Let’s talk Women Entrepreneurs

Images This week in NY Magazine one of the articles is called Bubble Boys.  A piece on a few young men men who hope to be the next Zuckerberg.  The knee jerk reaction from many people is why just men, aren't there any women out in Silicon Valley building businesses from scratch and coding until 3am.  But more to the point is when is NY Magazine going to actually write an article about all the women entrepreneurs in NYC who are growing businesses, gaining traction, getting funded and creating local economies here in the town they write about.  Is it that difficult to do that piece? It sure as hell would be a lot more powerful and create a significant buzz in the street.  Maybe the editors at NYMag believe that going out to Silicon Valley and finding young men who are coding until 3am at Stanford University isn't that hard to find so it is an easy article.  Guess what, it isn't that hard to find impressive women entrepreneurs in NYC either.  We were easily able to fill 30 seats of panelists at the Womens Entrepreneur Festival for January.  Maybe NY Magazine should send one of their writers out to cover it.  

There was a tweet this week that caused quite an uproar in the womens community.  A woman tweeted out that she wanted women to stop making start-ups around fashion, beauty and making babies.  There is no doubt many.  I have seen plenty myself.  Many of them in the fashion world are doing the exact same thing attempting to build a better mousetrap or help the old school retailers do a better job of selling their products.  These businesses make a small percentage for that lead gen which does not compute into a large scale revenue model.  That is the part I find frustrating. 

Women tend to build businesses that fill voids in their lives.  Doesn't mean there aren't women thinking about disruptive businesses that affect people globally but in general women do lean towards creating platforms that they want to use themselves.  I am a huge fan of the woman entrepreneur.  Many are great managers, create good environments, think deeply about the brand and the product and I could go on and on.  After all, women are different animals than men which is why I like to see balanced gender businesses regardless of who is the entrepreneur. 

Would I like to see more women create businesses that are not fashion or beauty based, yes.  Are we seeing any men dip their toes into that vertical…not really.   Yet if women don't, who will.  Look at Birchbox, Gilt, Net-a-Porter and Rent the Runway to name a few that were all started by women and are substantial businesses.  Let's not forget that. Who will be the game changer in the home decor business? 

I so applaud what many women have created in the areas of fashion and beauty but I am very excited about many of the women that I am seeing now who are dipping their toes in to the water where men are not going like some content businesses and am also excited to see women businesses that have nothing to do with fashion, beauty or babies.  

Here is my response to that tweet, does anyone ever tweet out that they want to see men stop creating large data driven back end tech platforms?  The beauty of capitalism is that the cream will rise to the top.  Women should keep creating new businesses because no matter what the vertical, there will be a few winners or perhaps many with niche businesses and that is what is going to help grow our economy. 

As for NY Magazine…seriously, come on.


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Comments (Archived):

  1. Cindy Gallop

    Great post, Joanne!

    1. Gotham Gal

      thanks Cindy.

  2. Rohan

    ‘As for NY Magazine…seriously, come on.’ haha

  3. Steven Yevoli

    Great post. I have had the great fortune of working with incredible women in tech and media.  In our latest venture, the overwhelming majority of the senior management are women and I have found it is truly what gives us an advantage.  Look at Gilt Groupe – may have been started by a man but he was smart enough to partner with  strong women executives who have taken that company to a whole other level.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Gilt was actually started by 2 women

      1. Steven Yevoli

        Oh, I thought it was founded by Kevin Ryan

        1. Steven Yevoli

          Correction – looks like we are both correct 😉 Kevin founded it along with Alexis and Alexandra. 

          1. Guest

            If NY Mag wasn’t being lazy here, http://bit.ly/r6kMyi, Ryan founded it (knocking off Vente Privee), found Alexis through an executive search firm and she brought in Alexandra.  He gave them both co-founder titles and the rest is the work of a PR team. 

          2. Guest

            The above “Guest” is my comment.  Not trying to be anonymous… just having Disqus issues!

          3. Gotham Gal

            i know alexandra and that is not the story she tells. so it wasn’t being lazy, it was straight from the horses mouth.

