Why new-age investors need to invest in gender inclusive ventures in the consumer sector
The gender disparity in the startup and VC ecosystem is bleak, but we already know it. It could be that we’ve been looking at the problem all wrong. There are a lot of good people targeting gender upliftment in the conventional sense.
However, in our ecosystem, this completely misses the point. We believe that women founders or having a woman in the founding team is actually a competitive advantage. This reframes the perspective and highlights the importance of supporting women founders and dispels the ‘charitable’ perception of such motives. We refer to this as ‘gender as a moat’.
Investors, both angel and institutional, would benefit significantly by paying heed to this open secret.
The reasons for fewer women founding companies are nuanced. However, there are some areas we’ve identified where we can proactively look to help women founders.
As a disclaimer, we spoke to a lot of female founders and these are some of the broad areas that women founders have extensively highlighted as places they faced challenges. Of course, this varies widely by the founder’s background and startup genres. For context, the vast amount of deal flow that the fund I manage looks at is across consumer and media segments.
1. Finance and fundraising - Fundraising, at times, can be a foreign concept and many women founders have told us that they believe they can do without fundraising, don’t need it, and don’t outright see the benefits of raising additional capital.
Other issues such as MIS management and in depth finance functions do concern some founders. On the darker side, some are reluctant to go down the funding path due to the biases of a few investors asking ridiculous questions such as how they would balance work and life after marriage or after having children.
These are real concerns and can be addressed through VCs working with founders to help them with their financial planning as well as benchmarking for additional fundraises.
2. Vendor and dealing with legacy institutions - Dealing with third party manufacturers and patriarchal structures including, but not limited to direct government interactions, can also prove to be challenging. Again, here too, VC-accelerators such as ours can expose their strong relationships in the product development world to ease the pain a bit.
3. It is also important to leverage the community of female founders as there is a strong sense of empathy and comfort, with founders having faced similar challenges in the past.
On a more positive note, women led companies such as Wingreens, Mamaearth, Sugar, etc., have shown us the strength and success that strong women founders can bring. These include,
Empirically by working closely with the women led companies in our portfolio as well through research we’ve seen the strengths of women as strong organisational leaders.
They are cool and balanced as well as adaptable to change. They can also drive a strong cultural identity for the organisation.
Marketing and Product
In our area of focus, i.e., consumer brands/DTC, marketing is a critical function. One industry that indexes higher for women leaders is advertising and marketing.
Women have an innately strong understanding of the consumer journeys. Also strong aesthetics and by association, brand building is something that comes naturally to many of the women leaders we’ve worked with.
We’ve worked with strong women leaders that rely on their intuition alongside data and this is a potent combination that drives growth. They are clear about what they want and drive results.
These are just a few of the standout traits. The ecosystem is evolving very quickly. The emergence of successful role models in the startup ecosystem has triggered a virtuous cycle. We’re happy to play a small part in that journey.
Edited by Megha Reddy
(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)