Start Them Up
These tech-savvy women are breaking the mold
As women and mothers who didn’t study engineering and don’t wear hoodies to business meetings, Dawn Davidson and Anna Kenoff are not your typical technology startup founders. In fact, just ten percent of today’s tech startups are founded by women, and female founders often find it challenging to secure investors. Davidson, who founded FullBottle, a digital advertising platform for youth marketers, experienced the effects of this firsthand. “We thought that having female founders would open doors to different funds, but it has not proven to be the case,” says the Pound Ridge mother of two.
There are many reasons for this, and part of it has to do with the fact that only four percent of venture capital (VC) partners are women—including this writer. Earlier this year, I left a long career in digital media to join a venture capital firm, where I’m committed to empowering women entrepreneurs and changing the ratio.
Despite the statistics, female founders have gained serious momentum in the last few years—and there’s a valid reason for it. According to Women 2.0, tech startups with women executives achieve a 35-percent higher return on investment.
Kenoff, who lives in Bedford and is co-creator of Morpholio—a startup that builds mobile apps for designers, artists, and photographers—says, “My instincts are that the growth rate of female-led startups is exponential compared to the growth of female leadership over time in fields like banking, accounting, and law.”
Part of that has to do with the tech sector’s relatively progressive stance on where and how work gets done. It used to be that living in the suburbs and having a family was seen as a liability for female leaders. Unfortunately, many VC partners still feel that way. According to Davidson, “There is definitely a perception that as a female living in the suburbs, you’re not as accessible. You’re spending time at home with the kids and not in the midst of the action.”
But the tech center is worlds ahead of other sectors in this regard. “In the technology world, or the virtual world, there is no suburb. You can be anywhere as long as you are plugged in,” says Kenoff. As technology and culture continue to evolve, it is likely that more VCs will change their minds about the leadership qualifications of suburban moms.
While startup founders can work from virtually anywhere, the Bedford area has proved to be an especially effective home base for Kenoff and Davidson. In addition to its proximity to New York City, Bedford’s local community of strong women has been critical to the duo’s success. “I’ve met an incredible array of Bedford women who keep me inspired daily, and found a tremendous support network here in a very short time, which is essential when juggling the demands of a startup and a young family,” says Kenoff.
As the number of female startup founders continues to rise, the role of networks and relationships in shaping women’s success will as well. “What has been hidden for many years is the network that working women have been building in the ’burbs to support each other. While we juggle building a business and raising our families, we are creating some of the most successful companies,” Davidson says.
What’s important is that women make these networks more visible and commit to sharing the stories of successful women entrepreneurs. “The more examples we can provide through media and locally in our communities, the more we will begin to foster the confidence in women to make the leap,” says Davidson.
Kenoff agrees: “It is critical that we make women’s contributions more known as well as make sure that the networks of mentoring and funding are visible and thereby accessible.”