ELIAN D. ALVAREZ

- VENTURE CAPITAL - ANGEL INVESTMENT -
- ENTREPRENEURSHIP - LATAM - INNOVATION -
- INVESTMENTS - PRIVATE EQUITY - FINANCE -

Struggles of Entrepreneurs Based on Investors’ Perception

Oct
12

The first quarter of 2017 was closed with a total financing of $27 billion worldwide and the hot sectors in the world of Venture Capital (VC) have been fintech and technology. Despite the booming industry, VC has its own ups and downs.

 

Overlooking Entrepreneurs

Innovation has always been at the heart of the United States and the country has always encouraged entrepreneurship, yet, the ideas are often overlooked when it comes to immigrants and women in the sector.

Jerry Nemorin, the founder of LendStreet, is a fine example of that case. He initiated a company to support individuals who find it difficult to pay off their debt. He looks for people who are struggling with loan repayments, buy and consolidate their debt and refinance it at a fair rate of interest. Despite such a brilliant idea, he struggled with raising funds. According to him, investors recognize a defined pattern and the chances of funding the idea of a black person who is out to solve poor people’s problem are very low.

However, he is not alone. There are a large number of entrepreneurs with brilliant ideas who have been struggling with raising funds. Less than 1% investment in new startups goes to people of color, whereas, 10% investment goes to female entrepreneurs. Only 15% of the Unicorns that are making over $200 billion have made it to the real-world industries for day to day dealings.

 

Blind Spots – Another Cause Behind the Struggles

In an economy that promotes innovation, a lot of the best ideas are left out of the conversation due to blind spots.

  • Bias

Bias is the first blind spot that they face. Although, investors don’t do that intentionally, yet, it happens. Investors tend to invest in the ideas that come from people like them.

A study was conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research in which it was identified that applications that read ‘Greg’ got more calls as compared to the résumés that had the word ‘Lakisha’. This is not surprising, because only 5 percent of the partners in VC firms are female, whereas, people of colors are significantly lesser than that, i.e., less than 1 percent. Hence, the distribution of funding is largely based on the decision makers who are investors in this case.

  • Availability Bias

This is another blind spot that comes in the way of funding the brilliant ideas. Investors tend to invest in the ideas that are closest to them, or the last good idea they heard, versus the best. Almost 80 percent of the money goes to the firms that are situated within 30 miles of the investors.

  • Two-way Thinking

Lastly, most investors have two-way thinking when it comes to funding the ideas. Many people believe that they should focus on making a profit from a business, regardless of whether it is good or bad for the society at large, while engaging in philanthropy and nonprofit activities for the benefit of the society without paying much heed to financial sustainability.

Jerry’s idea supports this ideology, i.e., making a profit from a business that helps people in paying off their loan.

 

Overcoming the Blind Spots

Although, these blind spots are deep-rooted, yet, people can overcome these obstacles if they make an intentional effort to welcome new ideas. Kapor Capital intentionally invested in LendStreet to support Jerry’s idea. As a result, an initial investment of $500,000 turned into a portfolio of 40 million dollars, which enabled Jerry to refinance the financial statements of thousands of families in the U.S.

 

These ideas are available in abundance, but investors have to look closely and more carefully to fund new startups based on the merit so as to reap substantial benefits.

Why Venture Capitals should back companies with female founders?

Aug
03

Although, venture capital has invested a huge amount of money in the IT sector and contributed to innovative developments, yet, it still faces the same gender equality problems as any other sector does. A study by the Babson College examined the state of women in the venture capital sector. Around 7000 companies that got venture capital (VC) funding were evaluated.

According to the study, the percentage of women partners in VC firms was 10 percent in 1999, but it has reduced to only 6 percent now and venture backed companies that have female founders make 12 percent more revenue than companies with male owners. Despite that, only 2.7 percent of the companies fueled by venture capital had female chief executive officers between 2011 and 2013. Whereas, according to a 2014 research report of the Fortune, only 4.2 percent of the partners are women in the VC sector.

 

Issues Faced by Women in the IT Sector

Women in the IT sector have initiated a number of campaigns that are based on ‘asking for more’, especially when it comes to STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) education, fair policies, mentors, pay raise, and salaries. Moreover, women have also come forward with the hardships that include unfair salary negotiation and maternity leave policies and gender bias.

