Facebook SheLeadsTech: Scaling your business and tackling gender bias in the startup community

20th Nov 2017
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YourStory is the outreach partner for SheLeadsTech from Facebook.

The current global focus on gender disparity once again puts the spotlight on a very critical challenge that women face in their workplaces. For women entrepreneurs, this challenge comes in addition to a number of others – which include finding an investor, hiring new talent, scaling up, making their venture profitable.

What can women do when faced with prejudices and gender biases at work? How do they build a profitable business model? These and several other questions were answered on a chilly evening in Bengaluru as part of Facebook’s SheLeadsTech meetup held in the city.

Understanding the startup game

The event, held at CoWrks, brought together the likes of Rashmi Daga, Founder at Freshmenu, Aruna Schwarz, Founder and CEO at Stelae Technologies, Harsha Kumar, Venture Investor at Lightspeed Ventures, and Jyotsna Pattabiraman, Founder and CEO at Grow Fit, to share their experiences in the startup community.

From L to R: Aruna Schwarz, Founder and CEO at Stelae Technologies and Jyotsna Pattabiraman, Founder and CEO at Grow Fit

Speaking on the occasion, Rashmi said, “When I completed my engineering, all my friends were preparing to write their GRE and go to the USA. However, I couldn’t go there, so I had figure out something to do here itself.” She went on to do her MBA and joined the corporate world but later realised that her calling was completely different. Rashmi quit her job at IBM and went on to start FreshMenu, an online food delivery company for the health-conscious.

Rashmi Daga, Founder at Freshmenu

“The dream was to have a listed company. But back then, the concept of a startup was not very widely known. After I moved to Bangalore, I decided to work at a startup to understand how one works, before I started my own firm,” she explained. Daga added that it all comes down to knowing the rules of the startup world. Her learning was that you don’t have too much money and barely any resources, but you have to acquire customers to scale.

On the issue of preconceived notions about women, both in general and from investors, Rashmi said, “Yes, unfortunately gender bias exists. But it’s all about asking yourself - can I challenge the status quo?”

Shunning stereotypes

For Harsha, coding has been her entire life. She started coding at 14, and was the first product person to join the Ola Cabs team. Jyotsna is an all-in-one entrepreneur who has worked in almost every function -- from product engineering to hiring. Aruna, on the other hand, founded a technology startup run only by four people which works with some of the biggest global brands such as Rolls Royce and Lagardere. The three were part of a panel discussion on power-up strategies for funding and scaling, and also shared tips on how they could deal with biases in the startup world.

(Centre) Harsha Kumar, Venture Investor at Lightspeed Ventures

Talking about how you can get investors to give you a cheque, Aruna said, “You have to be yourself. You, as the founder are the only one who can represent the company. You can take a co-founder with you, but unless you’re totally synced, your story will not be believable.

Harsha added, “Preparation is everything, in spite of your gender, every VC is interested only in how well you’re growing and learning. It’s all about how well you can answer the ‘why’ at every stage.”

The three encouraged more women to venture into entrepreneurship, and to fight any prejudice to go after their dreams.

So, if you are a woman founder/co-founder, and have a tech-enabled startup or app, the SheLeadsTech programme is exactly what you need in order to grow. Be a part of this programme. Find out how to apply here.

 

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