Techstars, and Future Females are piloting an initiative to move the needle on the participation and success of women in tech entrepreneurship around the globe.
On September 18, 2019, the Future Females Business School opens the doors to its next group of women entrepreneurs. The Future Females Business School is a three-month virtual incubator that will provide a unique opportunity for women entrepreneurs from around the world to transform their ideas into proven, scalable, and sustainable businesses.
The Future Females Business School has graduated 130 entrepreneurs in the last six months alone, with surveyed participants on average seeing a 63% increase in monthly revenue and indicating a 76% increase in confidence around their ability to make their business successful on completion of the program.
The program is application-only. Entrepreneurs are supported through a structured three-month program that combines content, community, and coaching to help them rapidly bring their dream businesses to life.
“Through this partnership, our members will be exposed to content and coaches from the global Techstars network—a game-changer for early-stage entrepreneurs building tech businesses,” says Lauren Dallas, Future Females co-founder. “In fact, we’ve already shared our first masterclass with NYC Techstars Managing Director Yossi Hasson sharing tips on positioning yourself for global accelerator programs – one of our best-received yet!”
Future Females will also be a part of the D&I Techstars Affiliate program—an opportunity for Future Females to refer graduating entrepreneurs to one of the Techstars mentorship-driven accelerator programs and have their application fast-tracked.
“This collaboration with Future Females allows us to reach and support more women entrepreneurs globally, creating a pipeline of high-quality entrepreneurs that will bring more women founders into our programs and the wider tech startup ecosystem,” says Jason Thompson, VP of Diversity & Inclusion at Techstars. “In addition, the knowledge sharing between our organizations will allow us both to continue developing our programs to better support women entrepreneurs.”
The Future Females Business School has a proven track record of supporting women entrepreneurs, with two recent graduates, Tania Naess-Smith & Lara Menke, the co-founders of CAIA in London, receiving funding within just one month of completing the program.
Pascale Hyboud-Peron, Co-founder and Director of Venture Centre, has an awesome Twitter bio: “Creating connections and exploring intersections between people and ideas by delivering meaningful opportunities to do good stuff together #entrepreneurship.”
Meaningful Opportunities to do Good Stuff Together
Pascale’s dedication to entrepreneurship goes far beyond digital self-presentation. Shortly after attending her own first Techstars Startup Weekend in 2013 in Tauranga, New Zealand, Pascale met her Venture Centre co-founders, and together they started this entrepreneurship hub and social enterprise designed to support and grow entrepreneurship in Tauranga: “When not coordinating programmes or producing events in our coworking space, I spend time on exploring and strengthening generative relationships and partnerships to ensure our community of entrepreneurs can access the resources they need to take the next leg of their journey,” Pascale says. “We work with founders with ideas to solve social and environmental problems, from the very early stage past ideation through proof of concept to their first drop sheet.”
Supporting People’s Empowerment
Pascale started her career as a teacher, before discovering her inner entrepreneur. “I was definitely not born an entrepreneur, nor did I call myself one until only very recently,” she says, “But the passion for supporting people’s empowerment has always been there.” She sees that as the through-line that connects her first career in education with her second in entrepreneurship.
Since 2014, Pascale has been organizing and then facilitating Techstars Startup Weekends all over New Zealand, although she likes to point out that she is constantly “playing an ever diminishing role :-)” That’s because she focuses on “enabling fresh energy and commitment, with a view to renew the crew incrementally and maintain the event firmly on our local ecosystem’s calendar.” Pascale knows that the best way to help others is to teach them, and encourage them to help themselves.
Pascale gets most passionate when talking about ventures that she has seen come out of Techstars Startup Weekend, or that she has been able to help through Venture Centre, such as SeeSpray and CLOser. These are both ventures that solve social problems—the founder of SeeSpray was concerned about the pesticides being sprayed on a neighboring orchard when her kids were playing outside, and CLOser tackles affordable housing and sustainable co-housing communities—and both, as Pascale notes, have “all female founders!”
Pascale’s big goal is to help “create new ventures that do good for our people and our planet. I want to help this change happen faster.”
What’s Your Twitter Bio?
Go look at your own Twitter bio. Go ahead, do it. And take a moment to ask yourself if you’re being who you want to be, living the life that you show the world on social media.
Pascale is. If you want to ask her how she does it, you can connect with her on Twitter, or meet her at Tauranga Startup Weekend_Sustainable Development Goals edition, coming up on 30 August 2019.
By Joanne Wilson, Gotham Gal
I began investing in women over a decade ago. It was a major part of my investing thesis. Why? Twelve years doesn’t seem like a lot of time but in the world of technology it was a long, long time ago.
