We're still far away from gender equality in the startup cosmos. A new initiative by the LMU Entrepreneurship Center wants to change that
The percentage of female founders is still low compared to their male counterparts: According to the Female Founders Monitor 2019 only 15.1% of the startup founders in Germany are women. The proportion of female founders in international hotspots like Silicon Valley (16%), London (15%) or Singapore (12%) is comparable to that. In cities like Paris (10%) and Tel Aviv (8%) the discrepancy is even larger.
And there’s a variety of reasons for that, says Tina Ruseva, who is a Munich-based IT specialist, founder and mother: “Less time, less money and, above all, a lot of bias stops female founders, but also every other minority.”
New initiatives ahead in Munich
In order to overcome those barriers and boost female entrepreneurship the LMU Entrepreneurship Center will start a number of events and initiatives. Amongst them: the first Female Founder Meetup on August 6th. “At this digital event, we specifically support female founders in creating a pitch deck and then enable direct exchange of experiences in an open and supportive environment”, says Andy Goldstein, CEO of the LMU Entrepreneurship Center.
For the future, based on research and the close exchange with female founders, the accelerator is working on ideas and concepts, for example on further topic-specific meetups, to support women in a targeted manner, but also to promote diversity in general. “We have made it our task to support startups from all areas. It is all about good business ideas, no matter where they come from”, says Goldstein. In addition to that, the German Accelerator's #GAccelerateHer campaign is about offering female founders an extra stage to present themselves. The goal is to create role models that other young women can use as a guide.
The Technical University’s incubator, UnternehmerTUM, has initiated Women Start-up. A community, which organizes pitch training and events, networking formats and workshops related to leadership and financing options. According to the CEO of UnternehmerTUM, Helmut Schöneberger, women are needed, especially in the tech startup scene: “Considering the societal challenges we’re facing, we can’t afford to do without the entrepreneurial power and creativity of women.”
What do female founders think about the situation and how to change it?
We've asked three female entrepreneurs, who started their company in Munich, about their experiences. According to them, supporting female entrepreneurs, connecting them with each other and providing useful skills is an important step towards equality in the startup ecosystem.
Caroline Kunert, who founded Knister Grill, a company which offers a compact charcoal barbecue, thinks that the origin lies in the educational system: “If you happen to be shown the option to found a company yourself, it mostly happens in technical courses. And statistically there are simply fewer women there”, she claims. “I have never heard of entrepreneurship programs in courses that focus on women, such as medicine, law, teaching qualifications and the like.” According to her, it’s not primarily necessary to ensure that more women study computer science, but to show them the possibility of founding in their fields of interest.
In metropolitan areas such as Munich there are dozens of offers for female founders because the topic is directly linked to social commitment, says Tina Ruseva and criticizes: “For this reason, providers often focus on PR, not on content.” Therefore, Munich and the startup scene need a central digital mentoring platform that connects people according to skills, needs and availability and really takes founders further.
Ruseva says, though, that “where it says mentoring on the outside, there’s not always mentoring on the inside.” Vague content, irrelevant matching, complex application procedures, outdated communication channels and little flexibility are often hidden behind the website profiles. Kunert believes “that good mentoring programs can help to take away the fear of insecurity, risk, failure, shyness, money loss from women.” With more female role models, social role attributions can also be removed, the Knister-founder thinks.
Another important aspect for (female) founders is financing: The best way to help them is with seed capital or a microcredit, says Ruseva. A founder “Bafög” (German governmental student loan) has been in discussion for a long time. A startup grant is currently only available to former employees and many grants are linked to university and being a student, criticizes Ruseva. “Many professional groups (e.g. craftsmen and women) fall out, but could generally advance digitization as experts in their field”, she says.
According to Jenny Müller, the founder of the food startup Die Frischemanufaktur, the Munich ecosystem could provide more support when it comes to financing. Apart from that she is happy with it: “What Munich definitely does well is showing role models and it has good mentoring and accelerator programs.”