Editor’s Note: Liz Sara, chair of the Board of Advisors for the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business, is looking ahead to 2017. She offers these insights on the technology sector.
By LIZ SARA
SMITH BRAIN TRUST — We all know that women are underrepresented in the technology sector. Not for long, is my prediction. Already, there are 200 million women entrepreneurs across the globe in the process of starting or operating new businesses, according to The Global Entrepreneur Monitor. And that figure is set to explode. Here are some of the reasons why: More available capital and easier access to it, an expanding network of executives and accelerators providing mentoring, and the fact that big tech companies are now playing a role. Let’s examine the trends. In the past 15 years, the number of women-owned businesses grew by 54 percent; there are now 8.3 million women-owned businesses in the United States.
First, the Money
There’s been a dramatic increase in the number of angel groups, funds and venture capital firms in the U.S. that invest in women-led startups. Today there are more than 15 such organizations and that number is growing steadily – not just in the U.S., but also worldwide.
An early player, investment firm Golden Seeds, which started in 2005, now operates branches in New York, Boston and San Francisco and has funded more than 85 companies, to the tune of more than $90 million dollars.
A newcomer, the Female Founders Fund, was started two and a half years ago and now has 26 companies in its portfolio. Small angel networks around the country (the Angel Capital Association counts about 240 such groups) invest significantly in early-stage companies, more and more of which have at least one female founder.
Second, the Mentoring
Cash is king but mentoring is key as women-led businesses experience disproportionate failure rates. To address this, an influx of accelerators has been opening across the country. Springboard, an early one launched in Washington, D.C. in 2000, has helped more than 600 women-led companies through their acceleration programs. Hera Hub, which supports female startups in all industries, and Vinetta Project, which supports female-led technology startups, both recently launched a presence in D.C. Whether through workspace programs, or networking and pitch competitions with cash awards, they support the overall ecosystem of local women entrepreneurs.
The Founder Institute, for which I serve as a mentor in the D.C. chapter, graduated more than 600 female-led companies through its programs since launching in 2009.
As recently as November, business leaders, investors and the D.C. government launched BEACON, a campaign to make Washington, D.C. a supportive ecosystem for women entrepreneurs nationwide.
Third, the Muscle
Mainstream tech companies are launching programs and funding initiatives to support female entrepreneurs around the world. This year, Microsoft held a Women’s Entrepreneurial Festival in New York, Amazon held its Women Entrepreneurs Conference in Seattle, and DELL held its Women’s Entrepreneurship Network Summit in Cape Town, South Africa. Google held a women’s edition of its Demo Day featuring 12 female-led startups from around the world. The list truly goes on.
For next year and beyond, the climate, the conditions and the capital are critically poised for women entrepreneurs – especially those focused on technology-based businesses.
Liz Sara, the founder of Best Marketing LLC, teaches business-to-business marketing to MBA students at the University of Maryland's Robert H. Smith School of Business. She is an angel investor, a member of the Dingman Center Angels, and the first female chair of the Board of Advisors for the Dingman Center for Entrepreneurship.
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