The Entrepreneurial Journeys of Women in the London Tech Scene

The Entrepreneurial Journeys of Women in the London Tech Scene

07-Jun-2017 by Triin Linamagi

Last week, on 1st June we were joined by more than a hundred people at the Rainmaking Loft to hear ‘The Journeys of The Entrepreneurial Women in the London Tech Scene.’

Technology is gender neutral, but unfortunately it is a sector that has the most significant gender inequality when it comes to the representation of women. Particularly in FinTech, we don’t often see women in the founding teams of the startups. We would like to change this!

To encourage more women to get involved in technology and entrepreneurship we organized an event in partnership with FrogValley and LendIt. Despite it being a beautiful sunny day in London we were glad to see more than 100 attendees join us.

We were delighted to hear advice from a fantastic panel of women working in the tech industry: Anna Gudmundson, Group CEO at Kin, Lu Li, Founder and CEO of Blooming Founders, UK Ambassador of Women’s Entrepreneurship Day, Wendy Devolder, Founder and CEO of Skills Matter Limited, and Janna Goncharova, Partner Pit Stop Ventures.

The event was moderated by our very own Ghela Boskovich, Head of FinTech and RegTech Partnerships at Startupbootcamp FinTech, and also the Founder & Global Ambassador for Femtech Global.

Ghela commenced the event with a striking overview of key figures and facts regarding gender balance and diversity in tech:

  • Tech companies founded by women outperform all male founding teams by 63%.
  • Companies with the highest levels of gender and racial diversity have nearly 15 times more sales revenues than companies with the lowest levels of diversity; in fact, for every 1% increase in gender and racial diversity of a sales team, there is up to 9% increase in sales revenues – all other things (process, product, strategy) remain unchanged.
  • In 1999 women made up 10% of VC partners (in the US specifically), but in 2015 constituted only 6% of VCs.
  • And by the end of 2017, globally women’s income will be about $16 trillion, which is twice the GDP growth of both China and India combined.
  • Within the next 10 years, it’s projected that women will control 75% of discretionary spending worldwide (which is a hell of a lot of money that can also be redirected to invest in women-founded ventures).

Ghela stressed that diversity is not only about gender or race, but also about education, religion and age. She added that bringing diversity to your business is actually part of a business strategy to differentiate a company in the market and to make its value proposition unique. Difference is an absolute crucial component of doing business.

Following the introduction, our panel shared their stories and professional journeys, challenges encountered and lessons learnt.
Four themes emerged from the panel discussion:

Being part of the Ecosystem: Ecosystem, role model, and the importance of supporting each other is absolutely essential to any business and even more so in the tech industry which is male dominated. During their entrepreneurial journey, our panel have learnt how crucial it is to be part of the community, to expose yourself to new people, to get out there and not to be scared of falling or failing as it is the only way to learn. Resilience is a key element to success. Wendy explained how she experienced challenges in her business on many occasions. However she never gave up, she kept trying until she had THE idea and THE support from her own ecosystem and community that helped her take off.

The importance of Confidence, Language and Body Language: Studies have shown that there is a significant difference between women and men in terms of the way they express themselves and the impact they have on others. For instance a man will say: “I suggest we do that”… whilst a woman, in order to express the exact same idea will say: “if you would like, maybe we should… “ In other words, the language seems less confident and therefore less impactful. However, confidence is essential to drive your success; if you do not show confidence then people will have difficulty in trusting you.

The panel shared one key piece of advice: Often women lack confidence because they compare themselves to others. A way around that is to actually focus your energy on yourself, on what you are capable of doing, and achieving.

Having Passion: Believing in your ideas is the first step to business success. This also translates into your confidence and body language: if you truly believe in what you are doing, then you naturally get people on board. Ghela explained it scientifically via quantum physics and the energy that builds from it. In business, this is similar: you only can create the dynamic, the energy and the reality that represents your business.

Mis-interpretation of language: Speaking of confidence, body language and language, there is something critical that any woman should be aware of when evolving in a male dominated environment:  the mis-interpretation of language that can sometimes lead to uncomfortable situations. In addition, gossip seems to be emerging that women in leadership positions may have had intimate relationships in order to obtain status. Wendy addressed this with an example of a tech woman being regularly invited as a speaker to various events, while being constantly harassed to the point where she stopped being a speaker. This is not a frequent occurrence, but it does happen.

In conclusion, we would like to share some advice to women working in tech or just starting their journey from one of our panelists Anna Gudmundson, Group CEO at Kin:

Be curious about tech and ask all the ‘stupid’ questions – learn fast. You don’t need to code, but understanding how software development works, conceptually, is helpful since it has an impact on business strategy, timing, costs and risk.

Be proud of your area! A successful tech business has a diverse cross-functional team; developers, designers, finance, marketing… Techies should be proud of their tech skills and marketers of their great marketing skills!

Establishing a startup is hard work, so make sure you are really passionate about your business. That passion will fuel you during times when you certainly won’t feel rewarded for your efforts.

Work on yourself. Barriers in a startup are going to have more to do with your psychology than your skills (with the right mindset you will adapt and learn). And, on top of that, personal development makes you stronger and happier!

We’d like to thank all the panelists and attendees for joining us for this insightful evening of discussion. Keep an eye out on Twitter to hear about more events and sign up to our newsletter!