I did two small surveys over two days. First, I spoke to women entrepreneurs I know. Did they feel they were being unfairly judged? The short answer: Yes! "How much time will you take off if you get pregnant?" asked one investor. "Are you planning on getting married?" asked another. Honestly, I didn't see it coming.
At Lightbox, we pride ourselves on looking for the best entrepreneur, nothing more. As I'm sure many other funds do as well.
Skewed scenario in US
But my first survey revealed a problem. So I did some research. Unfortunately, Indian data is weak, but the US has plenty. A study by CB Insights revealed that only eight per cent of funded startups in America were founded by women.
Babson College's Diana Report found that 97 per cent of VC-backed companies had male CEOs. Businesses with all-male teams were four times more likely to receive VC funding compared with teams with at least one woman. Four times more likely!
This only changes when women become investors. The report also said that 58 per cent of venture capital firms with female partners invested in companies with women CEOs, versus 15 per cent of firms without women partners. But here's the catch — there aren't that many women in venture capital. The percentage of women partners in US VC firms was six in 2014.
Crammed mindsets in India
Back to India. I first looked at Lightbox. Although, we've made investments in women entrepreneurs, we have no women in the partnership. Although 50 per cent of the Lightbox team are women and everyone contributes when we consider an investment, none of them are involved in the final decision. I, then, looked at nine other funds.
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The advice to entrepreneurs is to experiment, fail, learn and repeat. Try things at a small scale and at a low cost, and quickly assess if they work or not and then take a call on what is worth scaling up. The experiments should either stop or continue based on consumer feedback.