        2. Gotham Gal

          nope. Alexandra Wilkis Wilson and Alexis Maybank.

  4. Susan Wilson

    Think about this:  Do you think women need smaller amounts of money to get their startups capitalized – $25K-$50K vs. $250K-$500K that a man would seek for a comparable venture.  My hunch is yes.  We’ve seen the amazing impact & domino effect <$2500 creates when invested in a female entrepreneur in a 3rd world country.  It’s roughly a 10x issue.  The U.S. version of microfinancing for women entrepreneurs.  Only the 10X goes in the opposite direction this country is used to – thinking smaller instead of bigger.  It’s a new funding niche FundHer’s working to create and prove.  IT CAN work and just may be the solution that tilts the playing field.  Plenty of organizations support & mentor women entrepreneurs, but FundHer is FUNDING THEM DIRECTLY! I’m raising a $1Million fund to invest up to $50K/startup exclusively in female-led startups across verticals and industries.  Clearly this is new territory so I’m having to crowdfund the initiative (vs. doing NOTHING and talking some more).  The goal is to get 1 million people to give at least $1.It’s a passion project so I’m doing everything myself AND I could certainly use some help & support to make this happen – to create awareness so people give AND to create a solid team to manage the investments.  Any volunteers?  Gotham Gal?Women entrepreneurs think differently & I’d argue more practically about the businesses we build simply bc for centuries it’s the only option we had if we wanted to be entrepreneurial.  Which is why I find Eric Ries’ LeanStartUp both annoying & admirable. I don’t disagree w/the concept or model, but the truth is MOST entrepreneurs have been building businesses this way OUT OF SHEER NECESSITY for a LONG time!  Yet Ries coins manly terms like MVP (Minimum Viable Product) and duct-tapes some marketing around the age-old concept and is declared a genius for thinking up a “revolutionary” model for entrepreneurship.  Deep breath…okay back to what matters.  Any volunteers, hit me up @FundHer or [email protected].  Thx!

    1. Gotham Gal

      that is very cool.  i will check it out. i have seen many men and women take a little amount of cash and grow something significant.  so not sure it is only a woman thing. what are you looking to invest in?  angel investing in companies that you believe in that are started by women entrepreneurs?  nyc based or anywhere?tell us more

      1. Susan Wilson

        I posted a f/u response yesterday but not seeing it here, please tell me u’ve printed and framed it so it’s now mounted on ur wall (vs. lost in space)????

  5. Penny Herscher

    Joanne – I run a “large data driven back end tech platform” company in Silicon Valley – and it is a company run by technical women. The CEO (me), my COO (YY Lee), and my MD in India (Aparna Gupta) – are all deeply technical and love what we do.While we are certainly unusual, the NYMag article was ridiculous and simply did not present the reality of silicon valley. I think it presented the lazy view – it’s easier to write a story about a few young white guys than it is to do the research on the breadth of where the venture money is really going.Penny HerscherFirstRain CEO

    1. Gotham Gal

      I totally agree with you. Pure lazinessI’d love to talk to you about your company. Will send you a direct email Lets hear it for the woman programmers!!!

    2. Anne Libby

      I’m also wondering whether it’s easier for them to find the men because they’re willing to “stand on a table and say I rule” — which is something I read here a while back about something we don’t do as often as men do.We tend to keep our heads down and do a good job, rather than to promote ourselves…and I think this is borne out by research by Sylvia Ann Hewlett.I’ve been watching my bschool’s student business plan competition over the last couple of years.   Though women’s enrollment is now consistently north of 40% the last few years, they’re not so well represented in the competition.   I’m trying to figure this one out, too, so as to be able to influence this one through mentoring and sponsorship.

      1. Gotham Gal

        you could be right. women are generally not ones to stand on a table and pound their chests about their accomplishments.

        1. candice

          I remember when I was in college the first time, late 90s, I was dissed, hardcore, in public in front of my peers, for talking about what I’d accomplished at all.  (It took me five minutes to find a way to put the experience into polite words.)  A guy says the exact same thing and doesn’t gets called out for bragging, he gets props.It’s not just that “we don’t have a tendency to” – some of us have had hugely negative experiences from “bragging” about our work.   

