Women in startups

Women in startups

‘’There is no limit to what we, as women, can accomplish.’’

~Michelle Obama

Women are shaking up the world with technological advances, empowered debates, rights advocacy and most of all, entrepreneurship.

The world tried to bring women down, but they backed it up with more force than ever, reigning over the startup world with a whooping participation, funding and success.

American Express research advisor, Geri Stengel said, “Women-owned businesses are growing much faster than all businesses. From 2007 to 2018, women-owned businesses grew by 58% in terms of the number of firms and 46% in terms of revenue.”

Examples of successful women founded startups

Let’s look at some women who glided through the challenges which come with entrepreneurship to build their empire from the ground up:

1) Not Ordinary Media (NOM)

Co-founded by Loren Nichelle and Brent Neill, NOM is an advertising-tech firm founded in 2014.

Initially, they worked on video distribution for their clients on various platforms such as YouTube and now have transformed into a campaign software developer owner with a revenue of almost $21 million.

2) Backstage Capital

Founded by Arlan Hamilton, Backstage Capital is a venture capitalist firm which invests in companies who have under-represented founders.

“We invest in the very best founders who identify as women, People of Color, or LGBTQ. I personally identify as all three.”

Arlan Hamilton

3) Affectiva

Co-founded by Rana el Kaliouby and Rosalind Picard, Affectiva is an emotion measurement technology company which is making discoveries and has established a software which recognizes human emotions through facial cues and expressions.

4) Hipcamp

Founded by Alyssa Ravasio, Hip camp is an online travel servicing agency which helps travellers explore and book camping experiences.

They assist people in deciding where to go and how to stay based on their interests with an overall aim of helping people connect better with wildlife and nature.

5) Sweet Loren’s

Founded by Loren Brill, Sweet Loren’s bakes and distributes non-processed cookie doughs which are gluten-free, vegan, whole grain and non-GMO.

She came up with the idea while she was battling cancer and had to eliminate processed food from her diet. Then on, she pledged to go on a mission to create such foods for millions around the world. Today, the cookie dough can be found in 10,000 stores around the world.

What are the key challenges women face in startups?


These numbers are amazing, but what’s alarming is that only 2.2% of investor funding went to women-led startups in the US.

Every year, hundreds of women come forward with their startup ideas, a dream to make it big, but what do they lack? Funding.

Although the 2020 numbers look promising and better than that of 2019, the dream still lays in the background of misconceptions related to women entrepreneurship and lingering doubts before investing.

This is one out of many challenges women face when met with the idea of their own startup, let’s look at more of these:

1) Access to funding

In 2019, venture capital investment in female founded startups hit over $3 billion, which amounts to 2.8% of capital invested across the US startup ecosystem.

It was also noticed how difficult it is for females to raise and get investors to invest in their startups as compared to male founded startups.

A way to stride over this challenge is by searching and sticking close to female founder-friendly venture capitalists, suggests Lu Zhang, founder of Fusion Fund, a venture capital firm.

The idea is to cultivate relationships, network with investors and not only pitch but nurture their startup idea beyond just presenting it in front of them.

An alternative can also be to be a part of a community of female-led investors or funding initiatives which support and empower female founded startups. There are various female-focused venture funds such as  Angel Academe and Female Founders Fund.

Along with this, expanding online presence and networking with the right people can surely pave way to new opportunities.

2) A constant need to prove themselves

Living in a world where women have stereotypical roles and the race of establishing a supreme gender is never ending, women have to constantly prove themselves when getting into something serious.

Gender bias exists in the real world and to overcome that women need to be confident and have faith in themselves.

People try to bring down those who they know can succeed and thus, this world fears women leaders. The idea is to break through this narrow considerate and widen the mindset by challenging patriarchy by empowering women.

3) Balancing personal and professional lives

Although the world has progressed from the notion of ‘girls take care of the house and boys earn money’, a major part of the society still has the same mindset. This leads to the question of work-life balance while being the founder of a startup.

This is one of the primary reasons for women to halt or dissolve their dreams of becoming an entrepreneur. Here, dividing familial responsibilities and having faith in what they do can go a long way.

Do these challenges differ by country/region?


According to a research conducted on women entrepreneurship challenges in developing countries, it was observed that the problems lay as follows:

  • Family pressure causes hindrance in entrepreneurial success
  • Lack of education blocks their road to success
  • Limited or no exposure to practical experiences and markets cause limitations in their startup success
  • Lack of access to resources and opportunities as compared to men
  • Discrimination in a male-dominated world

Most of these challenges encompass an embedded patriarchal notion which can be overcome by government measures in developing countries regarding mentorship and entrepreneurship programmes, women-founded startup funding and measures to manage discrimination.

What steps can be taken to encourage more women to embark on the entrepreneurial journey?

The stereotypical conventions harbour the growth of women to an extent where they don’t realise their untapped potential but with the right mentorship and resources, they can pave their way to success.

The taboo of ‘working women’ has conveniently been reduced and challenged, with more women taking a step ahead and walking shoulder to shoulder with men. But there are still some who are afraid to start their own journey in the fear that they won’t be accepted in society or the journey is going to be very challenging.

The idea is to empower women and change the worldview of female entrepreneurship by pledging quality of work and value addition through work irrespective of the gender.

So, how can we do this?

Let’s look at some ways:

1) Entrepreneurship mentorship programmes

To excel in any field and build confidence to embark on a singular journey, there needs to be some knowledge about it. Educating women on entrepreneurship will not only provide them with extensive learning experiences but exposure, practical knowledge and even the chance to explore their skill set and opportunities.

This will boost self-esteem, promote learning and result in growth.

Along with theoretical knowledge, soft skills training is also important for holistic growth. Entrepreneurs should possess skills such as problem solving, decision making, communication, cognitive thinking, leadership qualities and more.

Women need to nurture and grow themselves through these skills as an entrepreneur.

2) Building a support system

Women entrepreneurship is subject to frowns and judgement and everyone requires a support system in life, not just to help them in their bad times but to celebrate their achievements.

Here, building a support system which helps each other grow through upliftment can really go a long way because they can relate to the journey and use their experiences to help others. Along with this, peer-to-peer learning, knowledge sharing and involving the family in the nitty gritty of business can also help gain support.

In general, raising awareness and challenging the stigma attached to female entrepreneurship can be done on an individual level to empower more women to take a step and embark on this beautiful journey.

3) Access to capital resources

Since funding and access to capital is one of the major challenges for women, initiatives to bridge this gap are of dire need.

This can be improved by changing investment models, by introducing crowdfunding, impact investments and incentive investments in women-owned startups

Additionally, government measures to grant and loan programmes can be reformed to give a greater freedom to women owing to easy and-low interest loans.

4) Exposure to global markets

Lack of global exposure hinders the wholesome growth of women in entrepreneurship.

An effective measure in this direction should be to revise trade agreements which liberalise trade and open market opportunities for all kinds of businesses including women-founded startups.

Supporting mentorship programmes, global conferences and cross border business support services can also act as a positive step in promoting women entrepreneurship.

It can be said that extending support emotionally and financially along with empowerment programmes and policy revisions can act in favor of women such that they’re motivated to begin this journey without fearing anything.

Wrapping it up


Women Entrepreneurship brings with it the exposure, value addition and a diverse world view backed by mission-oriented business ideas capable of changing the world.

If men can succeed in entrepreneurship, and be appreciated for their work, so can women.

It’s the 21st century, no human is better than the other. The sooner we realise it, the sooner we can open vast doors to opportunities where women can experiment, succeed and give a fresh angle to the world.

Here’s to every woman out there,

You can do this!

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