One of the most unexpected benefits of starting my own company has been the chance to meet and form virtual friendships with some incredible, smart, inspiring, and gutsy women entrepreneurs. When I started my career in venture capital I thought that I would find many women entrepreneurs to back. Then the dark reality hit and I found out that there were not that many women entrepreneurs knocking on our firm's door to look for funding. For the record, we did have five companies in our portfolio with women CEOs, but four out of five were brought in later and were not founders.
But since leaving venture and striking out on my own I've met some pretty awesome women entrepreneurs who are serious about their businesses, but also serious about their lives and having more in them than just their business. Many are also moms and they are building their companies in ways that would make any venture capitalist cringe -- they are working from their home offices, they (like I) take off in the middle of the day to pick up their kids from daycare or school or play with them outside, and their workday is as far removed from the traditional 8-6pm schedule as possible. Meeting these women has been an amazing experience and for the first time in my career I am developing a professional network that includes women I actually like and respect and want to interact with. They are supportive, they are not catty or bitchy or whatever the stereotype suggests -- which is true too often -- about women interacting with each other.
These women are running and starting different types of companies but they share a few things in common:
* Many have left successful corporate or more traditional careers to become entrepreneurs
* They see entrepreneurship as a way to gain more flexibility and a better 'balance' between work and family
* They are choosing to finance their businesses without taking venture funding, at least in the early stages, and they are incredibly ingenious about finding ways to fund their operations (bartering services/marketing with other women-owned firms has come up more than once)
I'm gaining new perspective about why there might not be as many women entrepreneurs seeking venture funding out there. I still maintain that those who do want it should have more access to it and one of the reasons they don't is because there are so few women in venture capital. (To deny that it's easier and more natural for women to network with women and for men to network with men would be silly.) But as I meet more and more women who are serious about building successful businesses but don't want to do it with venture funding, at a venture-backed company pace, I am starting to think that one of the reasons more women don't get venture capital is because they don't want to.
So that you get to meet them as well, here are some of these rockin' women entrepreneurs I've been lucky to meet recently (most virtually) -- go give them a shout out!