          1. Susan Wilson

            Damn, hit the wrong reply area.  See my reply to Gotham Girl’s reply to ur post (please).  XO!

          2. Gotham Gal

            pull up your boot straps and brag again. i am sure that puts you in a position that is intimidating to other people but there is certainly a way to let the world know your accomplishments without being slammed for shouting them out.

          3. candice

            I have, since then, that was over ten years ago; and I stuck it out and things got better after a few years. I got my revenge eventually, too. 🙂  I just wonder how many women have been silenced like that, because it was pretty clearly the point of all the negativity.  The second time I went to college I had nothing to lose; I was much older than all my fellow CS undergrads and they all respected me for having held programming jobs in “the real world” and it was a lot better.(I think this comment got eaten in e-mail…)

          4. Gotham Gal

            I hope this next generation of women shout more. Also there is something to be said about age as we realize that if you build it they will notice

        2. Susan Wilson

          The group of women in comedy last night on the Emmy’s CLEARLY demonstrated what WE ARE good at AND it’s b/c our brains are literally hardwired that way.  Amy Pohler led the way when the nominees were announced but she walked her but up on stage (remember, the nominees not the winner) and EVERY female after her followed suit.  Clearly Amy planned her move but every woman after her seemed to have to think WTF do I do?  Go up there?  They didn’t think, “what if I don’t win?” (or at least it didn’t matter to them).  Instead NOT one woman left Amy hanging in the wind, and they all went up, held hands and truly celebrated the person that won.Men could never have pulled that off (nor would they want to b/c I’m sure it made them incredibly uncomfortable to even watch).  I LOVED IT and so did my husband btw (but that’s another discussion).  It was a badass move on Amy’s part BUT it clearly proves women don’t pound on our chests b/c we truly are communal as a gender.  Doesn’t mean we can’t be catty.  But the fact is that while men had to compete & hunt to survive, women had to find a way to get along and work together so the species would survive….And no, I’m not a scientist.  I learned all of this digging into women & business (vs. men).  And THAT’s why I’m so frustrated w/resources & dollars thrown at programs that aim primarily to change women so we can think & act more like men to become more successful in the man’s world of business.  What I’m saying is, let’s take those same dollars & resources (or others for that matter) and instead of focus on changing women, focus on helping women change the world…thus FundHer.

  6. Dana

    Couldn’t agree more. I’ve been a female entrepreneur in NYC for the last few years, and it’s definitely surprising how many women are running incredible businesses here and yet not being covered. Especially, for a journalist, it’s really not that hard to find us…Here’s a good starting point: http://www.afieldguideto.com/ Though I am not a technical person coding til 3am, I am the business owner who has built the site from the ground up (often up til 3am), achieving substantial traction in a short 18 month lifespan. It sounds like the debate is around technical prowess vs substance and application, and it feels like women are more creating sites of substance and being discounted for not being “hard enough.” At the end of the day, we’re all just trying to create a solution for a problem that we see in the market, and it should be equally impressive, however you get there. Insight based execution also takes intelligence, and sometimes it takes that kind of consumer insight to really build something meaningful and useful.In fact, I was just communicating with one of our users last night (who’s husband randomly happens to be a startup CEO in Silicon Valley, so she totally got it), and she said:”Can’t remember how I ended up stumbling on your site but I’m glad I did. It was the ‘prettiest’ (some of the other ones are designed for boys by boys and boys are clueless that it’s really girls that will organize umpteen million events that would benefit from group gifts – weddings, showers, kid parties, holidays, graduations, ……)You’re site design and all your imagery is REALLY easy to use. Good luck with everything, …and hopefully you can leap ahead of the competition that is mounting in this area. Remember. Girl-Power. We pay for everything anyway…”It would be nice if people could see more than just geek boys running successful businesses, and sometimes, it turns out, NOT being one is just the ticket to get the platform right. You can always outsource the technical, but not vision, insight and execution.

