(Photo by Yuriy Porytko)
On Feb. 19, Philadelphia FundingPost held a follow-up roundtable, a year after its first panel dedicated to women investors and entrepreneurs. Last year the overwhelming response to the event was extremely positive, with attendees excited to see an event like this being organized in Philadelphia. You can find a recap here. The mission of this year’s event was to explore what has happened in the startup and tech community since then. Instead of a recap from me, we decided to get two panelists and two attendees to give us their perspectives.
- City of Philadelphia’s Manager of Entrepreneurial Investment (panelist)
What does it look like when you ask?
Last week was the second Women in Venture panel organized by FundingPost’s Yuriy Porytko. The event came about because someone asked a question as to why there weren’t more women in the room at another tech event that FundingPost had organized back in October of 2013.
To be fair, there was a woman on the panel that evening. And one woman in the audience of about 50 folks who asked that question: me.
Ask for more funding. Ask for the higher salary. Ask for another chance. If you get a no, ask why.
That question led to an opportunity for me to help organize the first Women in Venture panel that was held at Impact Hub in December of 2013 and then to be on the panel of the second one held at Benjamin’s Desk last week. Last week’s event was just as diverse as the first and just as impactful, in my mind. Unfortunately, the industry statistics for women in venture and women entrepreneurs getting funded has not improved much in the year and some months that has passed between the first Women in Venture panel and the second one. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop asking the questions that need to be addressed.
So what does it look like when you ask? It looks like opportunity, growth and making a difference in your community and the world. Ask for more funding. Ask for the higher salary. Ask for another chance. If you get a no, ask why. And keep asking until you get what you need. Entrepreneurship is not an easy road for anyone, man or woman. We all have challenges on the road to success. The support system is out there. Keep asking.
- Web Integration Consultant at BTS (attendee)
The FundingPost event last week was organized in the response to the question: where are all the women in the startup ecosystem? The response consisted of a panel of female entrepreneurs and investors speaking about their experiences from a wide variety of perspectives including civic, academic, investment and entrepreneurial. The panelists shared their stories about how they discovered and grew to enjoy the world of startups, citing examples of their failures as well as successes.
Regardless of the path they took, all of the panelists changed their career focus to the world of startups because they found their work unfulfilling or uninteresting. They agreed that women in startups often start companies or seek to invest in companies that make a difference in the world. The other gender difference cited by the panel was the small amounts of money female entrepreneurs request in comparison to male entrepreneurs. The consensus of the room was that we are all responsible for encouraging women to ask for what they are worth and for giving the support needed to succeed in the startup ecosystem in the form of money but also as friends and family.
- Philadelphia Ambassador to the Pipeline Fellowship (panelist)
Women receive less because they ask for less. This can stem from a variety of reasons (lack of opportunities, societal suggestions, past experiences), but when women are asked to define their worth they must do so confidently and without apology.We don’t have to be more like men, we have to embrace our femininity and its value in business and the startup ecosystem. We have to choose employers and companies who value women.
We have to choose employers and companies who value women.
Women, inclined to multi-task, have to focus and delegate more to get more done. We have to be leaders of work/life balance, establishing a new precedence of success. It’s OK to have our kids giggling or wrestling in the background when we’re on a call, and it’s OK if we call you back when he’s finished his tantrum. I recently had the smoke alarm go off while cooking a grilled cheese and on the phone with a client. We laughed together and those human events deepened our relationships.
And where are the women in the VC world? We know people invest in companies they believe in, and given the choice between two equally viable business plans and only one being a product the investor might use, he will invest in the one to which he relates. To attract more women into the playing field, we have to support programs like the Pipeline Fellowship, a bootcamp for women angels to address the reasons why women don’t invest in early stage companies:
- Lack of knowledge on evaluating companies
- They feel their money is better spent in a charitable organization
- They come from a profession which is far removed from the startup or financial space.
The Pipeline Fellowship runs a six-month bootcamp culminating in a joint investment in a woman-led, for-profit, social enterprise and is running its first Philly class this spring. The application period is coming to a close, but will require a minimum number to commence. Since the Pipeline’s inception in 2011, over 80 women angels have been launched into the startup ecosystem.
Finally, forging relationships of support in and out of the VC/startup community is key. Support at home, as well as a support system of experienced entrepreneurs and investors is key to the success of any business. The most valuable takeaway was the relationships spawned and the future successes that will come of them.
- Regional Business Consultant at TriNet (attendee)
I was very impressed by the Women in VC Roundtable by FundingPost at Benjamin’s Desk. I don’t think I’ve been to an event that had such a high ratio of VCs, founders, and executives in one room. The energy was fantastic, and finally being able to relate to people I admire was so refreshing. If only the room were larger and more women I know in the Philly tech scene could’ve heard what they had to say. Their success and advice was a true inspiration. Girls rock.-30-
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