If you’re a female founder, you’ve undoubtedly heard the depressing stats: For the second year in a row, female-led companies have raised just 2.2% of venture capital investment and 74% of U.S. VC firms still have zero female investors.
But there’s a lot of silver lining: Galvanized by these numbers, there are so many new efforts to shift this balance through coaching, community-building, and increasing access to funding.
When I launched Motivote, a social accountability solution for young voters, as a NYU Wagner MPA student, I also stumbled upon an incredible ecosystem of women-supporting-women.
To do my part to celebrate Women’s History Month, I wanted to share some of the female-focused programming and platforms I’ve found valuable in my founder journey over the past year. Some are IRL programs that you can apply for or simply attend. Others are online communities. All are great ways to meet others on the same path, build relationships with advisors and investors, and get inspired by how many women out there are doing amazing things.
SheWorx - SheWorx is a global platform and event series empowering female entrepreneurs to build and scale successful companies. There are plenty of ways to get involved, from panels to fundraising bootcamps, the best way to get your toes wet is by attending a breakfast. With bagels, coffee and a great mix of other female founders, you’ll listen to advice and ask questions of leading investors, facilitated by founder Lisa Wang. Time for mingling after the formal conversation means you can walk away with 25 new female-founder-friends.
WE Talks - WE Talks’ is a monthly event series for female entrepreneurs spearheaded by Lana Pozhidaeva, who was driven to create a supportive environment for professional women after negative experiences with the traditional “networking” scene.
I was a finalist at their inaugural WE Pitch event back in November. Not only was it an incredible opportunity to get substantive but stress-free feedback from world-class investors like Anu Duggal and Fran Hauser, but the continued support and connections just keep rolling in. At least once a week, I’m at an event where someone recognizes me from the pitch and I’ve developed relationships with new advisors and coaches since then.
Women’s Entrepreneur Bootcamp - Now accepting applications for its 4th cohort, the Women’s Entrepreneur Bootcamp is a day-long program that brings together female founders, advisors and investors for hands-on advice. Last year’s presentations included Dana Kanze on how the type of questions that female versus male entrepreneurs get asked explains gender discrepancies in funding and Diane DiResta on delivering a perfect pitch, including what to do with your hands and what to say if you trip on your way up.
Most importantly, the intimacy of the small group fostered close and lasting connections. Two folks I happened to chat with at the cocktail hour have become meaningful Motivote advisors, and I continue to have check-ins with investors I was paired with during one-on-one coaching sessions.
Point 25 - Orchestrated by Alicia Syrett, Point 25 matches women-led companies with potential C-level advisors for their advisory boards. At this curated event, you’ll hear from four accomplished executives on their interests, strengths, and visions for an advisor relationship with an early-stage startup. Then, each advisor meets with founders in small groups to hear about their businesses and needs.
Shine Registry - Want to build community while getting critical resources into your startup? Founded by amazing female founder and friend Emily Wazlak, Shine Registry hosts profiles of businesses with wedding registry-style lists of the stuff that they need. If you’re a founder, post any of your needs big (pro bono legal help, pitch prep) to small but powerful (a social media follow, office supplies, a pep talk). Want to support others? Scope out the listings and show some love. There are so many ways to contribute without spending a dime.
Elpha - I love checking on the daily insightful and raw conversations taking place on Elpha, a new private online community of women in tech. You’ll access AMAs from powerhouses like Jess Lee of Sequoia Capital and Emily Weiss of Glossier and discuss the latest news in startup world, but I think the most valuable part is connecting with other women who have the same victories and struggles. Found a great opportunity you want to share? Not sure how to size your market? Feeling totally burnt out and want someone to commiserate? That’s all on Elpha!
IRL + URL
LunchClub - A new people-matching platform that brings together the best of digital and real-life worlds. I’ve tried a few “networking apps” where plan-making goes back-and-forth and then fizzles out, much the way it happens on dating apps. Lunchclub is the most tailored and actionable approach to networking I’ve come across. It forces you (and I mean that in the best possible way) to get out of your comfort zone to meet someone new and awesome.
You set up a quick profile with your background, interests, and what type of people you’d like to meet. Each Monday they email you to pick a few times and neighborhoods that work for the coming week. Then the magic happens: You end up with an email intro to someone who fits your criteria and schedule, and you pick a spot to meet for breakfast, lunch or drinks. (You can always reschedule if something comes up.) I’ve met fellow co-founders, consultants, and others who have helped me in my journey, while broadening my social circle.
(Note: LunchClub is for any professionals who want to network, not only for female founders, but it’s a great place to meet fellow entrepreneurs.)