When looking to raise capital as a woman led startup, the road is full of speed bumps and mirages that cover the road. With the statistic of less than 10% of investable money going to women led start ups, this doesn’t encourage women to participate in the start-up community.
In 2013, I sat in a room in downtown Houston at a presentation night sponsored by the Houston Angel Network for startups in the area. At the time, I was a co-founder of an Oil and Gas startup and while I was watching our male CEO give the pitch, I started looking around the room. I quickly realized I was the only woman in the entire room of 50 people besides the woman organizing the event. This is when I truly felt the imbalance of funding opportunities available for women.
When giving an investor pitch, it might be more nerve wracking to look into your audience and see no other person of your gender at the table. Not only were there no women investors at any of the tables in the room, but there were no women pitching their startups. Realizing the imbalance of gender in the room of investors, it is not surprising the statistics of women led start ups is super low. Getting an infusion of capital from an investor can help catapult a start up to a household name but without it, you could be forced to close up shop.
It is not surprising that women do not get equal chances of securing the investable money available because women are underrepresented in the venture capital space. Only around 11% of women are venture capital investors, according to a 2011 survey by the National Venture Capital Association and DJX VentureSource. Is this the reason women led startups aren’t getting a fair shot at raising capital?
With all the information about women not having as much access to capital, it is very exciting when you read about opportunities like the Women Start Up Challenge sponsored by WomenWhoTech, Craig Newmark of craiglist, craigconnects and investors Fred and Joanne Wilson.
This challenge allows women in the tech space to have direct access to capital and also to dip their toes in pitching to investors. As the Founder and CEO of NoKeyBox.com, a start up with a mission to create an online platform where home buyers and home sellers can communicate directly, I knew I had to participate in the Women Start Up Challenge because of the great opportunity for my start up and to be a part of the movement to help support start up women founders.
There are over ninety companies competing in the challenge. A few which you might find exciting: Vijilent is a startup where you can rate and score individuals’ online presence to give you peace of mind for online transactions and interactions. FAM-ESS is a start up with the quest to help teach kids financial discipline. Open Health Network is a smart mobile health platform to find information about diseases, health questions and enables users to be a part of making sure the correct data is being collected. These are just a few of the amazing companies competing in the competition.
If you are a female and interested in being part of helping other women gain access to capital, my call to action for you is to be part of choosing companies you might want to use in the future. Joining the movement is simple. Instead of going to Starbucks for your morning coffee, support one or two companies who are participating in the challenge by backing them with a few of your coffee dollars You can check out all the companies competing in the Women’s Tech Challenge this year at https://www.crowdrise.com/womenstartupchallenge.
For more information regarding Women-Led Startups, see this report by the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy.