Women Entrepreneurs

A love letter to Craig Newmark

Thank you Craig Newmark. You've taken the time to really step into our shoes. Beyond saying you believe women are a great investment and showing the stats to prove it, you really feel into our experience. You've taken on the vocalization of a story that's probably a little messy.  You've put together events and opportunities for women-led startups to prevail. Fantastic. You've given women visibility and funding. Amazing.


It is your willingness to consistently be our voice, to provide the words that for some, need to come from your lips to truly land, that makes you our cherished champion.

Thank you,


And here's his write-up...

It’s time for men to champion women in tech

By: Craig Newmark - Techcrunch

Folks, when it comes to gender equality in the tech world, we haven’t come very far.

Fifty-three years after the Equal Pay Act and supposedly the advancement of women’s rights in the workplace, Silicon Valley still has the feel of a fraternity.

Despite lots of research that shows how tech companies excel when women lead, the playing field is still heavily tilted in favor of men. How do we turn this around? I want to suggest that as a start, we men can make a real effort to use our male privilege on behalf of our women colleagues.

Women in tech face some tough odds. A recent Equal Employment Opportunity Commission survey of some of the top US tech companies found that on average, just 18 percent hold leadership positions, and among certain tech jobs, men still make, on average, 28.3 percent more than women.

At some leading tech companies as few as 10 percent of women occupy tech positions.

For women founders, the numbers are even worse.

Only 7% of investor funding goes to women-led ventures, and according to Digitalundivided,a mere 0.2% of venture deals from 2012-2014 went to Black women founders.

And what about the work place environment? Is it conducive to women’s inclusion and advancement?

Not according to a comprehensive survey of Silicon Valley companies conducted by Vassallo and Madansky, who found that 60 percent of women in tech had received unwanted sexual advances from a male superior, and 87 percent had been on the receiving end of demeaning comments from male co-workers. And two thirds reported being excluded when guys were going out for drinks or to other networking events.

So, it’s not particularly surprising that more than half (56 percent) of women in tech jobsdon’t stick around, or that they opt to leave the private science, engineering, and technology workforce.

But when women are supported, encouraged, and funded to lead, they excel. In fact, tech companies led by women are more capital-efficient and achieve, on average, a 35 percent higher return on investment than firms led by men, according to a Kauffman Foundation report.

Women tech entrepreneurs (working from the disadvantage of having received 50 percent less VC funding), are still able to generate 20 percent greater revenue than their male counterparts, according to a Forbes study.

Further, tech companies with a woman founder performed 63 percent better than those companies with all-male founding teams, according to a First Round Capital report.

Despite the mounting evidence that equal access for women in tech enhances the value of companies, we’re not doing enough to help women succeed — to say the least.


Despite the mounting evidence that equal access for women in tech enhances the value of companies, we’re not doing enough to help women succeed — to say the least


This is a really big problem, folks, and it’s one that we have the ability to change. We need to do a lot more, and that includes us men sharing some of our privilege and helping women colleagues get a fair shake. How would that look?

 Networking is a big deal in business and the tech world. That’s how deals get done. As part of this, men need to open our doors and share our contacts. If you know of a promising women-led startup, introduce them to investors. Another way to help women entrepreneurs is to offer some mentoring.

So for instance, if you’ve had a lot of success writing winning pitch decks, offer to review their pitch and provide concrete feedback. (Jonathan Beninson recently shared a great post on Medium about structuring mentor/mentee relationships.)

We can also help women in their job searches by spreading the wealth of contacts.  More publicly, you can speak up when women are getting a raw deal (discrimination, harassment, exclusion etc.) And we need to speak up to support women in meetings.

That includes creating space, and letting them say what they have to say without interruption or ignoring what they’ve said. Another way to be an ally:  when we’re invited to a tech panel that is an all-male affair, we can ask the organizer to include some women experts and offer some suggestions about who to invite.


We should all just say no to speaking on panels when organizers refuse to include women.


We should all just say no to speaking on panels when organizers refuse to include women.

“Tech companies want to solve the toughest problems facing our communities nationally and globally, but in order to do so, they must invest in fostering a more diverse workplace culture and where women are at the decision-making table,” says my colleague Allyson Kapin, founder of the Women Startup Challenge. “This is how we will begin to move the needle.”

I’ve been working with Allyson on the Women Startup Challenge for the last year. It showcases and helps fund women-led startups across the U.S. through pitch competitions (like the one we’re doing at LinkedIn in San Francisco on June 14th) and crowdfunding campaigns.

I’ve been learning a lot from our partnership, including some of the small but important things men can do that are a big deal for women.

I figure that if you’ve done well, as Kevin Spacey says, it’s your job to send the elevator back down — meaning we need to be intentional about opening our doors to women and helping them expand their networks and clout. This is about fairness. Plus, there’s the business advantage I mentioned earlier. Let’s do this and become our women colleagues’ best allies.

Foundry Funds Nix Hydra, Mobile Game Maker for Girls

Brad Feld (Foundry co-founder) loves women. He has been active with several non-profit organizations and currently is chairman of the National Center for Women & Information Technology. 

NCWIT is actually based right here in beautiful Boulder Colorado. They believe the people who build technology should represent the people who use it.

NCWIT says, "Although women today comprise half the world’s population and more than half of the U.S. professional workforce, they play only a small role in inventing the technology of tomorrow. The lack of girls and women in computing and technology represents a failure to capitalize on the benefits of diverse perspectives: in a world dependent on innovation, it can bring the best and broadest problem-solvers to the table; and at a time when technology drives economic growth, it can yield a larger and more competitive workforce."

