Category Archives: Lean In

Playing by the rules, surely you jest!!!

In regards to  the article Playing by the rules article in the Globe magazine section on Sunday 11/4/13  I am appalled; as a women entrepreneur, the CEO of WomenLEAD, Inc, a 2013 Mass Challenge Finalist and one of 10 Education Category finalist in the Verizon Powerful Answers competition; a member of the Boston Club (14 years); a member of the She-E-O’s  and 85 Broads.

I agree with the premise that women entrepreneurs receive only a small percentage of VC money, but Fiona Murray does not have her numbers right and her suggestions of how to solve the problem are insulting to women.

Recent statistics that relate to women in the venture capital industry come from The Diana Project, Illuminate Ventures and several other organizations that aim to expose gender inequality. The data raises huge questions: Why do big-named venture firms appear to be discriminating against women? Are the firms “old boys clubs”? Do founders struggle to trust women on their boards? Are females passed up for venture jobs?

Homophily, or “the principle that people naturally favor others like them” and networking issues apply when male venture capitalists choose to invest in certain companies.

Female-founded companies make up only 10% of venture-funded startups, and only 3-5% of female-owned businesses receive venture money.

These numbers are even more confounding when it is considered that women-operated, venture-backed companies have 12% higher revenues than those of men.

The solutions to the problem that Fiona Murray proposes in this article are insulting to women and lack a systemic perspective of the problem.

Her solutions of Wear a uniform; Speak confidently and assertively; Network ; and Watch sports does not address the issue .

The root cause of the problem is that men have a bias about women entrepreneurs, they are not aware of their biases and the VC industry has been an “all boys club”.

I was recently at a meeting with Steve Case speaking (former AOL CEO and on Obama’s team for entrepreneurial policy). He addressed this issue at the meeting offering that crowd funding would help to level the playing field for women and in fact he suggested that the “all boy’s club” needs to shift to include women.

Another man at the meeting chimed in with “well after all women start up knitting stores and catering business so they do not need VC’s they can cover all of their costs with 20K”. I was amazed that this gentleman could not see how insulting his biases were, I was also embarrassed for him. This bias and way of viewing women entrepreneurs demonstrates the same thinking that has caused such a chasm in VC funding of women owned business.

Jules Pieri; CEO of the Grommet said this in her 9/1/13 post on Huffington post;

“Starting high stakes companies depends on having access to capital. Like sports, you can’t train, compete, or win without meaningful infrastructure. With only 4-9 percent of venture funding going to women, the damning lack of infrastructure is obvious.

The good news is women stand ready with legions of investment-worthy companies. The track record of female founders even shows superior investment returns compared to male founders.

Jules  Pieri’s suggestion is that the government role could be simple: remove the lucrative carried interest tax loophole from any venture firms that do not fund women’s businesses proportionate to men’s”.

This well thought out systemic perspective will surely get to the root cause of the issue and will mandate a solution. There are also Angel investing groups focused on supporting women owned companies like Golden Seeds, Astia and Pipeline Fellowship all committed to making an impact on this issue.

WomenLEAD, Inc is out to make a global impact by developing women as leaders with our online personal advisory board platform.  We are committed to having women entrepreneurs get the resources they need through Angel and VC funding so that they can turn their big dreams into reality.

Ilene Fischer  CEO WomenLEAD, Inc

The Mass Challenge and the Hubspot In Bound Marketing conference

A shot of expresso

Just in time! Right in the middle of the Mass Challenge Accelerator program, HubSpot’s Inbound Marketing 2013 conference took over the Back Bay this week – giving me, and 5,300 marketing and social media junkies a shot of espresso! This profession attracts the same overworked, sleep-deprived work-a-holics as those found in our start-up offices at Mass Challenge, and HubSpot kept us inspired with solutions to some of our biggest challenges. Inbound 2013 was a rigorous 4-day schedule of seminars, workshops and “Big Talk” speakers, sharing insights into how to capture audiences, generate leads and build trust with customers and in our marketplaces. And these big-time communicators are big-time networkers, including myself, and idea exchanges began at happy hours every night at the Hynes Convention Center, free parties at restaurants along Boylston Street, and even a rock band concert hosted by HubSpot.

Mass Challenge Finalists, including WomenLEAD, Inc., who are creating an innovative Personal Advisory Board™ platform to help companies advance women in their careers. As VP of Marketing at WomenLEADInc., it’s a race to get the strategies in place for website visitors, driving social media channels and posting thought-leader content to support our new solution. Videos explaining the new concepts are key and startup companies need to be searchable on the two most searched channels, YouTube and Google, among others.

Serving Up the Espresso:

For all of us here at Mass Challenge, we need this shot of espresso and dedicate the hours it will take to engage all of our clients, customers and investors. So here are some quick tactics to build new audiences, even within new industries. Break through the noise and find target market audiences, and then keep them engaged.

From Inbound 2013, being helpful is where it’s at! Create Content and Context!

Content: Content should be about your customer’s problem, the marketplace, and answering those popular questions they may ask on Google – not about your product. Be a useful resource, and build a website and social media presence that generates leads and positions you as the ‘go-to’ place for answers in your community. Wouldn’t you become the thought leader in the space if you offered a downloadable white paper explaining how you solve a problem, and win the confidence of both customers and investors? What if you were their trusted resource before their customer? That’s building trust.

Context: According to HubSpot, 60%-75% of your customers already have the information they need during the buying process online before they call you. For us, this can also mean people learning about your solution to partner, purchase or even invest. Context helps segment your audiences in the buyer process, those looking for preliminary information, and those that are seeking e-books and more in depth information. By offering downloadable white papers and e-books, and collect an email or other information in exchange, you discover what your website visitors are looking for, who they are, and what they need from you. Keeping in touch with them based on their needs can make it a much better experience for the customer cycle and closing the sale.

When the Espresso Wears Off – A Holistic Approach Wins:

Inbound 2013 captured an international audience of a 24/7 marketing profession, and executives not only announced some new products to make our jobs easier (check out HubSpot.com), they also gave us Arianna Huffington of Huffington Post as a keynote to discuss the importance of ‘recharging our batteries’ for better performance and innovation. Working alongside WomenLEAD Co-Founder, CEO and Game Changer, Ilene Fischer, recharging is just one of her strategies to maintain focus and her boundless energy every day.

I share this because Huffington’s message couldn’t be more important to those of us at Mass Challenge, with the white board filled amazing workshops and events to learn from, meetings with mentors and working toward higher goals each day. The race to the finish can leave us sleep deprived and sometimes overwhelmed – so take a break and even a 20-minute nap to recharge (Huffington Post has several napping rooms that are now booked around the clock.)

We at WomenLEAD Inc. are providing a platform for women to advance their careers by building their own Personal Advisory Board ™ Platform, disrupting mentorship as we know it. We are a part of Sheryl Sandberg’s ‘Lead In’ community, and I’m one of the many “leaning in” – truly putting my shoulder into everything I do – and I leave you with this advice from Huffington’s Inbound speech:

“We need to “Lean back to Lean in”, said Huffington, explaining you need to lean back to jump higher. When you think you are on your last leg, remember only with rest can we be effective in leadership and high productivity. So rest, wake up with espresso-like determination, and tell your story to the world every day, engaging your audiences, industries and investors!

I welcome your thoughts at kbuckley@WomenLEADInc.com; @womenlead; Kathleen Buckley, VP of Marketing, WomenLEADInc. Kathleen Buckley is a journalist, content creator, inbound marketer and website optimizer.