Cindy Gallop, IfWeRanTheWorld: Changing Venture for Women

The transcript follows & video below.  This is Part II of the interview. You can view Part I here.

When I won a place & pitched at Showcase in January, my PowerPoint went out of control & I bit the bullet & continued the pitch anyway (I had just flown in from London & I had 5 years of hard work & sacrifice behind me – why not?).   Adeo Ressi said afterwards that I was a woman with ‘balls’. How much do you think women’s biology/hormonal context goes against them when sourcing venture?

Well it doesn’t go against us at all in reality!  Perceptually there are absolutely issues with what men presume.  Amongst them by the way the completely misguided perception that women don’t have what it takes to get down in the trenches & slog their guts out to make a business successful.  Which is utterly ridiculous! What I think is enormously entertaining, when we talked about this earlier you said that one guy observing said you had balls of steel.  That in itself actually reflects the malecentric view of the world.  Actually women & men alike, some people don’t, but many people do absolutely have the guts to do everything that is necessary to succeed in business or to succeed in tech ventures. And we’ll know that we’ve reached gender parity when something happens to screw up a presentation for a guy & the word after that is ‘My God he had a pussy of steel to get through that!’

Cindy Gallop

Tabby Biddle wrote a post in the Huffington Post last year ‘Women & Venture Capital — Is It a Rite of Passage Into Our Power?’ I was really interested in the title of that article although there was not really any further elaboration of the title in the article.  Do you have any thoughts about this idea that breaking through into the venture community is another glass ceiling that women need to change to attain some equality within the entrepreneurial community.

As I said earlier that women do that in order to be able to get access to the funding & the financing that will enable significant business & financial success which will enable a sea change in attitude towards women entrepreneurs & women startup founders. So yes I think it is critically important!  What I think is interesting though is that women will respond better  to those areas of the venture community that are open to more creative ways of approaching the whole financing scenario.  What I mean by that is, in a way I would love to see the entire framework of everything we are talking about undergo the same sea change.  I find it interesting that a young female entrepreneur came to see me a few months back & she had a startup which was orientated around a proposition in the financial services sector.  She was finding it very difficult to get this operational because she was dealing with in the financial context, a lot of regulatory issues & obstacles & she was very frustrated by this.  So when I was talking to her, I said to her ‘What do you think our financial system would look like if it was designed by women?  Because we operate fundamentally, as many things in business are, in a male created financial system.  And by the way I am not suggesting that a female designed & created financial system would be better, but it would certainly be different & operate in different ways.  My suggestion to her was envision a financial system as if it had been designed by women & envision how you would make your startup fly within that & that will drive a different way of thinking & a more lateral way of thinking about how you circumvent the regulatory barriers getting in the way of making this startup take off in the way that you would like to. So in the same context I would love to see, apart from what we’re talking about, in terms of breakthroughs for female entrepreneurs, I’d like to see breakthroughs for female VCs.  Female VCs currently represent something like 5 to 7%  of the entire VC landscape.  They are very subject when they recommend female startups, female led businesses for funding, to a reaction that goes ‘Bloody Favoritism!’ because its women. Whereas somebody pointed out in a blog post, nobody goes: ‘What we’re funding another young white male dropout from Stanford/Harvard  again?’  I believe that the entire VC context & framework could actually do with many more women within it, bringing many more different perspectives to exactly how you go about funding & building very productive business relationships with very interesting startups to create the best possible financial returns for everybody.

Well I love the way you’ve readdressed the concept & the thinking, that’s so creative.  I think we could all take a lesson from that as far as re-imagining the world.

Cindy Gallop

She quoted another author in that article ‘Lotta Alsen, creator of The Heroine’s Journey, a course designed exclusively for women entrepreneurs, points out in an article on The Huffington Post: “Women don’t start companies for the same reason men do. Women start businesses as an expression of themselves, as a way to balance family and work, and to be able to be their own bosses. Men start businesses to make money, or because they have an idea (that they believe they can make money on).”  Do you agree with that idea Cindy & what reasons do you think women have for starting businesses?