Experiential play is how we learn and until now, most games and toys were set up to teach certain principles. Walk down any toy aisle in Target and you'll see pink, dolls and more pink.

That's why DisruptHER Productions, NCWIT, & Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media created the first annual DevelopHer Challenge to design toys and games that engage girls ages 3-12 in science, technology, engineering, and math.

Brad and Foundry Group know that women are the next big win.  And, now they've awarded $5 Mil in funding to two women who know how to create mobile games women (9 million of them so far!) will play. 

Nix Hydra Scores $5M to Make Mobile Games for Girls, Not ‘Tech Dudes’

Nix Hydra Co-founders Lina Chen and Naomi Ladizinsky

Nix Hydra Co-founders Lina Chen and Naomi Ladizinsky

By Lizette Chapman

Striking a rare win in the male-dominated gaming sector, female-focused mobile gaming startup Nix Hydra Inc. has raised $5 million from Foundry Group to expand its hit game “Egg Baby” and launch new ones.

Co-founded in 2012 by former Yale classmates and startup vets Naomi Ladizinsky and Lina Chen, the Los Angeles-based startup is unapologetically focused on creating games by women and for women.

“This [mobile gaming] market is new, but so far we’ve seen a lot of repeats with the same ideas iterated on over and over again,” said Ms. Ladizinsky, referring to so-called runner, quest, battle and other genres. “It’s a tech dude’s perspective.”

To that end, Nix Hydra will use the fresh funding to build new games based on strong characters with complexity and consequences for irresponsibility, similar to “Egg Baby.”
The game launched last year, inspired by a school experiment entrusting students with a raw egg to experience the responsibilities of parenthood. The initial version of the game was rough, but it quickly gained favor among teenage girls and women despite no marketing.

With just one other employee to help, Ms. Ladizinsky and Ms. Chen scrambled to add more content and continue improving the game or risk losing momentum. The two had experience at startups–Ms. Li previously negotiated international mobile deals for streaming music startup Grooveshark Inc. while Ms. Ladizinsky directed, produced and edited digital content for gaming channel Machinima Inc.–but scaling a mobile game was new.

“We didn’t think it was going to be that popular,” said Ms. Chen of the game that has now been downloaded nine million times.
In “Egg Baby,” players each get an egg, which hatches into a unique gift-giving creature based on how the game-players wash, feed, tickle, dress, and otherwise interact with the eggs. Players like to show off the results of their work, with most new users finding the game because a friend shared their creature. If players forget to put their egg to bed or feed it, it dies.

Roughly 85% of players are women and most are under the age of 25, Ms. Chen said.

Raising the round happened fast and came following an introduction by the startup’s angel investors to Foundry Group.

“It was two phone calls and one in person,” said Ms. Chen of the 10-day process. “Foundry Group really got us.”

Nix Hydra expects to hire another 20 people during the next year, and it will use the funding to build a franchise around “Egg Baby” and launch two still-unnamed games.

Foundry Group led the Series A round with participation from Buddy Media co-founder Mike Lazerow and other individuals, at a valuation around $20 million.

Individual investors including Gyft Inc. co-founder Vinny Lingham, Mry Inc. co-founder Matt Britton and Riot Games investor Brad Schwartz previously invested around $600,000.

Write to Lizette Chapman at lizette.chapman@wsj.com. Follow her on Twitter at@zettewil

Why You Should Pitch Like A Woman

The first week I went to the dark side and chose to sell advertising rather than buy it, a friend had me watch Glengary Glen Ross. Check out the video below where Alec Baldwin assumes fear is the best source of inspiration. He is awful. Needless to say, I spent the next month freaking out not knowing what I had gotten myself into. This is why so many of us fear sales. We don't want to be perceived as ruthless and cutthroat. The thing is, for any entrepreneur, the most important skill they can have is their ability to sell... and there are ways to sell that feel more like serving. And they work.

There are so many latest and greatest ways to pitch. However, I was curious to see if there were new less male (dominate the meeting, own the frame, show your power) ways of selling.  SPIN Selling explains the science behind consultative selling. Pitch Anything explains how to use influence, the right messaging that lands and setting and holding the frame. I'll explain all of these at a later date and how to incorporate different elements into your close.

Tim Fereiss's  Always Be Closing: Y Combinator and The Art of the Pitch is also a great article that touches on many of the things that work and don't and it's specific to the startup experience. 

And, it looks like there really is a case for being more lady like or let's just say considerate when it comes to sales. 

A recent Harvard Business Review article, How Women Decide by Cathy Benko, vice chairman and a managing principal at Deloitte LLP and Bill Pelster, former chief learning officer and a principal at Deloitte Consulting,  shows the benefits of letting go of the dominate or die psychology of sales.  Instead, they focus on utilizing the behaviors that are innate for women. As more and more women become the decision makers, it's best to model the way they show up and present in a way that they're more likely to receive.

Here's what they found, "We also learned that women see a big meeting with a potential service provider as a chance to explore options in collaboration with an expert resource, while men see that event as a near-final step in the process, when they are narrowing down and choosing among options."

"When presenting to men, we find that they look for holes or weaknesses in our arguments. Again, it’s part of the winnowing process. But women continually seek a creative solution—listening for ideas, adjusting their understanding of what is important, and asking for relevant details."

So today, while interacting with prospective clients, we know to keep asking ourselves, “What’s the deciding factor?” And we make this explicit in our presentations. “We understand you are on a journey to find the best partner,” we tell prospects, “and we recognize that your perspective will evolve as you speak with us and our competitors.”

Our world is becoming more collaborative and the sales process can and should feel like the first step in creating a shared story. Always Be Closing does work. Always be a valued partner works best.