We sat down to talk with Kirsten Knipp, VP of Product Marketing and Brand at BigCommerce, about the challenges that face entrepreneurs, how mentors have impacted her journey, her recommended resources for entrepreneurs, and how to be a better leader. Check out the full interview below!
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Startup Women is UP Global’s latest initiative to reach more female entrepreneurs and support their endeavors across all of UP’s programs, which include Startup Weekend, NEXT and StartupDigest. A total of $150,000 has been allocated to the project to date for 2014 efforts. The initiative takes on a broad approach that includes highlighting and telling the stories of well known and lesser known successful women entrepreneurs from across the world, special events, and localized Startup Weekend “Women’s Edition” events, which bring women and men together to work on startup ideas and collaborate. By the end of 2014, UP hopes to have supported the creation of over 1,500 female-led startups and hosted over 15 Women’s Edition events as part of the initiative.
Over the next week, UP Global will launch regional resources at three different locations as part of its international expansion effort – UP Latam, UP Europe, and UP Brasil. This marks a significant step towards supporting 500,000 entrepreneurs and 1,000 thriving startup communities by the end of 2016. With the support of Google for Entrepreneurs and Omidyar Network, UP is newly positioned to provide programs, networks and resources to over 200,000 entrepreneurs in these three regions.
“Taking on a stable presence in three new regions will allow us to support the amazing efforts of more community leaders in more meaningful and localized ways. These regional offices are strategically the most powerful initiative driving towards our goal of helping to reach 1,000 thriving and sustaining startup communities by the end of 2016, and it is also reflective of our efforts to truly become a global organization, not just a US-based organization doing business internationally,” says Marc Nager, CEO and President of UP Global.
What does this mean for Communities?
More activity: New opportunities to be involved with UP programs, partners, as well as any other initiatives that support entrepreneurs in these regions.
Better support from our team: Local teams allow us to be better in touch with your needs.
More connections: Organizing communities more intentionally allows us to connect leaders to other leaders, resources, and opportunities so that they can better support local entrepreneurs and teams directly.
Regional Summits: With the UP regional model comes Regional Summits, which are great opportunities for the community to connect, share insights, and build relationships. If you’ve ever been to a Summit, you know great things always happen!
Knowledge share: The opportunity to operate in various environments through UP Regions gives the broader community a chance to learn from one another and share best practices.
Community megaphone: An emphasis on storytelling from these communities and regions will help us be better advocates for you, your entrepreneurs, and your startups.
As each of these launches happen in the next week, we hope you’ll join us in recognizing what is both a celebration of the work you’ve already done and a dedication to an even brighter future for the entrepreneurial communities we all love so much.
Launch Dates and Events:
LATAM – Launch event on April 2nd in Mexico City, Mexico
Europe – Launch event on March 27th in London, England
Brasil – Official launch event on March 25th, 2014 in Sao Paulo, Brasil
Got a question about the launch? You can email your Regional Manager directly or start a discussion in the Facilitator’s Facebook group – we’d love to hear your thoughts.
Compiled by Claire Topalian and Lauren Sauser.
Natalia Petraszczuk and Stephanie Dionne are the founders behind Visionboards.co, the startup idea that lead them to become the champions of the 2013 Global Startup Battle’s “Innovation Circle” and the winners of Startup Weekend Detroit (November 2013). Since then, Visionboards has become much more than a concept: the two founders have met with mentors, high profile advisors, gone to LAUNCH festival in San Francisco, and have intrigued potential investors along the way. We decided to catch up with Natalia and Stephanie amidst the chaos of their newfound entrepreneurial lifestyles to learn about the highs, lows, and learning experiences of their journey.
Share a bit about your company and some of the highs/lows associated with your entrepreneurial journey — biggest learning curve?
Natalia: After brewing the idea of Visionboards.co in my mind and on paper for over 6 months, I decided to pitch the idea at Detroit Startup weekend. I happened to catch a local news story about Startup weekend, and realized it was an opportunity to make this concept a true reality. At some point, you need to take the plunge.
Stephanie: As it happened, I had been setting the groundwork for several months prior to open an Ann Arbor-based marketing agency focused on (surprise, surprise) helping technology startups define their brand, develop a business plan, and take their product to market. November 15 was my last day at my former employer, and I left my office and drove straight to downtown Detroit to participate in Startup Weekend as a potential networking opportunity. Out of 50 pitches, Natalia’s concept immediately resonated with me because of my background as a sports coach and a huge proponent of visualization techniques. With two other people, we formed a team that worked 54 straight hours to bring the idea to fruition, then went on to take first place.