I completely, totally & fundamentally disagree with that idea.  Nothing about you, but I’m going to take massive issue with the generalization you’ve made there because I think that both men & women start businesses for all of those reasons.  So just as I believe there are absolutely men who are moving away from corporate work late scenarios because they want to spend more time with their families.  They have exactly those reasons for doing what they’re doing in the same way that women like me who have ideas that they want to make happen & those ideas, in the case of me & IfWeRanTheWorld, are fundamentally rooted in a belief that the future of business is about doing good & making money.  So I am totally out to prove my own business model.  I want to prove that it is entirely possible to not make money & do good by writing checks to causes to clear your conscience.  But to make money because you do good!  So no I think you absolutely can’t generalize like that.  There is no gender difference between the fact that some of us, male or female, have particular quality of life reasons to start our own businesses.  And others simply just want to make money & there’s nothing wrong with that. As long as people are bringing to the world really innovative, really valuable business ventures that create jobs, inspire other people as great role models, it doesn’t matter what their motivations are & men & women share absolutely the same motivations & there’s no issue with anybody starting a business for any reason whatsoever.

Cindy Gallop

I actually agree with you, it was almost a blanket generalization that doesn’t even fit?  Gigaom recently posted an article “Is There a Female Funding Model?” By Stacey Higginbotham who quoted ‘wondering if there’s a better model for funding female companies, or if women tend to form companies that are better suited for raising debt as opposed to venture capital. Or is the trend simply a result of venture investors being blind to female entrepreneurs and then those spurned entrepreneurs doing what they do best — finding an alternative when a roadblock pops up?’  How do you feel about this question, do we need a different funding model?   Do you think that is a possible solution to the current challenges for women startups, to pursue different funding models than male entrepreneurs?

No I think this is critically important that this does not happen & by the way I absolutely applaud those enormously supportive, very few organizations & funds that have been deliberately set up to fund women entrepreneurs. But the exact reason that it is so critically important that this does not happen is because those places have far fewer resources than the main players in the sector.  Sad fact of life & I see this myself, as the alumini of one of the colleges of Oxford University that was specifically set up for women only.  I went to Sommerville, college of Oxford, and Sommerville was one of five colleges started back at the end of the 19th Century because women had no place in higher education at Oxford. Because they were started relatively recently versus the men’s colleges which had been around for centuries, because women have far less economic & business power those colleges were so dramatically under funded versus their male counterparts they’ve all had to go co-ed. But nevertheless they still remain dramatically underfunded.

Women do not have access to the kinds of funding or the kinds of resources that men do & so it is critically important for all the reasons that I’ve outlined in this interview that women are not pushed out into a different kind of funding model.  But that the funding model that is working so well for so many men & I hasten to add its not working for all men because all entrepreneurs study with the same obstacles. But its working well for far more men than women. It’s critically important that it’s opened up to women & that both women & men have an equal crack at the same levels of funding & the same resources. To ghettoize women, to marginalize women, to say that female entrepreneurs need a different kind of funding model is doing the biggest disservice to women & the future female entrepreneurs could possibly do.

Cindy Gallop

So I gather from that statement that why women have gone other paths is because the obstacle has been too great, they’ve just become resourceful & worked out other methods.  And that was the question she raised in that article.

And its not because they’ve wanted to but because they’ve had to.

Cindy Gallop

Cindy thank you so much, I’ve been totally enlightened & its been a total delight speaking with you.

It’s been a complete pleasure Pemo & I’m thrilled also that you’re giving us a showcase & opportunity to get these opinions out into the world because we all need to be talking about this, we all need to be raising the debate. The recent storm that was out in the blogosphere around Michael Arrington’s Techcrunch post about women in tech has been terrific because its gotten everybody talking & discussing & hopefully doing something about these very fundamental & very serious issues to benefit all of us.  So I’m thrilled to have this opportunity.  Thank you.

Cindy Gallop

I could not more heartily endorse Madeline Albright’s wonderful quote: ‘There’s a special place reserved in Hell for women who do not help other women.’

Cindy Gallop

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