These issues have led to many campaigns, conferences, and summits. However, despite all these stories of hardship and inequality, no change has come. A clear example of this is a when Ellen Pao lost her case in 2015 for gender discrimination. She claimed to have been left out of networking events because she was a female and was not promoted to be a partner while her male colleagues were promoted ahead of her.

A partner at Canaan Partners, John Balen, said that the male dominating culture begins right from the school and there should be a conscious effort to break that cycle. Candy Brush who carried out the Babson College study is of the opinion that a journey toward becoming a venture capitalist starts from your college and professional network. If 2.7 percent of the firms have females at the executive position and 15 percent of the venture-backed companies have one female on their team, it represents the small possibility of it happening.

 

Macro Factors – The Cause of Decline in Female VC Partners?

As discussed, the percentage of female partners in VC firms have reduced from 10 percent to 6 percent since 1999. Macro factors, including a dot com bubble burst of 2000 and credit crunch of 2008 have also contributed to the decline. VC companies had to go for downsizing during those downturns. The majority of the firms were not so big; they had to lay off on the basis of “last in, first out” – minorities and females in this case.

Another macro factor was the rising popularity of the technology market during the past two decades, especially after Facebook and Google. Having a technological edge was what mattered the most. Although, there has been a shift in this attitude, yet, there are so many investors who still want a technical partner in their team.

The founder of Brooklyn Bridge Ventures, Charlie O’Donnell, said that there are only a few females who are software engineers, therefore, it automatically leads a firm to hire more male partners.

 

Can Gender Equality Lead to Business Opportunity?

The managing directors and co-founders of the Women’s Venture Capital Fund, Monica Dodi and Edith Dorsen, once had a rendezvous with finance and investment professionals to talk about the more risk-intelligent approach in the VC sector. Their fund is the outcome of that meeting. Dorsen was of the opinion that the purpose of initiating this fund was to explore the untouched opportunity with female founders as a focal point. She further went on to say that firms with gender inclusive teams tend to perform better and are very competitive, but not everyone fully understands it so as to generate return out of it.

In a research carried out by Babson college, it was revealed that companies with females in the executive team are 64 percent more likely to have better valuations after the first funding and 50 percent chance to perform better at the last funding.

The founder of the Female Founders Fund, Anu Duggal, said that she visits the Silicon Valley four times a year to interact with partners of the top venture capital funds. She has observed a shift in attitude with a positive change. If the current trend continues, the VC sector and technology market might experience a major shift and massive success in times to come as it moves in the direction of gender equality.

Gender Balance in Venture Capital

May
04

Venture Capital has been in existence for a very long time.

However, the sector has experienced growth and massively evolved during the past two decades. From Facebook to Google, organizations supported by venture capital firms have contributed a lot to the economy. Although the industry is still young as compared to other sectors, one in every five public companies in the United States uses this mode of financing. It is basically used by innovative minds that are high risk takers. Not only do venture capital firms provide funds, but also offer network access, strategic guidance, mentorship, etc.

However, despite the continuous growth, the industry still faces a huge gap between genders as men are leading the venture capital market. In other words, the more it changes, the more it stays the same, especially after analyzing the demographics based on gender.

 

Gender-wise Statistics of the Venture Capital Market

According to a survey, the percentage of women as decision makers in the U.S. based venture capital firms is 7 percent and they control only 4.7 percent of the venture capital (VC) invested in the market during the past five years. Moreover, out of 1,019 professionals who take strategic decisions in 227 VC firms in America, the number of females was just 72. Furthermore, 169 of these firms had no females at a strategic level. These firms managed to raise about $153 Billion within a period of four years from 2012 till 2016, and only $9.51 billion of it was controlled by women.

 

Development Over the Year

Another analysis was conducted last year on sample years between 2011 and 2015. According to that analysis, the percentage of female decision makers was just 5.7 percent in the U.S. based VC firms. It shows an increase in the overall number of women in the industry, representing a 17.7 percent increase in female decision makers at a strategic level.

 

More Investment in Companies with Male Executives

Furthermore, when it comes to which firm gets the venture capital, male majority takes the lead. According to the CB Insights, organizations with men in executive positions receive 98 percent of the venture investments, which is about $1.88 billion.

All in all, there is a need for a lot to be done especially for women in the VC industry. Megan Quinn, a growth investor at Spark Capital, said that every individual has a role to play in this industry, whether it is an entrepreneur, press, or existing VC firm, and she doesn’t agree with the notion that there are not enough qualified women to be in this sector. A small percentage of women depicts the issue of gender inequality in the VC sector and also in the world of technology.

