Women in Innovation


Despite the challenges women face in the entrepreneurial turf, female entrepreneurship in the US has continually increased – 48% year-over-year (Inficile). Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, the number of women-owned business are seeing positive growth and are expected to rise even further in the coming few years (source: women entrepreneurs statistics) 

Here at KiwiTech, we’ve always supported women entrepreneurs with mentorship and capital, onboarding several women founders and investors in the past few years.

We have built an ecosystem of over 500+ startups, including founders and investors of diverse backgrounds, with 137 women-founded startups. 

Among these, we have: 

  • 135+ female-founded startups.
  • $70M+ capital raised for female founders.
  • 700+ female investors in our network. 

I am proud to have brought 40 Startups to KiwiTech’s portfolio, where 53% of the founders are from diverse backgrounds, including women. 

The progress for women has proven substantial. We see more women founders pitching at our Demo Days and even securing significant funding for their innovations.

In June this year, we hosted our in-person Female Founders Demo Day in San Francisco to discuss the current trends, challenges, and opportunities for women innovators in the industry. 

Partnered by the First Republic and Swissnex, the event was a huge success in terms of startups and investors in attendance. The evening saw around four women-led startups pitching in person with an insightful panel discussion between our eminent panelists, including Leslie Goldman, Shih-Fong Wang, and Maryam Haque, moderated by myself. 

The panel discussion was indeed very inspiring as the panelists shared their personal experiences, tips, and advice for upcoming women entrepreneurs. Some of the key takeaways from the event were:

Shih-Fong Wang, Managing Director at Golden Seeds, stressing upon diversity and inclusion in entrepreneurship, said, “Golden Seeds is proud to be at the forefront of propelling women-led companies and providing leadership within the angel investing industry. We focus on gender diversity, believing that gender diversity produces better investment results.”

Echoing the same sentiment, Leslie Goldman, General Partner & Co-Founder at Artemis Fund, rightly stated, “We cannot hope to solve the world’s problems if we leave out half of the world’s problem-solvers.”

Calina Thompson, Relationship Manager, Tech & VC Banking | Private Banking, First Republic Bank, and our event partner, said, “It’s important for us to continue to champion women entrepreneurs and diverse founders, their voices and their views. “

“Diversity and divergent thinking is the base of creativity – With interdisciplinarity at its core, Swissnex strives to empower female founders and funders to make their voices heard and drive innovations of the future,” added Corine Thommen, Head of Impact Programs, Swissnex.

I couldn’t agree more with my fellow panelists at the event. We need more women leaders in the entrepreneurial domain to achieve sustainable growth. I am optimistic that with such empowering events and forums, we will see a rise in the number of women-led startups in the coming years.

I would also like to highlight the wonderful women founders who pitched at our in-person event.

Our Female Founders Demo Day was a success and we’re excited to see more women-led startups, funds, and female leaders in the industry, coming up on this platform to create the dialogue, discuss trends, and drive change.

In our last Female Founder Demo Day on March 3, we had a group of talented early-stage female founders presenting their pitches.

We also had a panel of investors comprising female-led firms, including Alysa Duval, Head – CatalystU, Carolyn Lowe, Founder & CEO – ROI Swift, Eastin Rossell, Venture Analyst – HearstLab and Leslie Goldman, Co-Founder & General Partner – The Artemis Fund. 

Spotting a pattern on the investment side of the startup industry, Leslie Goldman says, “We all gravitate towards familiarity and pattern recognition, and if most investors are white men, it follows that most investment will be in people who look like them.” 

Addressing the issues women entrepreneurs and working women faced during the Covid-19 pandemic, Carolyn Lowe of ROI Swift came up with a unique solution. She created part-time jobs for working moms where women get the flexibility to work when their kids are at school. As a result, they don’t have to worry about leaving their kids at care centers or quitting their jobs to be a full-time mommy. 

Venture Capital Panel 

Our Venture Capital Panel focused on empowering female founders and funders.  I invited my east bay neighboring seasoned VC, Rohit Gupta, Managing Director, of Future Communities Capital to speak his mind on the topic. He had some various stories about women founders he supports, and spoke at length about how biases still affect women entrepreneurs fundraising.

He says, “The bias implicitly exists even today. Since I’m on this side of the table, I get to hear things that others don’t.” 

He added, “I also believe, on the other side, women should be confident in themselves. Do your homework right, outreach investors, and most importantly, stop being so humble. Don’t undersell your ideas. Be confident, build allyship with others.” 

Adding her thoughts about the same, Michelle Waite from Florida Funders expresses that there has been a positive shift in the entrepreneurship domain when it comes to gender neutrality. She said, “Over the last few years, power has shifted to founders that have traction, revenue and a strong business model, regardless of gender. It is interesting to see how this shapes up further in the near future.” 

From those couple discussions, here are some key lessons as a reminder.

Key Lessons: 

  • Authenticity: A more ‘real’ founder committed to solving a problem is more likely to secure funding. They should know the problem and its solution and be sure if people are ‘willing’ to pay for it. 
  • Storytelling: There should be a story behind why a founder started their startup. Instead of pitching traditionally, storytelling helps an investor understand your business from your standpoint. 
  • Allyship: Building allyship in the industry is as important as building a great product. Startups that cultivate allyship are more likely to win over top talent and improve performance, employee satisfaction, and retention. 
  • Know Your Investor: Startups need to understand their investors well before reaching out to them. Identify and target investors with similar interests or portfolio investments in the past.

Seeing so many women among the panelists, founders, entrepreneurs, and even investors at our internal events and the ones around the world, one thing is apparent: today’s women are no longer the ones to accept the patriarchal norms of society and sit back. Instead, they are the game changers, innovators, pioneers, rulers, and decision-makers. 

Also, today we are lucky to have people who stand with women against patriarchy and believe that ‘the hands that cradle the world can rule it as well.’  

Continuing to open dialogue for inclusion and diversity for funders and founders

If you’re a woman entrepreneur or founder looking for mentorship, resources, or investment, do reach out to us. We would be more than happy to help you grow your business. Connect with Amy McCawley, VP-VC & Corporate Partnerships at amy.m@kiwitech.com to continue this conversation.

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