Natalia: Through winning the competition, we were connected to support from local Detroit organizations like Grand Circus (a Google Tech hub) which gave us 2 months of co-working space, branding consultation from Lowe Campbell Ewald, and a meeting with the Director of the Michigan Women’s Foundation – who also serves as a managing director for a local VC firm. Other forms of mentorship and support have followed, and it’s truly been a significant help in this process. We also went on to compete and win the Up Global “Innovators Circle” Start Up championship, beating out over 200 cities worldwide. We were the only US City to win one of the global contests (awww yeah, Detroit!).
Since Nov. 15, 2013 (Startup Weekend), we formally founded and established a C-Corp and are poised to go-to market by April 2014 with over 1,000 people registered for our beta product line. Furthermore, we have cultivated a variety of prospects for a first round of seed funding – ranging from the First Step Fund in Detroit, to heavyweight Angel investors and VC firms. Finally, we have garnered a variety of endorsements and testimonials from all market segments we intend to approach – most notably, NBC’s Biggest Loser – Pete Thomas, and NFL Wide Receiver, Glen Earl.
The highs from their journey:
- Winning Detroit Startup Weekend / The .Co Circle for Global Startup Battle ‘14
- Making Crain’s News (twice) and a variety of other press
- Winning a .Co sponsored trip to Launch Fest and being able to showcase our Alpha website to the public with great response.
- Speaking to Mark Cuban at Launch festival, who gave Visionboards.co invaluable insight on our business model and expressed an interest in investing.
- Meeting a slew of new people that are committed to entrepreneurship in America – and offering to help Visionboards.co succeed.
- Being able to follow through on my personal vision and watch it actualize.
- Meeting my Co-Founder, who’s my new partner in crime and life-long friend.
- Feeling – for the first time in my life – I’m truly living to my fullest potential (which might just be as good as it gets).
- Having such a passion for my work – and a belief in my product, that 12 hour work days don’t even phase me. Knowing that my product is meant to – and will – inspire and uplift the world.
Beside the Detroit Startup Weekend/Global Startup Battle wins —
- Being selected to represent .CO as one of its top up-and-coming startups at LAUNCH Festival – we scrambled to finish key updates to our alpha product, which were deployed right around the time the demo floor opened so we didn’t even have time to test it before the first visitors came by (thankfully, no issues!).
- Becoming a part of the fabric of the Detroit entrepreneur community and being able to participate in what I think is the most exciting story in startups. It’s almost unbelievable what has been accomplished here in just a few short years, and we’re committed to contributing as much as we can to making southeast Michigan a global growth and innovation center.
- Walking up to Mark Cuban to introduce myself and realizing I wasn’t the slightest bit nervous because I was so thoroughly confident he would “get” our concept immediately. (He did, but not without wanting to see at least 20 changes. :P)
- My 8-year-old son was the very first tester of our alpha product! Watching his face light up as he browsed through the photos and started to verbalize his dreams (“I want to be president! Is there a picture of a president?”) – that was the exact moment that I realized the true potential VisionBoards has to make a global impact on human potential.
…and the lows:
- Navigating the new realm of entrepreneurship quickly (particularly due to the contest winnings and press) and without a full understanding of “how to” execute a business.
- Having to deal with people that want to “cling” to your rising star, without adding value.
- Not having enough resources (human or capital) to move as quickly as you need/want.
- Figuring out when, how and with whom to raise our first round of seed funding, and develop the equity structure, vesting, dilution, etc. (YUK!)
- No longer having a balanced life – I barely work out anymore and I’m fairly stressed (though I’m not complaining).
- Regrettably, this success did compromise a couple personal relationships, which has saddened me deeply.
- As a mom, I can without a doubt say my low point was when I realized my kids felt my stress & absence much more keenly than they let on. In the early stages it was easy to convince myself that the chaotic pace was temporary, that “we’ll be able to come up for air as soon as [insert next big deadline].” What I soon realized is that achieving that next big deadline opened up doors to five more big deadlines, and so on – and in the meantime, my kids were lost in the mix. My biggest priority now is making sure that I’m available as much as possible between 5-8pm, even if just to help them with homework and schedule cuddle time. It helps us all to stay more centered as a family – even if it means I’m still up another 6 hours working.