People Just Weren’t Listening
Through my blog, Gotham Gal, I started to talk to founders—often women—who were having a hard time raising capital, or even getting anyone on the other side of the table to understand the opportunity in their business or, more to the point, connect with them. I heard from women with amazing companies that would help women, and from women with simply great companies… yet I heard from them, over and over, that people just weren’t listening.
I listened. And I invested.
I invested in businesses that I believed had a huge opportunity that could grow to be worth $100M or more. Of course, sometimes what I see others don’t—but nobody at that time was talking to these women.
This was the reason I started the Women’s Entrepreneur Festival with Nancy Hechinger at ITP/NYU. It was the reason I began writing a piece every Monday called the Women Entrepreneur of the Week, and then evolved that Monday piece into a podcast where I get the opportunity to speak to women founders, and I could make sure that plenty of people could really hear their voices, their passion, and their entrepreneurial brilliance.
On that podcast, I recently spoke with Nadia Boujarwah, Co-founder of Dia & Co, a shopping and styling resource for plus-sized fashion. Nadia spoke to me about the countless times that she tried to explain to (male) audiences the huge potential market—according to her, more than 60% of American women fit size 12 or above—and the importance of style to this growing segment of the population. Over and over, she was turned down. They didn’t get it. But she continued to persevere and prove that model, and just last fall Dia & Co raised a $40 million Series C.
I want to believe that smart businesses with big opportunities will always find investors. But if too few investors are really listening to women entrepreneurs, then inevitably, some potentially great businesses are going to fail for lack of capital. It’s bad business to discount half the population for reasons that have nothing to do with business.
Just Do It
This is what I tell every woman founder I know who is in a relationship or married and who wants to have children: just do it and do it now.
I sit on the board of a company whose founder took that advice and got pregnant. She told me first, before letting the board or even the company know. She had planned everything around how long she would be out, how the company would be managed during this time, the whole shebang. I told her do not do that.
My advice: Just simply tell them you’re pregnant, this is your due date, how excited you are, and that’s it. No need to micromanage your pregnancy for the company. This is life. It will play itself out just fine. After all, men don’t go to these lengths when they have children, so why should women have to come up with all these excuses and strategies?
She took my advice, the board said congrats, we moved on with the meeting, and the same thing happened when she told the company. She went on to have a second child as well. Guess what? The company is doing just fine.
I have invested in many founders who have had children while building their companies, and guess what? They become even better leaders and managers. But none of this is shocking to me, and that is the reason I have done all of this.
Diversity Works—And So Do Women Entrepreneurs
I am not being philanthropic when I help women entrepreneurs to rise up. I believed that I would make a solid return on every single woman I invested in.
I am thrilled that many institutional investors have begun to see the light: making a full-on commitment to investing in more women, bringing on more women partners, and pushing companies to have more diversity. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to google “diversity + business” and see the slew of articles around better ROI, better cultures, happier workers, and more to understand that diversity works and so do women entrepreneurs.
What is most amazing to me about women founders is their survivor mentality. I am invested in some women who are building their businesses with very little capital because they are profitable and are in it for the long-haul. I have invested in others that are starting to hit their stride, and although they were not at a valuation of $90M in two years, they were there in six. It takes time to build a solid business, and I applaud every founder who has the constitution to plow forward against all odds. I see that tenacity in women founders. I also see and admire their transparency and honesty with their investors.
Perhaps it is because I am not a VC but an angel investor, who sits in the unique position of being a consigliori to each of the founders I invest in, but they all ask questions and are honest about the good and bad things happening in the company. I have seen women founders speak up at board meetings and say that something is not working, rather pretending that everything is fine. In fact, time and time again, at the start of a business women tend to be so honest and forthright about their model and numbers that they come across as demure.
Yet I can name ten women founders—if not more—who as their business starts to grow and they surpass that Series A take on a totally different persona of power. They have learned that they own it and that they get their business better than anyone else at the table. I had one founder turn down capital from a top VC because she knew that they did not truly get her business—all they saw were the numbers, and those are very different things. It was a bold move, but in the end, she trusted her gut and figured out how to make it work with the right set of investors, who might not be name brands but understood the cadence of her business.
Diversity: A Non-Negotiable Term
I have invested in men, too, but they are all committed to diversity because they believe in it and understand how it makes them better founders. If every investor would make it a non-negotiable term that the companies they invest in must make diversity a priority, the results would be huge. It might not be easy to do, but it can be done. Many of the companies I have invested in have done it.
We shouldn’t be looking at changing the ratio of women entrepreneurs because it is a buzzword of this moment, or because it looks good—but because financially, it works.
Maybe this is the moment when incremental change tips into transformation, and everyone starts listening to women entrepreneurs. I hope so. I’ll still have plenty of investment opportunities: there are enough great women entrepreneurs to go around. And there will be still more if investors start paying attention to them.