To Scale Startups, Female Founders Think Beyond VC

Experts talk Scaling Female Founders at eMerge Americas

Despite a microscope being placed on the lack of capital received by women entrepreneurs, there has been no upward movement since Babson College released the Diana Report, unveiling that women founders received less than 3% of venture capital.

But, as the challenges continue, women founders are blazing new paths toward startup success.

Changing the Narrative

At one of the largest tech-meets-innovation conferences in the world, eMerge Americas, thousands of individuals assembled to talk startup culture, celebrate entrepreneurs, and bring new ideas to life. Babson College’s Center for Women’s Entrepreneurial Leadership gathered powerhouse investors, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders for a full day of programming on the Women, Innovation, and Technology (WIT) Stage, where one of storylines woven throughout the day was women building big businesses despite lacking access to venture capital funding.

“There’s a story that isn’t being told in the startup world,” said Michelle Abbs, director of Babson’s Women Innovating Now (WIN) Lab® – Miami. “It’s the story of women entrepreneurs growing and scaling businesses despite the fact that they are being left out of the venture capital models.”

And, those businesses are certainly scaling.

While VC might not be fueling their growth, women are still building multi-million dollar companies in ways that simply make good businesses sense. “Ninety-three percent of the fastest growing companies on the Inc. 5000 list did not take venture capital funding,” said Melissa Withers, eMerge panelist and co-founder of revenue-based investment firm RevUp Capital. Additionally, only 4% of the 50 Fastest Growing Women-led Companies in the U.S. in 2018 took funds from private investors and angels while 70% of them utilized their own funds.

A New Reality

Women face immense challenges in acquiring funding, but VC capital is difficult for anyone to obtain. During her talk, Withers noted that a high school football player has a better shot at being selected by the National Football League than a founder has of acquiring venture capital for their company. This is a reality often forgotten by the startup world and early-stage founders who are looking for the big check as a marker of startup success. Though, attention is slowly starting to be given to a new wave of entrepreneurs who are actively avoiding the VC route, in part because it may not always be good for business.

The Future

Efforts will continue in leveling the playing field for women entrepreneurs, through initiatives like the Women Innovating Now (WIN) Lab, an accelerator designed specifically for female founders, and the Diana International Impact Day, a global convening of stakeholders determined to move the funding needle forward. And, while those efforts continue, women CEOs will remain strategic, creative, and diligent in building business despite being left out of the venture capital equation. As Withers concluded, “We’ve been very busy building a new world, moving capital in new ways and building companies despite the investors who ignored us.”

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