- After years of being an independent consultant or managing corporate departments, it’s been a struggle to get used to the constant state of controlled chaos – including that unnerving “cart-before-the-horse” feeling that there are 100 things you should have done to prep for something but lacked the bandwidth or the resources.
- The 48 straight hours of no sleep preparing market data for a do-or-die deadline was not a high point.
Biggest learning curve?
Natalia: There is a lot of enthusiasm and support for entrepreneurship in America. There are many resources and programs available to help people succeed if their ideas and work ethic are intact. Many people are likely not aware of all of this momentum, I certainly was not.
Another big learning curve is just the ins and outs of setting up a company. C Corp vs. S Corp? Equity structures, shareholders, vesting – investor negotiations. Again, I feel lucky to have received good mentoring, but at the end of the day – you have to make your own decisions, which can feel daunting.
Stephanie: My biggest learning curve has most certainly been having to adapt my typical approach and methodology as a leader and strategist for the high-stakes game of tech entrepreneurship. Your strategy at 10am may very well not be what it is at 2pm and you have to get used to constantly modifying, refining, or full-on pivoting based on the opportunities & metrics that get thrown at you. Being a founder of a startup is not for the weak-willed or easily offended: you have to get used to failing – a lot, and in spectacular fashion – then moving on to the next decision before you even have a chance to dust yourself off.
Most exciting moment?
Natalia: Honestly, I can’t boil it down to just one moment – we have been on a roller coaster ride from the very moment we won Detroit Startup weekend and there have been many, many – mind numbingly exciting moments since (if I had to name a few):
- Walking into Grand Circus co-working space the Monday after winning Detroit Startup with a “Welcome Visionboards.co” sign
- Making the cover of Crain’s business along with other high profile press
- Getting the call that we won the .Co “Innovator’s Circle” for the Global Battle Championship
- Billionaire Dan Gilbert acknowledging our twitter we cc’d him on
- Billionaire Mark Cuban talking to us at Launch Fest with an expressed interest to invest
Stephanie: All the above, plus:
- Earlier this week we had the opportunity to spend several hours with one of our biggest supporters, Pete Thomas (most successful contestant of NBC’s Biggest Loser), filming footage for our upcoming Indiegogo campaign. Watching the production process from sidelines and hearing him talk about how he believes VisionBoards will help the individuals achieve even their boldest, most dream-worth goals – it was part out-of-body-experience, part validation that we’re on the right track.
When did you first self-identify as an entrepreneur?
Natalia: Honestly, I’m still getting used to the title. For the record, I’m extremely proud and pumped to be considered a tech Co-Founder. It might just be one of the best feelings in my entire life. I’ve always, always admired entrepreneurs. I was just invited to speak at my high school this week for career day, to inspire the kids to consider “entrepreneurship” as a career path. That helped solidify the self-identity.
Stephanie: I’ve considered myself an entrepreneur since I was 16 years old and I started my own side business teaching piano lessons. Since then, I’ve lived by the mantra that if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day of your life. Even though this experience has been stressful and exhausting – I keep forgetting that this is not some fun side project but what I get to do now with the rest of my life.
What are some of the biggest challenges facing women in entrepreneurship?
Natalia: I actually think we have a leg up. There’s a huge commitment to closing the gender gap in tech entrepreneurship. If anything, I don’t want doors opened just because of my gender – one, of course, always wants to make headway due to the quality of the idea. Perhaps the biggest challenge is that more women need to know how much infrastructure and support exists to help them take the leap to entrepreneurship.
Stephanie: Being involved in the technology sector has afforded me a unique perspective — At my last employer, I was the only woman to work for the company for the majority of my four years there. Even as far back as high school, I was the only girl in any of my programming classes and I remember my teacher offering me a transfer in case I felt uncomfortable. While the gender gap in STEM has closed somewhat, I still believe there’s a lot to go encourage girls and young woman to go into science and technology fields, that it shouldn’t be something they have to “brave.”
Have you had one particular mentor that inspired you or helped you get to where you are today?
