entrepreneurship

Interview with Dr. Luz Cristal Glangchai 9/22/2014

When approaching an investor with a start-up, you talked about often times there aren’t very many women there. Did you feel like you had to pitch differently because you are a woman? “So the interesting thing is, I don’t know if I felt like I had to pitch differently because there were no women to pitch to, but I did feel like I had to dress very conservatively, like in a suit. I tried not to show my femininity. So I didn’t feel like I had to be more aggressive, but I did feel like I had to dress more like a man.”

So you experienced this with NanoTaxi (her first company), did you feel like you had to that when you were pitching VentureLab? “By the time I got to VentureLab I didn’t care any more what the guys thought, so I just dress like this (gestured to self).”

What skills should all women be proficient in in technology? “That is kind of a hard thing to say, ‘All women.’ But, I mean, everyone needs to know excel, everyone should need to know how to do a presentation, whether it’s keynote or powerpoint, everyone should know how to use a computer, cellphones.”

Would you recommend coding at all? “I don’t think that everyone needs to know coding, I think it’s good that everyone tries it. Like for me, I’ve tried coding, it’s just not my thing. I like mechanical stuff better. But I think everyone should definitely try it and take a class on it. I took a class a long time ago in C+, so I suggest everyone tries it to see if they like it or not, but I don’t think it is a skill you have to have.”

What would you describe VentureLab’s work culture as? “Part of our core values, one is to always be innovative, two is to have fun, and three is to make sure it is always a safe environment. Our environment is very laid back, so jeans, shorts, t-shirts. I’d say that is more the techie feel, so like, if you go to Geekdom or RackSpace, everyone is very low-key and casual.”

When you worked in engineering did you feel like you had the same opportunities as men to advance? “No, definitely not. No, so it…the interesting thing, and this happens a lot, is ou’d go and you’d make a presentation and you’d say this great idea and then you’d sit down and then the guys next to you–say his name is Jim–would be like, ‘Oh, I’ve got this great idea, we’re going to do x.’ And all of the other guys are like, ‘Ah, that’s so awesome.’ And there you are sitting there saying, ‘Wait a second, I just said that.’ There is some sort of weird, subconscious thing where the guys in the room, they don’t kind of notice you’re there. It is very very interesting, I’ve had this happen like three times.  So one time I was in an investor meeting and they needed an expert in nanoscience, and these guys all knew me, like we’re friends. And they were like, ‘Gosh you know, we really need this advisor to help us on this nanoscience issue,’ and they were like, ‘What about Bob, what about Joe?’ and I was just sitting there seeing how long it would take for them to say my name. So finally I raise my hand and was like, ‘Guys, right here.’ So, there’s just something interesting that I think even when women are going in, trying to get to the next level the management are guys that just kinds of overlook you.”

How do women in tech treat other women? Is it competitive? Collaborative? Indifferent? How would you describe that? “You know, I don’t know because there have never been that many women that I’ve worked with. I think some of the older women have been a little more competitive, but I’d say a lot of the younger women are a lot more collaborative.”

How do you think women and technology at the academic or university level compare to women at the professional level? “One thing that I’ve noticed is that women in academia were definitely much less collaborative, but I think that is true of a lot of professors. The kind of have that pompous mindset. I think the women in tech industry were much more jaded, because as a professor it is much more of a cushy job, and in tech you’re working 60-80 hours a week non-stop.”

How would you advise women in college to getting into the entrepreneurship field? “I’d say take a business class. I don’t think there are any technology commercialization classes [at Trinity University] but I would definitely say that. Because before I took that class I was just pure engineering and science and that was the class that completely changed everything for me. So for me, personally, I would take a technology commercialization class.”

Women led start-ups less likely to receive venture capital funding

When someone says ‘high-tech entrepreneur,’ the first thought that comes to my mind is not typically ‘woman.’ More often than not the first things are probably, ‘Mark Zuckerberg’ or (more generally stated) ‘men.’ This is because often times, companies started and run by women are overlooked or discredited by investors simply because women are at the helm. Now, this is not always an overt display of discrimination[1], but rather investors invest in what they are comfortable with; a practice called “pattern matching,” or “trying to invest in founders who remind them of other successful entrepreneurs”[2]. And even though high-tech start-ups founded and run by diverse groups are more likely to succeed[3], women led start-ups are far less likely to receive venture capital funding. [4]

The fact is, 40 percent of privately owned businesses are owned by women, but only about 10 percent of “venture-backed start-ups” are led by women.[5] In a report published by Illuminate Ventures, a venture capital firm that seeks out “innovative business ideas led by committed and talented teams,” the author found that not only were women-led, high-tech companies successful, they were also more “capital efficient than the norm.” The study found that the “average venture-backed company run by a woman” had similar “early-year revenues,” using an average of “one-third less committed capital.”[6] In a separate study sponsored by Dow Jones, start-ups with “five or more” women were 61 percent successful compared to 39 percent that failed.[7] However, research conducted by the Kauffman Foundation revealed that between 2004 and 2007 women started merely three percent of technology firms, and one percent of high-tech firms.[8]

These numbers are staggering, especially considering that in 2012 “an estimated 126 million women were starting or running new businesses in 67 economies around the world.”[9] Where is that statistic in the high-tech industry? Where are women venture capitalists? All of the shortcomings found in The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2012 Women’s Report can be attributed to status expectations and gender roles in business and in the technology industry. It is unfortunate, but true that these gender biases exist in modern business. Women should not be discriminated against (either overtly or covertly) because of their gender. Venture capitalists need to be more aware of the changing climate for business; it’s no longer an all-boys-club. As the trend obviously shows, if venture capitalists intend to make money in the years to come, it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to look to new, innovative, and women-led companies.

[1] Kelley, Donna J., Candida G. Brush, Patricia G. Greene, and Yana Litovsky. Global Entrepreneurship Monitor 2012 Women’s Report. Rep. The Center For Women’s Leadership, 31 July 2013. Web. 16 Sept. 2014.

[2] Chafkin, Max. “The Ugly Truth about Silicon Valley’s Diversity Problem.” Fast Company. N.p., 12 May 2014. Web. 5 Oct. 2014.

[3] Canning, Jessica, Maryam Haque, and Yimeng Wang. Women at the Wheel: Do Female Executives Drive Start-Up Success? Rep. Dow Jones and Company Inc., Sept. 2012. Web. 14 Sept. 2014.

[4] Gates, Lisa. “Do Women Have a Unique Genome for Startup Success?” Forbes. Forbes, Inc., 13 Jan. 2012. Web. 15 Sept. 2014.

[5] See footnote 4

[6] Padnos, Cindy. High Performance Entrepreneurs: Women In High-Tech. Rep. Illuminate Ventures, 1 Feb. 2010. Web. 15 Sept. 2014.

[7] See footnote 3

[8] Robb, Alicia M., and Susan Coleman. 2009. Sources of financing for new technology firms: A comparison by gender. The Kauffman Foundation.

[9] See footnote 1