The Startup Genome and women founders

What I’m listening to while I type: American IV: The Man Comes Around

I’ve mentioned the Startup Genome Project and posted previously about the issues women founders face, so I was interested to read the Project’s latest post “Defining the X Chromosone: the DNA of Women Led Startups“. Interested, but ultimately disappointed.

I don’t want to knock the project, nor criticise Pemo Theodore, the researcher/writer of that post, but one day I’d like to read something about women founders that has analytical depth to it.

Where are the quotes? What percentage responses? What constitutes “many people have said” or “many suggested” in a study based on 120 interviews (and just 18 female founders)?

(This isn’t a reflection on the SGP itself which is using valid research strategy and epistemology.)

I recognise that this is Theodore’s  introductory post and, as such, written to encourge women founders to sign up so that quantitative data can be collected to produce a more authoritative piece. But there’s no excuse for making generalist statements like the one below, particularly without any source references or quotes. 

Whereas many men have big dreams, women may tend to ‘think too small’.  This may stem hormonally from our primary focus on the immediate people in our care or responsibility.  Historically big picture thinking and exploring may have just been the domain of the male hunters.  However this can easily be learned and changed if needed. Women’s sports and working on teams can provide confidence in winning and losing on a big scale.
Since my teens, I’ve read a bucketload of similar broad-brush musings on the differences between men and women, and digested so many, unrelentingly positive, “Hey, look at this successful woman! Aren’t we women just great!!” features in women’s magazines/websites that I’m ready to throw up.
This month’s Red magazine (“2012 – The Year Of You”) has 228 pages, including a four-page feature on women pioneers and winners of Red’s Hot Women award. But there are 177 pages with adverts or things to buy.
I’m not the only woman out here who wants to think more than I want to shop. Can you all just stop writing articles at the intelligence level of a six-year-old who hasn’t yet decided whether Barbie or Action Man has the more attractive lifestyle. (Unlimited clothing budget and option to try a new job every year; against unlimited gadgets and high percentage of being blown apart by a firework….hmm)
I might be sounding uppity here (or should that be hormonal…)  but there’s more than enough weak journalism and half-baked research in the world without adding more verbal padding to a very serious issue.
There are fewer women founders than male founders for the same reasons that there are fewer women than men commanding battleships; fewer women than men on top company boards; fewer women than men running local councils and fewer women than men in the House of Commons  and in the US Congress.
Some of those reasons are to do with us women (eg 177 shopping pages) but most of them are to do with you men (eg you run the world).
I hate that the world has hardly changed since I left school with my GCSEs and more ambition than I have today, and I really hate that I haven’t done enough – and am still not doing enough – about that.



Why startups fail – and why Moonfruit didn’t

What I’m listening to while I type: Time (The Revelator)

Couple of interesting things this morning via the UK Business Forums’ e-flyer that I thought worth a quick post.

First, the infographic below on ‘Why startups fail’ out of research by the Startup Genome Project.


Their ‘five core dimensions’ for success are pretty obvious: to succeed you need customers, the right product, a good team, a good/innovative business model, and a funding cushion. These are things all startup founders know but, as I’ve said before, knowing isn’t doing.

What’s interesting about the research is that they link success directly to keeping those  five core dimensions in balance during the scaling of the business – that ‘proper’ scaling means moving all five forward at the same pace, while allowing any of the five to grow faster than the others, leads to premature scaling and to startup failure. 

I’m not sure how much the concept equates to the reality, where growth is more like The Blob than those nice neat graphs, and when founder vision is half panic, half lightbulb moments. I’ll be looking in more detail at the project in a future post, in the meantime, here’s the story on Techcrunch.

The other useful piece in the e-flyer was this video interview with Moonfruit’s Joe White.

I mentioned his wife, Wendy Tan White, in my earlier post about women founders, and his perspective on the differences between running Moonfruit now and running it in the early days, pre-2000 dotcom crash, is interesting.

Among the points he makes are:

  • Despite the recession, the UK tech sector is “crazily buoyant” right now compared to other sectors
  • The recession is good for businesses like Moonfruit because, as they saw in 2008, the recession prompts more people to set up online businesses, as a secondary or main income, that make use of the sort of services Moonfruit supplies
  • It’s easier to launch a new web-tech business now because it’s cheaper, you need less startup capital to get going
  • The downside of that is that VCs expect you to be further down the road before you come to them.

His advice to startups? “Get as much done as you can before you go after funding.”