Natalia: I was extremely lucky to have worked under Lana Pollack – former President of the Michigan Environmental Council, and State of Michigan Senator – right out of college. Lana is one of the strongest and most poised women I ever met. Her work ethic, determination, and lack of fear was mesmerizing to watch. She made time for me, and cultivated my skill sets. She would set large goals for our organization without batting an eye – and then developed strategy to move forward. It was a no nonsense approach to get things done. I also learned about the power of networking, and cultivating a strong team of leaders/partners to delegate work to achieve success. She’s undoubtable one of my heroes.
Stephanie: Without a doubt I can say my mother. Even from a young age, she always encouraged me to take every challenge head on and to explore every potential passion and curiosity to the fullest. When I graduated from Michigan and was selected as the commencement student speaker, that advice was the central pillar of my speech:
What have you read that has inspired you?
Natalia: If there’s one book every human should read, it’s “The Mastery of Love” by Don Miguel Ruiz. It’s not strictly about romantic love in any way. It’s based off of the ancient Mexican Toltec’s understanding of human nature, which they have passed down for thousands of years. It’s profound. It changed my life. It’s a short read – so you have no excuse.
Untether Soul by Michael Singer is another good read. Mr. Singer was the CEO of a fortune 500 company that hit a financial scandal. Though he was not involved, much of the blame was put on him unrightfully so until 6 years later when he was vindicated. The book speaks to his ability to “lean away from drama” and remember his soul in this worldly experience. It’s a deep, hard read and a mind altering book.
Finally, Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich and The Master Key System by Charles Haanel – the original “law of attraction” books. Napoleon Hill was commissioned by Andrew Carnegie to discover how the “rich” think differently from everyone else… go figure, turns out they just have a clear “vision” for their success, and fully believe it will happen.
If you could offer one piece of advice to your younger self, or to other emerging female entrepreneurs, what would it be?
1) Know you are more powerful than you realize. The only thing that can get in your way of success is yourself.
2) Write down and visualize your goals. Make it a habit. Your thoughts and energy are much, much more powerful than you realize – not one human is exempt.
3) Life is meant to be happy. And happiness is a choice. You should not look outward for your happiness, it’s always within you. Find gratitude in every day. Choose to be happy. This can seem daunting at first, and it was for me. But with a little discipline, it becomes second nature – and then world… watch out.
Stephanie: It’s okay to fail. Actually, not only is it okay, but it’s absolutely essential to the process if you’re going to truly successful. The more time you spend looking backward at the mistakes or missteps you’ve made along the way, the less time you are looking forward at ways to innovate and stay ahead of your competition. Fail early, fail quickly, and take those lessons with you to the next set of challenges. That said, I’m still mortified that I got tongue-tied during one of our earlier radio interviews and it’ll take me a while to get over it.
More about the Co-Founders:
Natalia Petraszczuk – 35 years old. Born and raised in metro-Detroit. Of Ukrainian descent. Michigan State University (James Madison College), BA – International Relations 00’. Worked in Environmental non-profit arena for over 10 years – state lobbyist -major donor fundraiser – volunteer coordination. Free lance journalist, and on-air talent for local and online outlets. Passionate about self-awareness and self-improvement. Certified Life & Spiritual coach/ Motivational speaker. Creator and originator of Visionboards.co and newly established tech Co-Founder (hurray!). Loves the outdoors, being active, the arts, being social and learning about the power of your inner self.
Stephanie Dionne – 37 year old. Born and raised in Nova Scotia, Canada; grew roots in the Detroit area after graduating from the University of Michigan Ann Arbor (B.S. ’01). At Michigan I was very involved in organizations working toward improving women’s health and ending domestic violence (led V-Day College Campaign, served in Americorps for 2 years). Went on to develop a career as a marketing & business strategy consultant for over 15 years, particularly in the technology & sports management spaces. I was also a student athlete at Michigan; after graduation I coached for ten years at the elite level in the much-maligned but highly competitive world of synchronized swimming (collegiate & junior national levels), leading clinics around the country where visualization and mental imagery was a key component of my approach. I’m a married mom of 2 beautiful kids (8 & 11); a recent obsession is participating in obstacle races such as Tough Mudder, and pushing myself to the limits of what I thought was impossible.
by Camila Achutti
“Age is not a curse if you feel strong enough to continue. It rejuvenates the spirit. I’ve found out that I’m capable and that I don’t have to just keep wishing. Now I can do it with my own hands.” This is the lesson that one of the Startup Weekend Women attendees at João Pessoa attendee learned. The amazing Mrs. Hilda might be a older, but she has a great deal of experience and energy.
