With more than 8.6 million women-owned businesses in the United States generating over $1.3 trillion in revenues, women are an integral part of entrepreneurial ecosystems. Networks of women continue to make an enormous impact on economies all over the world. What sorts of entrepreneurial communities will attract this talent? How can women entrepreneurs create their own successful startup ecosystems? What does inclusion look like for female entrepreneurs, and what are the most important building blocks for success?
These questions and many more were addressed during Startup Phenomenon Women, a day of presentations, panels, workshops and networking opportunities that took place on September 3rd in Boulder at the University of Colorado’s Macky Auditorium. Topics included: leadership, negotiation, collaboration, brand building, overcoming setbacks, philanthropy, the importance of mentorship, networking strategies, funding, STEM, education and healthcare.
One session, “The Pilots,” focused on leadership, meeting challenges and balancing business and life. Moderated by Sara Sutton Fell, founder and CEO of FlexJobs, panel members included Sharon Matusik, Leeds School of Business at CU; Mauria Finley, co-founder of Citrus Lane; and Krista Marks, co-founder and CEO of Woot Math.
The lively discussion produced some valuable hiring advice: Bad hires are more costly than you realize. One person can hold an entire team back and prevent your company from speeding up and growing together. And perhaps most importantly, to encourage innovation, you don’t want a bunch of “yes” people. Instead, you want to hire people who can constructively disagree and build on the tension.
“The Investors” was a session on funding, financing, accelerating and angel investing. David Cohen, founder and CEO of Techstars, was the moderator, and several investors shared their advice for entrepreneurs. Speakers were Sharon Vosmek, CEO of Astia; Jo Anne Miller Managing Director at Brown Dog Partners and Golden Seeds Angel Network; and Rob Hayes, Partner at First Round Capital.
Vosmek said that women need to muster the courage to go after funding. She pointed out that women are raising just 1/127th of the capital in the United States. In tech, that number is 1/15th. She encouraged female entrepreneurs not to underestimate their ability to defend themselves and “play big.”
More advice from the investors:
- Always raise money when you don’t have to raise the money.
- It takes time to find a good fit. Do your due diligence when looking into funding options.
- Hire people who are smarter than yourself. Investors want to see a good, solid team that works together, so it’s important to build a strong one.
- Find both mentors and advisors who care.
- Building a business is a social endeavor. If you speak with someone who isn’t a good fit as an investor, ask who you should be talking to, and ask for introductions.
After a full day of sessions, speakers, announcements and the occasional stretch break, the conference wrapped up with a party and music by Paper Bird singer Esme Patterson.