related industries, as well as select service providers who support them.  Athena will continue to expand its role in supporting startups in San Diego. It recently located its’ headquarters at DeskHub in Little Italy – a vibrant co-working community where entrepreneurial standouts from Uber Eats to San Diego Venture Group call their own. 

“Athena has a longstanding reputation for bringing together the most powerful women in STEM so we’d be hard-pressed to find a greater network of mentors,” said Lada Rasochova, executive director of the California Institute for Innovation & Development at UC San Diego’s Rady School of Management. “Our partnership is a strategic move to pair our teams with the best and brightest industry leaders for education, guidance and funding.”

Individuals and businesses are encouraged to support the mystartupXX program. For more information, call (858) 481-0710 or email elizabeth@athenasd.org

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