Brazil has many barriers preventing women from being promoted to better company jobs and managing positions. Even fewer of them start their own business. However, changes for the better are coming and one of the signs of improvement was the hugely successful run of the very first Startup Weekend João Pessoa for Women (SWWJampa) from March 14 to 16.
The three-day event took place at a really new 3 floor building full of room for creativity. The first SWW in Brazil had 50 participants divided into 9 teams of diversified backgrounds: different ages, activities, mindsets and experiences from students to seniors. The teams received very real and competent feedback from 11 mentors, most of whom were women working in the startup world for some time.
After all the teams presented their work and results to the audience, ÑContém emerged as the winner. Their idea was to help people with gluten or lactose intolerance to eat appropriate food and with diversity and it was originally conceived by a 17 years old girl with gluten intolerance and a great passion to solve this problem for everybody like her.
Although most of the participating women will continue to feel a heavy pressure to keep their current jobs, it is notable how some of them left committed to make SWW their stepping stone on starting a new business. One of them was our Mrs. Hilda, who wrote me to tell that organizze.co is going to be developed. The competition runner up is focused on building a web platform for personal organisation.
The impact was visible throughout the weekend. The mentors, organisers, judges and speakers created an environment that not only boosted the attendees’ confidence, but gave them the resources to find a different perspective. Instead of doubting their ability to create a tech product, they now understand how far they can go. They can surely run the world!
Camila is a Brazilian software engineer. Founder of Mulheres na Computação and Technovation Challenge Brazil National Director. She really wants to show everybody the power of technology to change the world.
How can we best support entrepreneurship around the world?
We’re obsessed with this question at UP Global. Strengthening our current programs and finding new ways to empower entrepreneurs and thriving entrepreneurial communities is the reason we exist.
As part of this focus, we formed a partnership last year and integrated Startup America (more about Startup America here) and its programs with our UP Global brand (Startup Weekend, NEXT and Startup Digest).
As you may know, Startup America was a three year initiative and has now reached its three year anniversary. We’ve made great progress within this short timeframe and we are now at an important point to determine how we can continue to support the momentum the community has created for startup communities and to ensure continued growth.
As part of the milestone, the UP Global team and Board of Directors have been looking at how we can best support Startup America and the community moving forward. The largest outcome is that we will be retiring the Startup America brand and maintaining community offerings within UP Global’s platform. We will continue to look for ways to support our community under one consolidated brand.
Thank you for being part of the UP Global community and watch for more programs in the future as we continue to look for ways to support our communities across the world.
“I want to help my community” is a line that I have heard in some shape or form from every women entrepreneur I’ve interviewed from San Francisco to Hyderabad. Yes, as someone in the development sector, I knew the statistic well – women reinvest 90% of their income back into their families and communities. But it wasn’t until I embarked on a year focused on entrepreneurship, girls and women and met incredible woman founders from all around the world that I’ve really started to understand the power of these individuals to transform their communities, societies and the world. I’m taking International Women’s Day to reflect on some of the “women are awesome” observations I’ve made along the way:
Difference Driven: At Startup Weekend – Women’s Edition in San Francisco, a whopping 80% of the pitches had a social impact component. All ideas put forth were tech-based and for-profit, yet they had a social cause or problem they were addressing or contributing to – from education to healthcare to hunger there were few issues that were left untouched. The trend continued when I started the second leg of my year in India. I asked Raj Janagam [Founder of Unltd Hyderabad – a social entrepreneurship focused incubator] if they had trouble recruiting women, he looked surprised and answered, “No it’s obvious women want to change the world, 50% of our entrepreneurs are women and this was not by design or intention – it just happened!” Whether is for-profit, non-profit, a social business or enterprise – I believe [and have seen] that if women are given the reins they want to and will make a difference.
