Women & IT Entrepreneurship
As of 2006, according to The Center for Women's Business Research, there were about 7.7 million majority-women-owned (51 percent or more) businesses in this country, accounting for nearly one-third of all U.S. businesses. In the last decade, in fact, women-owned firms have grown at more than twice the rate of U.S. businesses overall.
This should come as no surprise: as is commensurate for a lot of people who start businesses, women have good ideas, they're motivated, and they know the market. In many cases, they ARE the market: research tells us that women make more than 80 percent of all purchasing decisions.
In the world of hi-tech startups, however, women are a rare species. Most women-owned businesses are in the services or retail sector. When women do start IT-related businesses, they receive less than five percent of IT venture capital funds.
TechStars, a newly launched company based here in Boulder, may be onto something. TechStars provides 10 lucky entrepreneurs with $15,000 of seed funding, mentoring and advice from experts in the field, connections to angel investors and venture capitalists, and a summer-long "boot camp" experience. TechStars is leveraging the best and brightest of Colorado's entrepreneurial and hi-tech minds with the opportunity to attract and grow more of them. And by giving budding entrepreneurs tools such as access to venture capital, risk awareness, leadership and technical training, market penetration, and networking opportunities with the right people, TechStars is more than just an incubator. It's a hi-tech hothouse.
We hope that women will see and take advantage of opportunities like these; and we hope to find out more about why there aren't more women entrepreneurs running hi-tech startups. In the weeks to come we'll be posting several literature reviews, papers, and accompanying blogs about women's participation in IT entrepreneurship. We've undertaken this critical study with the help of the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, which also is a supporter of EntrepreneurshipWeek USA, taking place February 24 – March 3, 2007.
What makes for a successful hi-tech startup? Is it access, or attitude? Money, or moxie? We hope to find out. In the meantime, the future of small business and technology innovation depends on the fertility and viability of good ideas. Kudos to TechStars for making the lush ecosystem of Boulder a fruitful climate for success.
Lucy Sanders is CEO and Co-founder of NCWIT, and is also a TechStars mentor.