Estimated reading time: 4 minutes
According to a report from this year by European Women in VC, in 2021, female-only startups received just 2% of all available venture capital (this was a decrease on the previous year, in which they secured 3%). Teams which were led by both men and women secured 9% (an increase on 2020’s 8%) — this meant that 90% of funding raised by European startups in 2021 were raised by male founder teams.
So how can women thrive in a sector which isn’t just dominated by men, but sometimes feels like a hostile place for women? We went straight to the source for our tips: female founders from some of the smartest startups we know.
Anne-Sophie is the COO and Head of Creators at ZAUBAR, a Berlin-based startup offering creators an AI-fuelled platform to tell stories in real locations using AR.
My tip is to trust your expertise and your gut and start working on whatever you believe to be a great project, company or product. In my experience, women tend to overthink situations before they even start. Cut that out! Instead, just go for it — try things. You will stumble, sometimes you’ll fall. That’s completely normal and part of the process.
These are all tips for women to take care of themselves, but obviously it shouldn’t just be down to individuals. Society needs to do its part and support women more in tangible ways in taking on these roles. As a startup founder myself I have an active role in hiring more women to make them more visible in tech. An example: After going through all 400 applications we received for a frontend developer role, I found that only 18 of them were women. This is a devastating number.
Wiktoria Wójcik, inStreamly
Wiktoria is the co-founder of inStreamly, a startup which connects small and mid-sized gaming streamers with huge brands for marketing collaborations.
Find other women and support one another.
Nothing feels better than being surrounded by a community of people who are like you, who understand your struggles, and can celebrate your wins with you. You might be sceptical that something this straightforward can be helpful, but it really is. Be there for one another and share your ups and downs. It helps you distance yourself from any problems and most importantly, makes you feel like you’re not alone.
Susana is the managing director & co-founder of LÆMON, a startup offering users more safety via an IoT-enabled bracelet that emits a loud or silent alarm when activated.
My tip? Be authentic and never try to be or act more like your male colleagues. The diversity involved in taking a different approach to those around you is key to success. If you think your workplace needs to change to attract more women, speak up. Where you work should be inclusive and welcoming. If you know and believe that your super power is being a woman in tech, the industry will respond accordingly and treat you like a treasure. Deploy this potential and be the role model you wished you had yourself when you first started out.
Maura is the founder and managing director of Tiny Giant Heroes, a startup which uses Augmented Reality to build healthy emotional intelligence in children.
It’s a complex question with many factors at play, one of which is mindset. In the past, we built upon an outdated mindset which shallowly concluded that women are poorly suited to tech or science and which boxed them off in a way which continues until the current day. As we become more enlightened, hopefully we will realise that our talents and strengths have little to do with gender.
Emilie Joly (ZOE)
Emilie is the CEO and co-founder of Zoe Immersive, an early-stage startup offering creator tools for learning and collaborating with VR and AR.
I don’t think I truly realized there was a real gender issue in tech until I came to my first event in Silicon Valley with my startup. When pitching your startup in front of groups of investors or on comparing your team with other teams, you slowly realize that startups, investors and partners are mostly, heck, 120% of the time, men. And if there is a woman, she won’t usually be occupying a position of power.
The best tip I could give other young women looking to build their own tech company — please do it! We need more of you and don’t apologize for being who you are. In the startup world, people constantly exaggerate and oversell all the time. Make sure you do the same and train for this. Don’t apologize for speaking up and speak loudly and with confidence, even if it feels uncomfortable to do so in a room with 100 men looking right at you.