“We vs. Me” Story: The entrepreneur story is often one of the lone wolf battling the world. What I’ve heard in the stories of women entrepreneurs is of the lone-wolf inviting and welcoming the world to become part of her pack. From New York’s Shaila Ittycheria [co-founder of Enstitute], to San Francisco’s Andrea Bouch [co-founder of IQ Collective], to Hyderabad’s Neha Swain [founder of Pravah Pahal] – all three women respectively quoted their co-founders, mentors, and families as the reason they were able to succeed. I have yet to meet a women entrepreneur that claims to be the “solopreneur”. From their own personal networks to the individuals they serve, it’s become no surprise to me that women fundamentally engage their communities because their startups and their stories are based on the “we” story vs. the I.
We want to do business, to do good: Sitting in the dim-lit hall of the My Choice centre in Golkanda Fort, Hyderabad, I was fortunate enough to hear the struggles and aspirations of a group of future entrepreneurs. Each of them was currently being trained in making export-quality embroidery products. I was in particularly curious about their future aspirations – what did they want to do with these new skills? From the youngest women there, a 17 year old to the 32-year-old mother, their answers were one and the same “I want to one day start my own business and help others. If we don’t help our people – who will?” I can’t do justice to the emotion behind the words spoken that day, but I one thing was clear – empower a women to be an entrepreneur, to stand on her own two feet, and you empower everyone around her.
I’ve shared the rosy side of the story – the inspiring tidbits I’ve picked up by being able to meet and learn from these awe-inspiring women. But the reality isn’t that pretty – when I asked Neha Swain some of challenges she faced, she didn’t hesitate to say “Society. As an Indian women in her mid-twenties, I’m expected to get married not to be starting a company. Men start to get an inferiority complex.” This isn’t just an Asian problem; the US has a depressingly low number of female entrepreneurs – in the booming tech industry only 3% of founded by women. Women around the world face an avalanche of barriers that discourages them from taking a risk, from venturing out on their own, from becoming economically and socially independent. So on this International Women’s Day – let’s not just celebrate women, but start taking an initiative – through something as small as encouraging or supporting a woman in your life to take that risk and go after her dreams. The theme for IWD this year is “Equality for women is progress for all” because once a woman is given the ability to act on her dreams, she can and will change the world.
Manasa Yeturu is spending one year, in three countries/organizations, focusing on the question she most gives a damn about “What are the best practices in entrepreneurship education and how (if at all) are they being targeted at girls?” (read more here). Are an amazing women entrepreneur yourself or know of interesting organizations in #girlsed – please reach out at email@example.com or follow along at – GOOD // Teaching Myself // @myeturu .
Startup Women, UP Global’s latest initiative, is a comprehensive effort supported by The Blackstone Charitable Foundation and Google for Entrepreneurs to reach more female entrepreneurs and support their endeavors across all of UP Global’s programs, which include Startup Weekend, NEXT and StartupDigest. A total of $150,000 has been allocated to the project to date for 2014 efforts. The initiative is taking on a broad approach that includes highlighting and telling the stories of well known and lesser known successful women entrepreneurs from across the world, special events, and localized Startup Weekend “Women’s Edition” events.
At the first Women’s Edition event in 2009, which was co-hosted by Women 2.0, 19 teams formed and at least three are still working on their projects. One participant, Alexa Andrzejewski, pitched an idea that became the company Foodspotting – and before the end of the weekend, she had received $5K in funding. Alexa was the guest speaker at the 2011 Women’s Edition in San Francisco, and she recently sold Foodspotting to OpenTable for $10 Million.
In 2011, Adriana Moscatelli launched what is now “Play Works Studio” at Startup Weekend Women’s Edition in Seattle. Her vision is to design games that encourage children, especially girls, to discover a passion for science. Today, the startup is backed with grant support from the National Science Foundation and Moscatelli hopes to have products available by next year.
Although Women’s Edition events have historically provided a unique starting point for women to build a stronger entrepreneurial network and launch new ideas, Startup Women aims to take on a more holistic stance that builds off of the momentum of these events, providing additional resources and opportunities that will span the entrepreneur’s journey. Additional focuses for the initiative include special events, network-building resources, and amplified storytelling.
