Women entrepreneurs are hugely underrepresented in the tech startup world. As reported by the New York Times, “Only 9 percent of apps are created by women; 10 percent of innovative start-ups were founded by women.” With such woefully low numbers, I wanted to know how to help more women entrepreneurs break into tech. Before providing some ideas here, we have to first understand what the challenges are.
One significant barrier to entry that women face is lack of funding. Tech startup entrepreneurs dedicate a lot of time to pitching investors in order to raise capital. But, according to 2019 PitchBook data, women-founded startups receive less than 3% of all venture capital.
While many leaders are already working hard to make headway on this important capital issue, I’ve made it my mission to help women entrepreneurs who are in the early stages of their startup journeys with additional support and solutions.
As a tech coach, I dove deeper into some of the root issues that can prevent all entrepreneurs from breaking into tech and building their startups. First, I wanted to know why entrepreneurs just starting out believe they have to pitch to investors and raise outside capital in order to get started on their tech ideas.
After conducting hundreds of interviews with both men and women, the typical responses included: “That’s what I was told to do” and “I need at least $100,000 to pay for developers to build out my MVP.”
It’s no surprise that new entrepreneurs can have a challenging time building their tech ideas, given these and other obstacles they have to face. But what if we could reduce or circumvent these barriers to entry? What if it were possible to launch an idea without having to depend on investors or developers?
This is not a pipe dream; it’s something that I’ve been working to solve by addressing three key pillars: business, technology and mindset. While these tips apply to all entrepreneurs, I particularly hope to inspire women entrepreneurs to get started on their tech ideas. Below, I explain each pillar and offer a solution to address them.
1. Business: Talk to customers.
I’ve observed that many new entrepreneurs think of their technology as the solution, when the technology is actually the medium used to deliver, enhance or scale their solution. When I’ve asked entrepreneurs to state their problem-solution statements without mentioning the technology, most are unable to do so.
This is not Field of Dreams, where “if you build it, [they] will come.” It’s important to take critical business steps beforehand in order to know what needs to be built and that it solves a real problem.
I start with basic business principles for startups because understanding and executing properly is what differentiates an entrepreneur from an inventor. Inventors have great ideas, as do entrepreneurs, but entrepreneurs take the right actions on those ideas to get results.
In the Silicon Valley bible, The Startup Owner’s Manual, authors Steve Blank and Bob Dorf advise new startups to first focus on testing and learning through the process of customer discovery and customer validation.
So, the first step is to simply talk to consumers and learn from the data collected. This is how entrepreneurs can get the clarity they need on the real problems they are trying to solve and who their ideal customers are. As an added bonus, it’s free to do.
2. Technology: Remove the cost of developers.
It’s 2020, and the code-free app revolution is here. In fact, according to Gartner research reported by IEEE Spectrum, low- and no-code application development will account for more than 65% of development by 2024.
Code-free app builders can lower the barrier to entry associated with cost by democratizing access for anyone who wants to build a tech idea, specifically in the form of an app, without having any coding experience or paying for costly developers.
3. Mindset: Get a coach.
These business basics are nothing new, and the tech tools I shared are starting to become mainstream, but there is another element that entrepreneurs need to focus on to take action: mindset.
After working with entrepreneurs, I discovered that many need help with their own mindsets in order to break through internal barriers. These could include self-doubt or limiting beliefs, fear of rejection or failure, and technology overwhelm, to name a few.
I recommend hiring a coach to get the support and guidance you need to stay on the right track, push through mental blocks and not have to go at it alone. This is more of an investment, but it’s an option to consider if you don’t have the access or support you need from investors, advisors or mentors.
There you have it: a solution for the pillars of business, technology and mindset to help new entrepreneurs get started on their tech ideas. By empowering more women and other underrepresented entrepreneurs early on with the right knowledge, tools and support, I believe we can make a positive impact in the world of technology, innovation and startups.