 

Why Lack of Women in VC Persist?

Ann Miura-Ko, a partner at Floodgate, also share the same thoughts as Quinn’s. She said that there was a time when most of the small firms had female decision makers and firms experienced a small increase in applications from women. She further stated that women feel welcome in places where there are more female colleagues as they usually question whether they can fit into male-dominated organizations or not.

The managing partner of New Enterprise Associates (NEA), Scott Sandell, talked about the reason why the VC firms around the world don’t usually have female partners. He pointed out the fact that some women simply leave the place for personal reasons. He also said that people working at a strategic level are usually promoted from within a firm. They make their way up from an associate level all the way to the top. However, he admits the fact that although there is no conscious bias against women, there is probably an element of unconscious bias, which is represented in the form of a small number of females at a strategic level. NEA is currently holding trainings to remove any sort of unconscious bias that may occur in the VC firms. He further added that this issue can easily be resolved and it has a tendency to sort itself out, but it does require attention.

 

Today, women constitute more than 50 percent of the consumers’ spending power and studies have revealed that the absence of female perspective in the board room will ultimately affect the profits.

Women Still Struggling in the World of Technology and Innovation

Apr
13

Although, it seems as if things are moving in a positive direction for female entrepreneurs, there is yet a lot to be done. Women have made accomplishment in every field, but they are still facing a number of challenges, especially when you talk about the increasing number of female startup owners and their ability to get funding.

David S. Ricketts, the senior innovation scholar at the Technology and Entrepreneurship Center at Harvard, said that this is the number one challenge they face when their businesses are experiencing growth.

 

Challenges Faced by Women Entrepreneurs in the IT Sector

Female owners of IT companies have to come across various obstacles when they try to raise capital from venture capital firms. This holds true in case of the Silicon Valley and tech hubs in Amsterdam, Berlin, London. Not only does it adversely affect the progress of women entrepreneurs, but it is also bad for the technology sector, because restraining their leadership and talent hampers the overall growth and impede innovation. Moreover, the gender gap is rapidly increasing around the world, with 90 percent of the venture capital going to male entrepreneurs and only 10 percent retained by female founders. In addition to that, only 10 percent of the strategic level positions in tech companies are occupied by women.

According to the report by the National Women’s Business Council, women invest half the amount of capital invested by men in the startup businesses. It was further mentioned in the report that firms with female founders usually get far less equity financing from venture capitalists and angel investors as compared to companies with male owners, i.e., 14.4 percent vs. 3.6 percent.

Furthermore, only 1.8 percent of the women ask their close family or friends to raise capital as opposed to 9.2 percent men.

 

Female Entrepreneurs in the European Market

A similar trend has been observed in the European market as well, wherein, the IT sector is on the boom, yet the percentage of women leaders is a lot less as compared to men and only a small percentage of venture capital is allocated to startups led by female entrepreneurs. The United Kingdom (UK) is the second biggest startup hub after Berlin. 86 percent of the startups in the UK that receive venture capital funds are owned by men. Whereas, the percentage of angel investment secured by men and women is 56 percent and 44 percent respectively. Unfortunately, even in the IT sector, the distribution of capital is not based on merit.

With such funding constraints, women owned startups in the UK only represent 15 percent of the entire sector. They either revert to self-funding or seek crowdfunding opportunities to survive in the long run.

 

Female Entrepreneurs Generate More Revenue than Male Founders

It is worth noting that female owner companies earn 12 percent more revenue as compared to companies run by men in the IT industry, and their return on investment is 35 percent higher than the firms owned by their male counterparts. If they are given appropriate support, not only do they give better performance, but also make exceptional achievements. This holds true for women living in any part of the world.

 

How Can Female Entrepreneurs Contribute to Better and Sound Economy?

According to one estimate, if women in the UK, who wants to have their own startup companies, get the right support, they can instantly generate more than 300,000 new businesses and create more than 400,000 employment opportunities. Moreover, female-led businesses can contribute to innovation and better quality products with great consumer satisfaction.

 

The U.S. Firms, such as Backstage Capital and Kapor Capital, and the UK firms like Albright are some of the prominent examples of women-led capital firms that have proven to be the game changers in the venture capital (VC) community. To let the innovative and productive ideas flowing in the IT market, VCs should open the doors to give female-led companies a head-start, because it is possible that the owner of the next big unicorn is a female entrepreneur.