This year, Startup Women is setting some major goals for women in entrepreneurship:
Support the creation of over 1,500 female-led startups this year
Host a minimum of 10 Startup Weekend Women’s Edition events in the U.S. and 5 abroad
Create an active advisory board for Startup Women efforts
Reach 100,000 new female entrepreneurs through StartupDigest
Amplify the stories of female entrepreneurs on a National scale through multimedia storytelling
Connect female founders and entrepreneurs through social media, special events, and new opportunities
How you can get involved:
Sign up for the StartupDigest Women in Entrepreneurship reading list to stay up to date
Share stories: send us your best female founder stories or write for blog.up.co
Organize a Women’s Edition event in your area
Upcoming Startup Women events and more:
StartupDigest Women in Entrepreneurship Reading List opens – TODAY
Startup Weekend Women’s Edition in Kiev, Ukraine – March 25th
Startup Weekend Women’s Edition in Tokyo, Japan – March 14th
Startup Weekend Women’s Edition in João Pessoa/Paraíba, Brasil – March 14th
Startup Weekend Women’s Edition in Melbourne, Australia – April 25th
More about The Blackstone Charitable Organization:
The Blackstone Charitable Foundation announced that it has awarded grants totaling $1.6 million to seventeen non-profit organizations. The grants were made through the Blackstone Organizational Grants Program, an annual program targeting organizations that focus on fostering entrepreneurship and innovation, now in its second year. Through this program, The Blackstone Charitable Foundation is helping innovative organizations pilot, expand or replicate projects or programs that will catalyze the growth of successful businesses, industries, and communities in their regions. Amy Stursberg, Executive Director of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, says; “We are proud to be able to provide this year’s grant recipients with the resources they need to expand the reach of their programs both within their regions and beyond. As we continue to focus on building a robust network of entrepreneurial activity across the nation and globally, we are pleased to extend funding to this year’s recipients, who have shown immense potential and innovation in the area of entrepreneurship.”
More about Google’s #40Forward Campaign:
While women are starting companies at 1.5 times the national average, in the startup sphere, women are poorly represented in accelerators, co-working spaces and tech events around the world. In hopes of sparking change, Google for Entrepreneurs launched a challenge to startup and entrepreneur organizations to create new innovative programs to increase the representation and advance women in their local communities. We are incredibly excited to announce that 40 organizations took the challenge to rethinking the gender gap. Google for Entrepreneurs is dedicating $1million toward this effort. To learn more about these programs and our partners, checkout the hashtag #40forward or visit google.com/entrepreneurs.
A child’s future should never be dictated by their zip code but is influenced by who and what they are exposed to.
At eight years old, Kalimah Priforce held a successful hunger strike against his Brooklyn group home to add more books to its library, which drew the attention of a community of Buddhist monks and nuns who privately tutored him until the age of 14.
He left the order as a lost irrepressible high schooler, but in Harlem, NY, he was discovered and nurtured by Dr. Lorraine Monroe, a world-class educator, whose mentorship sowed the seeds to him becoming a social innovator. By 16, Kalimah started his first computer tech company that primarily served low income neighborhoods and the elderly. In October of 2000, his teenage brother was shot and killed behind their childhood elementary school, inspiring Kalimah to form a lifelong commitment to transforming the lives of under-served kids towards mindfulness of their path and purpose.
Kalimah Priforce is the co-founder of Qeyno Labs, an education innovation startup that works with local partners and schools to close the STEM diversity gap in K-12 education by harnessing the interests of under-served youth into STEM career pathways using web and mobile-based technology and inclusive hackathons that promote mentorship and innovation in the app space. Qeyno recently launched the first hackathon focused on Black Male Achievement in Oakland and has been featured on Essence Magazine, Jet, and NPR’s “Tell Me More.”
Kalimah is a 2013 Echoing Green fellow and one of the driving forces behind The Hidden Genius Project, an Oakland-based program that trains black male youth in entrepreneurial thinking, software development, and user experience design and has been recognized by the White House as a Champion of Change in increasing STEM Access and Diversity.
Kalimah on the recent Black Male Achievement event:
Our objective wasn’t to make history. We were, and still are, driven by a courageous conversation we wanted to have between Sillicon Valley and with communities affected by the Trayvon Martin tragedy. “Building A Silicon Valley that lives up to Dr. King’s Dream” was the over-arching vision for Startup Weekend Oakland: Black Male Achievement, but it was the question, “Could an app have saved Trayvon Martin?” that my startup, Qeyno Labs, wanted to publicly host in the form of a hackathon. Two Martins – one hackathon. […] Our efforts made “hackathon” a household word in the homes of hundreds of low opportunity youth. A thirteen year old girl from San Francisco East Bay pitched to her family a new app idea she mocked up on her college-ruled notebook. Teen brothers in Florida are hosting their own mini-hackathon in their grandmother’s living room. Professionals across the tech industry are no longer afraid to ask their colleagues, “how does this next product development stage affect under-served kids?” Parents are empowered to invest in an affordable laptop and will crowdfund its purchase among friends and the community.
