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BuildUp Fellows Program Aims To Nurture Underrepresented Founders In Tech

BuildUp Fellows Program Aims To Nurture Underrepresented Founders In Tech | Pitch it! | Scoop.it

There’s no shortage of tech accelerators and incubators, with the likes of Y Combinator, 500 Startups and TechStars. All three of them have addressed diversity in their own ways, but more could always be done.

Enter the BuildUp Fellows program, an intensive two-week accelerator designed to educate and mentor underrepresented founders, like women, veterans and minorities, in the tech industry. Entrepreneurs selected will get free desk space in downtown San Francisco, mentorship, meetings with investors and other industry experts.

BuildUp is the brainchild of Kristina Omari, Wayne Sutton and Christian Anderson (pictured above). Collectively, they make up a diverse, all-star team of serial entrepreneurs, mergers & acquisitions experts and investment bankers.

“Coming from an investment banking background, I have seen biases at work in regards to founders and funding,” Anderson told TechCrunch. “I want to bring to light investment opportunities of game changing, innovative products and experiences, which are created by ‘nontraditional’ founders.”

BuildUp is looking for startups that have strong potential in four key areas: global impact, innovation, design and growth. The program will run from Sept. 28 through Oct. 9, 2015. Startups can apply through August 31.


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Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Underrepresented #founders in the tech industry, such as women, veterans or minorities in general, have a new #accelerator with a 2 week program.

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New accelerator is solely for firms with a female founder

New accelerator is solely for firms with a female founder | Pitch it! | Scoop.it

In Greek mythology, she is the goddess of war and wisdom. In Philadelphia's University City, Athena is a more earthly vessel, taking shape to make warriors of female entrepreneurs.

DreamIt Athena is a rare business accelerator, exclusively for companies with at least one female founder.

Announced this month and accepting applications until Dec. 8 at https://app.wizehive.com/appform/login/2015philly, the program to help women turn their ideas into fundable businesses with growth potential will launch in February with its first cycle of participants, a minimum of four companies. A second cycle is planned for spring 2016.

To qualify, applicants must have technology-based products or services with large market opportunity.

The program's name seemed a natural, said Karen Griffith Gryga, managing partner of DreamIt Funds, the equity arm of DreamIt Ventures, a top-tier accelerator that has launched 168 companies since its start in 2008. Of those, 40 were companies with female founders.

"Athena is the Greek goddess of wisdom, courage, inspiration," Gryga said. "And whenever you're doing a start-up, you've got to have tremendous inspiration and vision, but also fortitude and courage. It's not easy to launch and build and develop a start-up."

Especially for women.

"We just felt it was time to do something about it," she said. "The answer is not more networking events."

Timing proved fortuitous. In the spring, DreamIt applied for funding from Pennsylvania's "Discovered in PA, Developed in PA" grant program and was approved in August for $491,000.

That's enough to finance two three-month cycles. The plan is to continue afterward, "but with a more commercial partner," said Gryga, who will oversee the Athena program with Patrick FitzGerald, managing director of DreamIt Ventures' Philadelphia program.

"There's just been an outpouring of support for it," said Gryga, who plans to conduct a national search for female CEOs and serial entrepreneurs willing to serve as mentors and inspiration.

To fill the post of project manager, DreamIt Athena's creators have hired a local woman described by a peer as "a real connector in the Philadelphia ecosystem" of female entrepreneurs.

Archna Sahay, a native of India now living in Center City, started the Female Founders Network in February to help women in business find one another.

A finance major at Virginia Tech, Sahay, 35, went on to work as a portfolio analyst and investment analyst at Wachovia and its successor, Wells Fargo, and then worked in the brokerage business for Merrill Lynch and Morgan Stanley.

Sahay left Morgan Stanley on Sept. 30 to focus on the Female Founders Network. But in just weeks, she had a job offer from DreamIt that seemed like divine intervention.

"I'm very spiritual," she said. "I always like to see God's hands in things."

As a believer that financial independence for women is "one of the most important things you could work on," and as a big sister who wants "to leave the world in just a slightly better place" for two younger ones, Sahay said the chance to help build what was believed to be the first female-oriented program by a top-tier accelerator feels like "what I was meant to do."