    1. Erica Sietsma

      Thank you Dana for the link!  And thank you for JoAnne for the great article.  had promised myself I wouldn’t check my email this weekend…ooops….but then I saw your email JoAnne and the title, so then of course, I just had to check!   I’m actually doing a retreat this weekend all around “finding my calling and going for it” with an organization called She Creates Change and it is definitely a women’s empowerment organization, yet as I think about my calling (just had break through last week – I know I want to stay in technology, but be in education vs. automotive where I am now and not passionate about at all), I haven’t really cared about the leadership of the organization – UNTIL NOW!  I’m sure a good amount of the education technology companies in the city are run by men, but there has to be a few that are founded and run by women and as I work on “manifesting” my ideal job in this space, one of the things I’m adding to the list is female entrepreneur….and with your link Dana, I’m one step closer.

      1. Arielle

         you’re welcome! glad it was useful. good luck 🙂

  7. HesterF

    I understand the frustration with this article, but I am more frustrated with the tweet. I am so tired of women limiting other women. I’ve seen it my entire life and just want to yell “STFU!” when I see/hear these inane comments. For whatever reason, men are raised to be team players, to support and encourage each other. Women, not so much. The women that are creating these businesses are certainly filling niches and they are doing it with an interest to the product and the consumer. It’s kind of like old fashioned customer service. These women are truly interested in the products/services they are selling to an under served market. Maybe these entrepreneurs will never be the giants, but I’ll bet you anything they are really, really happy and fulfilled in their professional lives.Why do you think so many women take a break to have children, then have a hard time going back to what they were doing before? Our lives are about passion and priority, and beauty, fashion, babies, baking, etc. are where we find fulfillment more often than not. Life is too short and hard to spend it doing something we aren’t passionate about, and men have known this all along. They generally aren’t asked to sacrifice. My goal is to create a candle company (yes, I said candle) in which the employees have flexibility to be with their families and raise their children whilst making a survivable wage. Making candles fulfills a creative void in my life, and I can do it while my children sleep and my husband works 80 hours/wk at a job he loves. The company and structure fill a desire to create something substantial and scalable. So, to the dismissive tweeter I say, don’t discount me because I dream of candles. And, if I fail, at least I tried. Can you say that?

    1. Gotham Gal

      If having a candle company is your thing…bravo.  You should do what makes you happy as we all should.  I think that is why many women get off the train to raise families.  It makes them happy but down the line when they try to re-enter the workforce there is a rude awakening that staying home for years makes them question their own identity. having a company that creates a unique opportunity for families…i hope more people do that. 

  8. RyanComfort

    The article (when it’s written someday) will not only bring attention to the diversity in the start up world, it will also provide valuable insight into the different ways women leaders think and operate. I know I have learned a lot from Women Entrepreneur Mondays.I would love to know how the community views male founders in verticals that are typically dominated by women. Are they welcomed? Are there any good examples? Does anyone have advice for one (me!)?

    1. Gotham Gal

      I believe that men are totally embraced. everybody brings a different thought perspective to the party.

  9. Marian Mangoubi

    A great article, especially loved the comments from many of the innovative women.  I too have gotten tired of women being discounted and of the argument that we can not be found.  This is a bs argument that really doesn’t hold much water.  I started my business, Sassy CEO, to profile women tech (co-)founders so that we can stop being ignored.  In less than 1 year, I have managed to identify at minimum 550 women founders across the country.  If that’s how many I’ve identified, think about how many are flying under the radar.For any out there that I don’t yet have on my list, let me know about you.  We do a weekly business news recap on tech companies (co-)founded by women called In The Know.  We’d love to hear your news and be able to share it with our audience.  Send your news to intheknow[at]sassyceo.comAlso, Gotham Gal, I’d love to connect with you to cross-reference our lists.  See if I have some you don’t yet know about and vice versa.  My email address is marian[at]sassyceo.com

  10. Laura Yecies

    Thanks for writing this post and bringing the article to my attention.  There is clearly an alternative model for entrepreneurial success.  I wrote this blog post http://thekitchensync.co/20… to make that point.  Would love any feedback.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Nice post. Loved the last line