This week’s Community Leader is Rob Irizarry, UP America Champion for Bozeman, Montana! In addition to representing his community through UP America, Rob is also:
The Blackstone LaunchPad is a collaboration of the Blackstone Charitable Foundation, MSU, the University of Montana and Headwaters RC&D. The program is made possible by a three-year, $2 million grant from the Blackstone Charitable Foundation.
CodeMontana is a statewide program for high school students that teaches computer programming and can reward them with cool prizes along the way. The goal is to prepare Montana Youth for high paying careers in technology here in Montana. Our year one goal is to have 1,000 students go through the program, in the first week we got over 200 students and are well on our way to success!)
Helping parents and kids work together to manage the online world
[Through Startup Bozeman]”our goal is to help connections solidify and further build Montana into a thriving business and technology hub.”
Originally published in the Huffington Post.
A 2013 Harvard Business Review post points out that “companies replete with both inherent and acquired diversity, we find, out-innovate and outperform the competition.”
It is this type of perspective – the one that insists that diversity is something we should look to as a strong advantage in the workplace – that is marking a turning point in the way that startups think about the key to their innovative paths and the overall success of their teams. As more people recognize the benefits – not just the social impact – of encouraging diversity within communities, markets and companies, we could be seeing a mainstream shift in which more industry leaders begin turning to underrepresented entrepreneurs and markets in the name of opportunity. Ultimately, attention to diversity in the startup space should not be looked to with a charitable perspective, but as a smart, strategic choice for the future success of new companies.
Here’s what thought leaders are saying:
“If technology is designed mostly by white males, who make up roughly half our population, we’re missing out on the innovation, solutions, and creativity that a broader pool of talent can bring to the table,” says Kimberly Bryant, founder of Black Girls Code.
Bryant also suggests that industry leaders pay attention to the often disregarded points on a market bell curve: “In many cases on the front end of this bell curve you may find a diversity of consumers since African-Americans, women, and people of color have been shown to be early adopters across multiple technology platforms and social media.”
Angela Benton, founder of the NewMe Accelerator, says; “True diversity not only includes people from different races but also from different backgrounds and with different experiences. It can be the difference between innovating and not. The beautiful thing about innovation is that it moves industries forward, often times taking standard ways of doing things in other industries or cultures and applying them in new ways. It’s only natural – and necessary – that startup cultures begin to think this way in order to stay truly innovative and avoid the prevalent ‘me-too’ culture it sometimes is known for.”
“Diversity in anything is important. In technology, specifically, it gives an opportunity to the masses to participate in business that is shaping the economy of the world.” -MC Hammer (rapper and co-founder of Dancejam, AlchemistMMA, and WireDOO).
“Our world is not homogeneous, so why should startups and the products/services that are being created be so vanilla? We need to be open to different cultures, perspectives, voices, and opinions so that we may better serve the needs of the multicultural communities of America.” – Jesse Martinez, cofounder of Spark America, a non profit that also consists of the Latino Startup Alliance
“Many people describe entrepreneurs as scratching their own itch. So the more diverse our entrepreneurs are, the more innovative the kinds of companies they start.” – Freada Kapor Klein, Partner, Kapor Capital, in an interview at FOCUS100 2013.
“Without diversity, the life experiences we bring to an engineering problem are limited. As a consequence, we may not find the best engineering solution.” – William A. Wulf, President, National Academy of Engineering.
“In the face of ample evidence that diverse workforces produce better results than homogenous ones, we can make an argument for diversity as both a business imperative and a moral imperative, but we will not make headway within the technology industry until we, in greater numbers, loudly challenge the notion that thoughtfulness and diversity are things that we don’t have time for.” – Jessica Lawrence, HBR
“As Stacy-Marie Ishmael of The Financial Times astutely pointed out, if a startup is not thoughtful about what type of organization they want to build when they are three white men, before they know it they will be forty five white men, and they will wonder why they are not attracting any significant numbers of women or people of color to work at their company.” – HBR: “The Signals That Make Startups So Homogenous”