Tuesday 30 July 2019 7:02 am

Female founders, here's my advice for starting a business

Ida is co-founder and chief executive of Clue, a Berlin-based startup creating apps for women's health.

To any female founders reading this: your existence is statistically remarkable. Female tech founders are, simply put, unlikely. 

A report from the venture capital firm Atomico found that 93 per cent of money invested in European tech startups in 2018 went to all-male founding teams. Only seven per cent went to startups with a single female founder, let alone an all-female team.

This figure highlights an uncomfortable truth: as a woman, you’re unlikely to even try to build a startup, let alone create a company that will raise capital and succeed. 

And mark my words, while investors, founders, and experts galore will inundate you with opinions on what you should do to build a successful company, they’ll cautiously avoid mentioning the one thing that you really seem to need: male anatomy.

The next generation

All of this means that my role as a female founder of a prominent tech company is crucial. It’s important that people in positions such as mine inspire and aid the next generation of female founders. 

So statistics be damned. My advice would always be to take the leap. Be brave. 

And if you do, here are a few things that I’ve learnt from my own experience that might be useful and important along the way.

Read more: Female founders don’t need to be ‘bolshie’ to match the boys

First of all, destroy stereotypes. Every single day you will have to do this, so you may as well get good at it. 

Don’t listen to generalisations or speculation, and by the same token don’t mimic others. Draw on your courage to do things in your own way that’s different from those around you. Standing out like this, and being fearless, leads to success.

Next, prioritise diversity. There are a few crucial ways to do this, but the general principle is that the more different perspectives you can bring into a startup, the more sustainable its growth will be. 

Make sure that you have female board members, so that inclusivity trickles from the top down. Then employ both male and female decision-makers, as well as people from different cultural backgrounds, so that you can draw on varied experiences. On this bedrock, your company can then be committed to achieving equal pay.

Pick carefully

Think hard about who deserves a slice of your business. Pursue money from funds around the world, but prioritise the quality of investor over the amount. These people will be your greatest allies going forward, so it’s one of the most important decisions that you’ll have to make. 

Similarly, give employees who deserve it shares in the business. Let them know that they are crucial components of your company. Try to create an environment where your goals align with those of your investors, and in turn align with those of your staff. 

Also, embrace legislation and regulation – don’t grumble about it. 

Initiatives such as the EU’s general data protection regulations (GDPR) are here to stay and will likely grow in number. Work around hurdles such as these, because they will help to keep data considerations at the core of the company you build. 

And on that point, always prioritise privacy and security, but with the user in mind. Harness the data you collect to improve the consumer’s experience, rather than to make money. In the data age, if you respect your user in this way, they will respect your brand. 

These are just some of the things that I have learnt while founding and scaling my own tech company. Of course, these pieces of advice are useful to male founders as well – but they honestly don’t need the help. 

Technology offers the most amazing means of radically overhauling outdated systems. The pay gap, gender inequality, and the deficit of female founders in the European tech space are all parts of an outdated system. Let’s change it.

Main image credit: Johannes Eisele/AFP/Getty Images

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