In Search of Women Entrepreneurs

I am a woman. I am an entrepreneur. I meet hundreds of entrepreneurs each year. Very, very few of them are women. Sometimes, I wonder why this is. Women start businesses, lots and lots of businesses. Just, apparently, not technology businesses. Or at least not venture-based technology businesses.

The stats have changed very little over the last 20 years. Less – much less – than 10% of venture-based technology companies have a woman on the founding team. Some have argued that venture is a male-dominated business and that women are not made welcome at the table. There are plenty of tales to support that perspective and enough anecdotal evidence to suggest there is some truth to it.

Having worked with the Forum for Women Entrepreneurs and Executives for a decade, and serving on the board for most of that time, I’ve reached a different conclusion. Women build different kinds of businesses from men and they fund them differently – usually through hard work and organic growth rather than venture capital infusion. The women in FWE&E are impressive, tremendously successful. They start, build, run, and sell remarkable businesses across a range of market and service sectors. Only a small number of them have used venture capital money to do so.

So while I can point to dozens of tech-related businesses launched and run by women, it’s tougher to call to mind the women who did so with the backing of the VC community. Diane Green at VMWare; Anu Shukla, who started Rubiconsoft, Rubric, and now MyOfferPal; Kim Polese, founder of Marimba and SpikeSource. There are others, of course, but I run out of names well before I run out of fingers and toes to count them on.

So, it’s little wonder that questions linger: why aren’t more women getting venture backing? Do women face bias in the venture community? Or, perhaps, do women simply prefer different strategies for building and growing their businesses?

Regardless of the answers, the questions alone make for opportunities to promote women entrepreneurs, which is exactly what the Women 2.0 Business Plan Competition is designed to do.

The Women 2.0 Business Plan Competition gives women entrepreneurs witha chance to pitch their ideas to a panel of investors and industry experts (among them, me). Teams with at least 50% female ownership are invited to submit their business ideas on a 7×7 inch paper napkin along with a business plan. Finalists will be invited to attend the May 10, 2008 conference, and winning teams get one-on-one meeting with iconic angel investor, Esther Dyson.

The dealine to submit plans is April 1.

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