I started the Female Founders Alliance . Our mission is to create an investable pattern of success among female-founded startups.
In July of 2016, when my daughter was 6 months old, I launched a startup. The first few months I started off strong and full of optimism. But soon enough, I hit a rough patch. For the first time, I thought, maybe it’s time to quit. Entrepreneurship isn’t for me. It was Feb. 3, 2017.
Startups may be a little bit glamorized these days, but the truth is that starting a company, for the average first-time founder, sucks. You don’t have any colleagues, money, time, know-how or help. You feel like you’re failing at little things all the time and humiliating yourself pretty frequently, too (or maybe that was just me). The higher you aim and the more you put at risk, the worse your odds of success.
To make matters worse, only 2 percent of venture capital goes to female-founded companies. The average woman in the U.S. has better odds of winning an Oscar than she does of raising significant venture capital.
But venture capital is important because it fuels companies to grow fast. This is why venture-backed companies have the power to fundamentally shift society and fuel mass-scale change. Remember what communication was like before Snapchat, Skype and WhatsApp? Venture capital did that. Have you read about how employment is changing with the advent of self-driving cars, robots and the gig economy? Venture capital did that, too.
When 50 percent of the population gets only 2 percent of the world’s most disruptive capital, that’s not just a gender gap. It’s not just about what employment opportunities my daughter Dora will have 20 years from now. When we talk about the gender gap in venture capital, we’re talking about the future that Dora will inherit from us.
A gender gap that big doesn’t have a single cause or a simple solution. We live in a free economy, where you can’t force an investor to put their money anywhere they don’t want to.
Women’s events, happy hours, diversity panels and motivational speeches all preach to the choir. Self-empowerment, finding our voice, and leaning in with all our might may make no difference if we’re not deemed “investable.” Alternative sources of financing like small business loans, grants, prizes and micro-investments are helpful for the recipient, but lack the scaling capability and network that make venture capital so disruptive. These are all helpful solutions to a problem — it’s just that they solve a different problem.
The only way we fix the gender gap in venture capital is by convincing that small but powerful group of venture capitalists that women founders and CEOs are an outstanding investment opportunity.
On that rainy February day last year, the day when I nearly gave up, I instead started the Female Founders Alliance
. It has turned into a network of hundreds of women who are founding and leading high-growth companies, plus a community of thousands of allies. Our mission is to create an investable pattern of success among female-founded startups. A pattern of success that looks more like me and Dora, and less like Bill Gates.
We do this by providing our members with access and amplification, and encouraging them to do the same for each other. Our members are all actively building and growing their companies. They don’t need more advice — they need investors, customers, partners and media. And they need a community that understands what they are going through. It’s a little like my dad’s decades-long poker group — except without the poker.
Every day, I witness firsthand what hundreds of female CEOs are building. These women are going to change the world. The gender gap in venture capital is just a market inefficiency waiting to be corrected, an arbitrage opportunity waiting to be found.
Are you with me?