Her 12 years in finance - and some recent studies - left her convinced of the need for DreamIt Athena. Among those studies was a report by professors of Babson College in Massachusetts, "Women Entrepreneurs 2014: Bridging the Gender Gap in Venture Capital."

It found, in part, that though early-stage investment in companies with a woman on the executive team has tripled to 15 percent from 5 percent in the last 15 years, 85 percent of all venture-capital-funded businesses have no women on the executive team.

One reason for that, Sahay said, is another troubling finding by Babson: The total number of women partners in venture-capital firms has declined since 1999, dropping to 6 percent from 10 percent.

"There aren't enough women on the other side of that table," Sahay said.

When it comes to successfully pitching to investors, entrepreneurs need to connect with them. The sex divide is a serious obstacle, said Holly Flanagan, managing director at Gabriel Investments, a Philadelphia early-stage investment group.

"The challenge for women is they tend to solve problems that are faced by women," Flanagan said. "Because the majority of investors continue to be men, the advice I always give female founders is they have to articulate their story in a way that helps [all] investors feel the pain they are out to solve."

That message will be driven home at DreamIt Athena, Sahay said.

Among others applauding the effort is Yasmine Mustafa, founder of Roar for Good L.L.C., a young self-defense technology company.

"With greater inclusiveness," Mustafa said, "the opportunity to support the growing number of women founders creates even more possibilities for delivering transformative solutions - not to mention establishing more female role models, especially in predominantly male industries like technology."


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Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Another great initiative for women in technology and startups

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Resilience Is Key To Success For Most Startups, According To YC’s Justin Kan | TechCrunch

Resilience Is Key To Success For Most Startups, According To YC’s Justin Kan | TechCrunch | Pitch it! | Scoop.it

Lots of startups start with good ideas, but few of them become huge successes. More important than a good idea to their success is just having the resilience required to keep going even if your idea isn’t so great, Y Combinator partner Justin Kan said at Disrupt Europe 2014.

That certainly was true in Kan’s own experience as he and his team transitioned from an online life-casting stream into a massive live-streaming platform for video gamers. “If you look at all startup stories, it’s not a straight line… to success,” Kan said. “If Justin.tv could work and be successful, then no one has any excuse. That was a terrible idea.”

According to Kan, after he and co-founder Emmett Shear applied they received a letter from Y Combinator founder Paul Graham saying there are three kinds of companies that applied: There are companies with good founders and good ideas that they wanted to fund, companies with bad ideas and bad founders that they didn’t want to fund, and companies with good founders and bad ideas, which is what they represented.

But they convinced YC to take a chance on them and eventually that paid off. Kan went on to posit that if you have smart people working on trying to make something people want and they don’t give up, they will eventually be successful. But, he said, founders need to be in it for the long haul, noting that it took eight years for the founding team of Justin.tv before they ended up selling Twitch to Amazon for $970 million.

In that sense, he believes good founders with resilience are more important than good ideas in building businesses. “I’m biased, but I see people who have great ideas and are working on things that could be successful, but they give up,” Kan said.


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What We Learned From 40 Female YC Founders - Y Combinator

What We Learned From 40 Female YC Founders - Y Combinator | Pitch it! | Scoop.it

By Jessica Livingston

We’re excited to launch Female Founder Stories, a collection of interviews with 40 of Y Combinator’s female alumnae.  We asked them about things like how they got started, their experience at Y Combinator, their experience as female founders, and what they wish they'd known when they were younger.  As you'll see, their answers are fascinating, both individually and in their variety.

This is the biggest collection of interviews with female startup founders I've seen in one place, and as a result we have an unprecedented opportunity to notice patterns in their experiences (and just as interesting, where there aren't patterns).

One of the most consistent patterns is how many founders wished they'd learned to program when they were younger. Some wished they'd even known it was an option, and many others knew it was an option but were either intimidated or felt they’d somehow missed the window. "Don't opt out of computer science because you think you are behind," one founder said. "You probably aren’t."

We got an interesting variety of responses when we asked the women whether being a female was advantageous or disadvantageous in their roles as founders. Some felt they had been harmed but as many felt it was an advantage. Interestingly, many said it got them attention for being unusual, and that they'd used this to their advantage. Others felt that being female did impose some barriers, but didn't let it get them down.  "Given how hard it is to be a founder (male or female)," one said, "gender disadvantages are probably just a rounding error."

