The proportion of small and medium-sized companies run by women is increasing. Yet there is greater potential still: there are more women with great entrepreneurial ideas who need the support to help their businesses succeed. According to the Women’s Business Council, women also struggle with a lack of confidence in their business skills, while others feel there aren’t enough diverse female role models to inspire them or show them it is possible to become an entrepreneur.
One barrier to more female-led businesses is access to investment. Broadly, the venture capital industry is thriving. But still, too often, women seeking funding are left out of the boom because of hidden biases, sexism and a general unawareness. Since 2015, Crunchbase has reported on gender diversity in venture capital. For the first two quarters in 2017, startups with a female founder raised $332 million in seed investment, or around 15 percent of all seed funding dollars.
As one recent study pointed out, even the way investors frame questions to women can impact funding. According to the Harvard Business Review, female founders are often asked “prevention-oriented” questions focused on safety, responsibility, security and vigilance. Male founders, on the other hand, are often asked “promotion-oriented” questions focused on hopes, achievement, advancement and ideals. The result of how these questions are asked between the genders? Women ended up with less funding.
So for our March Women of Wearables event, in a true spirit of #WomensHistoryMonth and #PressForProgress movement, we decided to explore topic of support available to women in business and tech, particularly investment, legal support and accelerators / incubators.
Our panelists, Kathleen Fox Murphy, Partner in Browne Jacobson's Intellectual Property team, Lu Li, founder and CEO of Blooming Founders and Blooms London, Sophie England, Head of Academy and Partnerships at AllBright, Rosalind Singleton, Managing Director of UK Broadband and an active angel investor with Angel Academe, Philippa Brent, Head of Programme at Enterprise Enfield and Debbie Forster, CEO of Tech Talent Charter UK gave us golden nuggets of information, educated us and inspired us. Moderator of the panel was our CEO, Marija Butkovic.
Being a woman is an asset
Kathleen Fox Murphy, Partner in Browne Jacobson's Intellectual Property team, with over 18 years’ of experience in patent litigation and patent strategy, said that being a woman was definitely an asset for her. Kathleen mentioned how there is still only around 20%-25% of female partners and solicitors in law firms, but Browne Jacobson managed to increase that number to 30%.
For Kathleen, making best of it as a woman is the key, especially when it comes to problem solving approach. She is now advising start-up companies on all IP aspects affecting company set-up and investment as part of Browne Jacobson's Grow programme.
Grow is legal support programme exclusively for startups. It is carefully tailored for companies at any stage of the startup journey from protecting an idea through to a successful exit and is sensitive to the trials and tribulations of building a business from scratch. Browne Jacobson's legal specialists will invest their time and skill to ensure the growth potential of your business is fulfilled, by providing you with a dedicated Grow adviser who will work with you on a range of services and who can facilitate introductions within our network of industry and investment contacts.
Diversity of teams leads to diversity of ideas
Debbie Forster is a recognised figure in the areas of diversity, tech, innovation and education, and CEO for the Tech Talent Charter. She was awarded an MBE in January 2017 for “Services to Digital Technology and Tech Development” and named Woman of the Year for 2016 by Women in Science and Engineering (WISE). The Tech Talent Charter (TTC) is a commitment by organisations to a set of undertakings that aim to deliver greater diversity in the tech workforce of the UK. Signatories of the charter (currently 188) make a number of pledges in relation to their approach to recruitment and retention. Although it is very much an employer-led initiative, in March 2017 the TTC was supported in the government’s policy paper on the UK Digital Strategy.
Advice Debbie gave to all entrepreneurs and founders in the room was to always ask questions, ask for help, without thinking we need to be perfect before we start. Entrepreneurship is all about discovering new things and we need to reclaim the whole concept of it.
Support women by educating them and funding them
Sophie England joined AllBright as it's founders Chief of Staff and then took over the helm of the AllBright Academy in June 2017. AllBright is a unique funding, education and support network designed to provide the support and finance needed for female-led leaders to thrive.
