COVID-19: What Does it Mean for Female Technology Entrepreneurs?
COVID-19 is the new normal. Almost everybody I know is under partial or complete lock down, courtesy of the virus. Seattle was the epicenter of COVID-19 in the United States and I live 30 minutes away. The pandemic has had a crippling effect on human lives since it broke out in Wuhan. Although it took sometime, it is right around the corner of our home. In Bengaluru, India my family is facing the same consequences as me and there is nothing I can do but worry. But where do we go once this is over?
My home-country India has a population of over 1.3 Billion people and all of them are at home due to the lock down. What does this shutdown mean for female technology entrepreneurs in the country?
“In the Indian startup industry, roughly 10% are female founders,” Former secretary, Department of Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT), Ramesh Abhishek said (Economic Times). Furthermore, according to Innoven Capital, a venture debt and lending platform, the number of funded startups with at least one female co-founder declined from 17% in 2018 to 12% in 2019 (Livemint)
These numbers ought to get worse due the economic crisis brought by the pandemic. What opportunities do we create for female technology entrepreneurs to come out this without losing the progress they have made in the startup industry so far?
Yes, technology is the answer but how do we empower women to build technology with systems to see us through such times in the future?
I believe Micro-actions and Micro-learning is the key to getting out of this crisis without losing it all. I co-founded a community organisation called Women in Cloud about three years ago. Our mission: to take action with global leaders and policy makers to help women entrepreneurs create $1 billion in economic opportunity by 2030. But coronavirus pandemic has forced us to cancel several events and campaigns, including the Women in Cloud Microsoft Accelerator launch in New York which was scheduled in March. Without predicting the future, the current situation suggests that we may have to push our Accelerator launch in India as well, which is scheduled for August.
Women in Cloud as a community believes that women business owners and entrepreneurs in technology need to be given access and opportunities to create economic impact. So, do we pause until things are back to normal and stay stagnant when the whole world is forced to do it?
COVID 19 should be looked at as a case study in the future to help us navigate life and business in such times. As a tech entrepreneur, I believe in creating new opportunities to make up for the lost ones with technology. But the process of creating those opportunities is going to be a long one with no roadmap to follow. The first step would be to educate myself about the situation and re-educate myself about technology. This will allow me to identify the loopholes we currently have in the system and tackle it. Cancelling events and programs was and is the safe and right thing to do, but that did not stop the Women in Cloud team from releasing $1B economic access campaigns to drive awareness of economic access. We launched our digital accelerator to create the same impact and opportunity for technology businesses led by women.
What was initially bound only to New York is now a global accelerator program with entrepreneurs from India, Singapore and the United Kingdom joining us. In addition, to bring the connection and belonging, I am hosting a virtual happy hour for people to find solutions to complex challenges we face.
Currently, as an entrepreneur and a problem solver, I am faced with a unique problem in making sure we do not lose the progress we have made over the last few years in the next few months. My sole advice to other entrepreneurs and leaders, who are in the similar situation is, do not stop. Take tiny steps forward. Get on that call, finish your blog, draft a digital campaign and find a way to keep things moving. Because as they say, the show must go on!
I spend most of my free time these days thinking about one particular project; The COVID-19 Impact Survey. I cannot help but wonder, when all this is over, what will be the impact on global health, wealth and life. Hence, I worked with my team and community partners to create a survey and accounts of this pandemic, to understand the repercussions this pandemic has had, how to recover from it and further prepare ourselves for any such unforeseen health crisis in the future. The intention was to create an economic report with insights and policy recommendations to ensure economic stimulus packages are also considering women tech entrepreneurs.
This is not the first pandemic the human kind has witnessed. But it is the first pandemic to affect modern society as we know it. I believe if we do not document it, we will not learn from it or worse, prepare ourselves for the next one. Can we escape this pandemic? No! I am very much prepared to survive this should I contract the virus. However, in either scenario we cannot stop living our lives completely. We can only work our way through this by being optimistically realistic and that is what I intend to do.
Take the Women in Cloud COVID-19 Impact Survey and help us document this crisis to draft a better plan and create long-term solutions for the future. My vision is to develop a specific report for India which can be shared with the Prime Minister Office and his leadership, who understand the measures and policies we need to put in place collectively to ensure we bridge the dent caused by this pandemic and further pursue our goal. I am more than determined to bring Women in Cloud to India, especially in the wake of this crisis because, now more than ever we need to pool our resources, knowledge and experience together to ensure the growth of a sustainable society.