One surprise was how varied the founders’ backgrounds were. I know all these women and even I was surprised how varied their paths to Y Combinator were.  If you wanted evidence contradicting the myth that YC only funds one type of founder, you could not do better than read these interviews.

Not surprisingly, most of the women were domain experts solving a problem they themselves had.  That's something that tends to be true of successful founders regardless of gender.

When I started Y Combinator back in 2005, I was one of a tiny minority of women in the venture business, and from the start I've made sure YC had an environment that is supportive of women.  It wasn't even a conscious decision.  To the extent there was one partner in charge of YC's environment, it was me, and as a woman myself I would not have tolerated anything else.  And as YC has grown, so has the number of female partners. Now there are four of us and we are not tokens, or a female minority in a male-dominated firm. At the risk of offending my male colleagues, who will nevertheless understand what I mean, some would claim it's closer to the truth to say that that we run the place. As YC funds more and more startups, Kirsty, Carolynn, Kat, and I are dedicated to maintaining an environment where women feel welcome and can succeed.

The number of startups we've funded with a female founder has grown from a trickle when we first started to about 19% in 2014. In the most recent batch (W15), we asked about gender on the application form for the first time. The percentage of startups we accepted with female founders was identical to the percentage who applied. (And this happened organically; we didn't check the numbers until after.)  Which implies the percentage of female founders we fund will increase in proportion to the percentage of female applicants.

There are two ways I think YC can have the most impact in increasing the number of female founders. First, we need to continue to do what we’ve always done: to help individual female founders’ startups succeed.  Those women will then become role models who inspire other women to make the leap and start startups too.  To serve as role models they need to be visible, so we're also focusing on showcasing YC’s female alumni through interviews like these and events like our Female Founders Conference.

I said at the first Female Founders Conference last March that I thought 2014 would be the tipping point for female founders. I still think I’m right, and our hope is that these interviews will be part of what makes things tip-- that they will both inspire more women to start startups (and please apply to YC!) and also inspire some who already have started to keep going.

Startups are hard. They are not the right thing for everyone. But what makes them the right thing for you is whether you are driven enough, not what gender you are, and that's one of the clearest patterns in these interviews.

Save the date: Y Combinator's second annual Female Founders Conference will be held in San Francisco on February 21, 2015.


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Marc Kneepkens's insight:

"The number of startups we've funded with a female founder has grown from a trickle when we first started to about 19% in 2014. In the most recent batch (W15), we asked about gender on the application form for the first time. The percentage of startups we accepted with female founders was identical to the percentage who applied. (And this happened organically; we didn't check the numbers until after.)  Which implies the percentage of female founders we fund will increase in proportion to the percentage of female applicants."

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5 founder-friendly financing terms that give power to entrepreneurs

5 founder-friendly financing terms that give power to entrepreneurs | Pitch it! | Scoop.it

In the first half of this year, the level of venture-capital investment hit its highest quarterly mark since Q2 2001. Big M&A deals like WhatsApp, Oculus and Zillow have become prolific. And more and more companies are getting financing at eye-popping valuations.

For many startups, the hot venture-capital and exit markets mean an increase in deal leverage when negotiating with venture investors. [Editor’s note: Venture capitalists have noticed, and are trying to differentiate themselves.] As a result, founder-favorable terms are increasingly a part of formation and financing documents where they wouldn’t have been just a year or two ago.

The are several founder-favorable terms we’re seeing more frequently today. Not many companies or deals have all, or even most, of them. And choosing among them is usually linked to founders’ specific hot buttons. Regardless, all are worth considering, and often worth considering early.


More at http://snip.ly/cpQq


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Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Creating a company structure and knowing what to do is extremely important right from the start. Excellent information.

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The Startup Universe | Visual.ly

The Startup Universe | Visual.ly | Pitch it! | Scoop.it

A visual guide to startups, founders and venture capitalists. Search and view by category or term.

The piece was a collaboration between Visually, Accurat, and Ben Willers.



Here is an article on SiliconAngle by Melissa Tolentino with more information on how this works: http://siliconangle.com/blog/2013/07/11/visualizing-the-startup-universe/

Marc Kneepkens's insight:

Great information. Find out how Founders, VC's and Startups are connected.



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