Sophie emphasised the importance of growing and adapting to cater for the diverse and varying needs of working women in the UK, which is the reason why AllBright developed the AllBright Collective, an ecosystem designed to deliver capital, business skills, connections and confidence, while the AllBright Academy works with aspiring and early stage entrepreneurs to accelerate their progress through a series of digital programmes.
Philippa Brent is a member of the Institute of Consulting, with over 20 years of expertise providing a range of specialist consultancy for the management and delivery of public and privately funded programmes. She is currently contracted by Enterprise Enfield to provide consultancy as Head of Programme at Enterprise Enfield - one of London’s premier enterprise agencies offering a comprehensive range of business support services designed to encourage, guide and inspire people to be successful in business.
The agency is currently running a number of free business support and growth programmes specifically for women. These include: an Inspiring Women Programme (part-funded by the European Regional Development Fund) offering dedicated support for London’s female led startups as well as early traders; and a Female Founders Accelerator (supported by JPMorgan Chase Foundation) aimed at helping women in east London scale and take their business to the next level.
Philippa's advice to all female founders and entrepreneurs in the room, based on her experience from working with more than 100 women-led businesses over the past few years, was to always do the market research before launching your business and to think about the gap in the market and the problem you're trying to solve with your business idea.
Rosalind Singleton, currently the Managing Director of UK Broadband, is also an active angel investor with Angel Academe. Angel Academe is a pro-women (but not women-only) angel network focussed on technology. Through mentoring, education and collaboration with experienced angels, Angel Academe helps members pool their money, expertise and resources to perform due diligence and build a portfolio of smart investments over time.
Defying the cliches that women are "risk-averse", "lack confidence", "do due diligence to death" and only "start niche businesses", Angel Academe has been operating successfully for 3 years and has made numerous investments in women-led high-growth tech startups.
As an angel investor, Rosalind talked about most common misconceptions and challenges women are facing when seeking funding. She said that it's very important to carefully think through whether you really need external funding for your business and how long can you actually go without raising money from angel investors and VCs. Not every business needs external funding, and by getting one you have to be aware of all the goals, KPIs and ROIs your investors are expecting to get in return. Becoming an investor in a business means becoming part of a team, but it also means that every founder needs to go through a proper due diligence process of establishing whether that investor is the right one for his / hers business.
The power of community
Lu Li is a serial entrepreneur and creative innovator committed to inspiring, educating and championing women to build sustainable businesses while achieving professional freedom and fulfilment. Her own entrepreneurial journey has involved running two consulting businesses and her current ventures, Blooming Founders and Blooms London.
Lu talked about her own entrepreneurial journey and how building a community first via Blooming Founders community and platform gave her valuable insight into what female entrepreneurs and founders actually need. This venture then led into starting Blooms London, a female-focused members club, an affordable and inviting work environment, where you can not only meet other like-minded female founders to bounce off ideas, share advice and create opportunities together, but also bring your child to work.
The future is female
After the event, our WoW community felt inspired, educated and empowered to learn more about different initiatives, programmes and ways to grow a business, as well as support diversity and inclusion within their own companies and organisations. We all agreed that diversity is important not only from gender point of view, but also ethnical and religious, and that there are many great men who support women as mentors and allies; at the end of the day, we all should be working towards to same goal which is equality for all in the business world. This way, there won't be any need to use a term 'woman in business' or 'woman in tech' one day, as we will all be just 'people in business / tech'.
A big Thank you! goes to our sponsors and partners Browne Jacobson LLP for hosting us and for their continuous support during this event!
And last, but not least, big Thank you! goes to lovely Hope Chauland, WoW supporter and member, for her help and support during the event, we couldn't have done it without her!
If you’re interested in speaking at or sponsoring our events and meetups, then get in touch via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Join us for our upcoming event - Next Wave Fashion Tech, London 25 April!
This blog was written by Marija Butkovic, Digital Marketing and PR strategist, founder and CEO of Women of Wearables and co-founder of Kisha Smart Umbrella. She regularly writes and speaks on topics of wearable tech, fashion tech, IoT, entrepreneurship and diversity. Visit marijabutkovic.co.uk or follow Marija on Twitter @MarijaButkovic @Women_Wearables @GetKisha.