The lost startups

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about 2 years ago by Jessica Brown

The lost startups

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This month has seen great strides for women in the workplace. From Carrie Gracie's fight for equal pay leading to a 5-point plan for the BBC, to over 160 firms pledging to have at least 30% women in senior roles by 2021, through the Women in Finance Charter. Despite this however, this Women's History Month has seen one subsection of women continue to be hidden figures.

Famous startups Zuckerberg, Kalanick, Neumann. Recent research, surveys and data has shown that the fact they're all male is no coincidence. In fact, despite the fact that more women than men have the desire to become a business owner, just 9% of funding into UK start-ups went to women last year.

With no concrete evidence into why women shouldn't be funded, these numbers have been summed up as inherent prejudice. As despite men being 86% more likely to be venture capital funded, US Venture Capital Firm found female-founded businesses outperformed male-run start-ups by 63%. So why when the numbers speak for themselves are women still struggling to get their businesses backed?

Dubbed Start-up sexism, one of the resounding reasons given was that the investment sector still retains an 'old boys club' mentality. Last year, an overhaul of this culture saw Binary Capital Venture Capitalist, Justin Caldbeck, resign from his role after being accused of several counts of sexual harassment, recently attempting an ill-received comeback to "educate young men about the dangers of bro culture". Shortly after, Dave McClure of 500 startups went down a similar route, making "advances towards multiple women in work-related situations, where it was clearly inappropriate."

Unfortunately these men aren't alone, with a study finding that almost 1/5th of female business owners have been propositioned while trying to secure finance. Worryingly, these behaviours are usually likely to go unpunished, as these women are much less likely to report inappropriate behaviours due to a worry they'll harm their business, before it's even off the ground.

Those who've experienced the process have suggested that when investors aren't making inappropriate advances, they are ignoring them all together. A recent survey cited by Female Founders found that almost  of women seeking investment had been told they needed a man to help them with their business. Mary Portas, Government advisor, 'queen of shops', and business woman, wrote on the subject, "there was one Chief Executive who made it very clear that he was only going to address my male business partner, even though I had 90% of the business". Whilst Justine Roberts, who established MumsNet in 1999, states, "even now that MumsNet has grown to be one of the top ten most visited social networks in the UK I still get investors asking me who we have run the business side of things."

Not surprisingly, due to the abundance of off-putting factors, 72% of female founders have used their own credit cards, cash and savings in order to get a business up and running. However not all women can afford to self-fund, which is why Deloitte have estimated the untapped business potential of women could mean the UK economy is missing out on £100 billion every 10 years.

Cited as one of the reasons for the lack of funding offered to female-founders, unfortunately just 13% of decision makers in UK venture capital are women, meaning there's an even bigger risk of a certain type of nepotism pervading the start-up sector. Sophie Jarvis of the Female Founders Forum, writes that "male VCs invest in young guys because they can see themselves and their sons in them". This phenomenon is nothing new, and yet it is causing devastating damage to what could be an abundance of thriving businesses.

With men 56% more likely to secure angel investments than women, companies have been set up to exclusively fill that gap. Angel Academe, who focus most of their energy backing tech startups, with at least one woman on the founding team, keep their focus on diversity, recognizing the benefits and increased returns of diverse teams.

Their mission statement demonstrates a great need that while focusing on improving the work life of women, we don't ignore those out there on their own.