- Posted March 1, 2014 by
Mountain View, California
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Student voices in journalism
Female Founders Conference: Success Inspiring Success
Over 500 female founders—and aspiring female founders—from all over the world gathered before an impressive group of panelists who gave advice, offered solutions to problems, and covered a wide range of topics directed towards female founders. The conference was hosted by YCombinator, a company that funds start-ups, and was held at the Computer Science History Museum in Mountain View, California on March 1.
A major part of the conference focused on the issues women face as leaders in business, especially technology business. YCombinator founder Jessica Livingston opened the conference with advice specifically for women with children and demanding careers. She admitted that raising a family while founding a start-up was honestly hard.
Elli Sharef, founder of HireArt, explained how women specifically need to focus on confidence. “Women are less confident about their businesses because they tend to be a little more humble, a little more realistic, and a little more practical. We ask ourselves: Why am I the one to fix this problem? We just have to believe,” Sharef said.
Although times are changing and women are starting to scale the business world, much is still left to be done. Four founders spoke on a Fundraising Panel, and were asked: “Do you think being a woman affected your experiences while fundraising?”
Some founders, such as Michelle Crosby, founder of Wevorce, found that “ambition is gender-neutral,” so men still understood her pitches and wanted to fund her start-up. However, while pregnant, an investor told Crosby he “wouldn’t have invested if he had known she would get pregnant.” Crosby challenged women to ask men who patronize them, “what do you mean by that?”
Jamie Wong, founder of Vayable, recounted many experiences. She expressed her concern over being called “attractive, after which I shrunk back into my chair. Once someone told me they were surprised I was a woman. My mom named me Jamie so I could always get the interview. Then I could prove myself once I was already in the door,” Wong said. Finally, she recalled when a man told her "women can't execute." Wong's response? "That's easy to counter. Just execute."
Speakers also gave general, non-gender-specific advice to the conference attendees. Adora Cheung, founder of Homejoy, recounted her years-long journey about determination and doing whatever you can to keep your business running that inspired many conference attendees. For example, Cheung’s daily routine for a long time was to “learn to clean in San Francisco through a cleaning job, clean all day, drive to Mountain View at night, code until 2 am, drive to the city, sleep in my car, brush my teeth at McDonald’s, and start again.”
Kathryn Minshaw, founder of The Muse, recounted stories of failure that made her realize an early product is better than a perfect, polished one. She also gave attendees key information about being your own PR machine, and that “'no' means you should wait and ask later.”
Diane Greene, founder of VMWare, echoed Minshaw’s sentiment about PR. “You can never over-communicate,” Greene said.
Finally, Livingston, founder of YCombinator, imparted her own advice on attendees. “If you use your product, you can have a conversation with your consumers just by thinking!” Livingston said.
When asked how successful the first Female Founders Conference was, Livingston responded, "I really learned a lot--there was a lot of amazing information tailored specifically to women from all different perspectives. If attendees could take one thing away from today it is that start-ups are hard but not impossible. So just do it."
Written by Kate Park and Christina Wadsworth. Park and Wadsworth were the only high school students to attend the event. Both are seniors at Menlo School. Park is President of Menlo's Business Club and Wadsworth is Online Editor of the newspaper.