The StartupMuster Report for 2015 revealed that Australian startups are thinly spread across more than 20 industries, with marketing representing the largest slice at a mere 12.9%. Fintech ranked 8th at 10.7% of startups. What we are dealing with across the startup ecosystem is massive diversity. There are new and emerging apps and platforms, business models and patents. Surrounding these, we are beginning to see the growth of communities – interconnected coworking spaces, incubator programs, mentoring, funding and some government support. But there appears to be one substantial factor missing from the diversity pie. And that is women founders.
The StartupMuster Report indicated that only 24% of startups had women founders.
And the ratio within the FinTech sector in Australia is significantly lower.
Why female founders are essential to a successful ecosystem
On the surface, it seems like a non-argument that a more diverse founder base should be desirable. But there are powerful reasons for action. A Babson College report shows that “businesses with a woman on the executive team are more likely to have higher valuations at both first and last funding (64 percent higher and 49 percent higher, respectively)”.
In the startup world where velocity of innovation and breakthrough ideas are essential, women have a vital role to play. A Harvard Business Review article indicates that “Leaders who are willing to change direction based on women’s input are more than twice as likely to tap into winning ideas. And leaders who make sure each female member on the team gets constructive and supportive feedback are 128% more likely to elicit breakthrough ideas.”
Despite what can appear to be slow progress, it seems that many more traditional businesses are taking note. Marc Benioff, the charismatic CEO of Salesforce, has articulated a clear diversity vision, announcing a wide ranging salary review designed to bring pay parity to his 16,000 strong workforce, “I believe that businesses are more successful when equality is built into the fabric of the company”. And diversity doesn’t get more built-in to the fabric than at the founder level.
Growing Women Founders in FinTech
It is always a challenge to “boil the ocean” – and while it would be great to see an across the board rise in the number of women founders in Australian startups, by taking a more targeted approach we should be able to learn some valuable lessons. We should take a “lean approach” to the challenge.
Partnering with FinTech hub, Stone and Chalk, Chief Disruptor, Anne-Marie Elias and Swaab, we have been meeting to develop a plan that is designed to grow the number of women founders in FinTech specifically. Our goal is for there to be female founders in 50% of FinTech startups by 2020. It’s an ambitious goal – but it sets an agenda for the next three and a half years. It forces us to be focused and tenacious.
We have already commenced our consultations and will continue to refine approach and our value proposition. We are continuing to identify partners, collaborators and potential sponsors. If you’d like to help, we’d love to hear from you.