Silicon Valley. Home to hackathons, innovators, risk takers and game changers. It’s a much loved habitat for start-ups with high energy, uncommon ideas and huge ambition. Every globally minded founder and Venture Capitalist (VC) wants to be here, to take their pioneering aspirations to new levels. But there’s a problem. When you say Silicon Valley (SV), you think technology. When you think technology and gender, you think men. It’s no top-secret that gender diversity in Tech has been a problem for years.
Gender bias doesn't just lead to unequal opportunity for women, it detrimentally impacts economic growth. The World Economic Forum's Global Gender Gap Report 2020 shows that reducing gender inequality now could add USD13 trillion to global GDP in 2030. COVID-19 has placed extra pressure on women who have encountered burdens such as unpaid child and parental care, leading to a slower salary recovery—which of course impacts spend and ultimately economic growth. So as you can see, championing gender equality and opportunity isn't just good for society, it's good for our economy.
When I look back over the time I've spent working with entrepreneurs, VCs and investors in Silicon Valley, I ask myself what's changed from the first day I set foot in the Valley to now; and the answer is: not enough. Women still struggle to access the capital they need to grow their business, meaningful connections and business expertise.
At HSBC Private Banking, we commissioned 'She's the Business,' a global research report that explores the challenges female entrepreneurs face when seeking investment. We spoke to more than 1,200 entrepreneurs in Europe, Asia, the Middle East and the US. Here in the US, we saw almost two thirds (61 per cent) of female entrepreneurs pitch to all or predominantly male investors, with less than one in 10 pitching to all or mostly female investors. Almost half (46 per cent) of female entrepreneurs in the US said they have experienced gender bias when raising capital for their business. Compared to other countries, female entrepreneurs in the US experience some of the highest levels of gender bias. Considering the amount of turmoil we've experienced this year we have to recognize that change starts with us. We need to champion the change we want to see. So while Silicon Valley has a natural vibe for entrepreneurial camaraderie and wanting to help one another, which is a huge positive, we still have some way to go.
The research also found that female entrepreneurs want better access to networks, business expertise and opportunities.
Enter our West Coast team. We're committed to take action and move the stats in the right direction.
Together with AllBright, a female founded powerhouse determined to help women entrepreneurs thrive, we hosted a virtual Pitch Day on Zoom in support of female founders. Entrepreneurship is universal and innovation is borderless - four female founders, who hail from different countries, pitched their global ambitions with such great passion. They each had just three minutes to deliver their business pitch in the hope of securing the funds they need to scale their businesses. I joined as a panellist, providing feedback and advice and was truly impressed at what I saw.
It's important to remember that these events are not just about fund raising. You have an opportunity to exchange ideas, learn from one another and have open dialogue with potential investors about what the Valley is looking for tomorrow and how to incorporate those ideas into business plans which could result in your endgame of securing financing. These entrepreneurs are relentless warriors, to not only have achieved great traction in such a short period of time, but their projected growth trajectories look very promising with new product launches and fundraising plans in place, despite this challenging environment we find ourselves in. It's inspirational to watch businesses adapt and not see dreams fall by the wayside and I look forward to seeing this entrepreneurial spirit continue to thrive across Silicon Valley and a repetition of events like this that can motivate and support more women to follow their business ambitions and change the stats.
Survival 101 for start up founders
1. Remain a persistent cheerleader of your venture and live your brand. If you cheer, they'll cheer.
2. Hunt out investors who are entrepreneurially minded or were previously entrepreneurs.
3. They'll have a stronger network and a bigger desire to help you scale. They're more likely to help you with business problems rather than just being financial backers.
4. Network, get advice and then network some more. It's never just about what you know. Silicon Valley is a place where the done thing is to help one another. Entrepreneurs win in numbers.
5. Stay true to who you are and do not give up. Develop a "fail fast" philosophy and capitalize on those learnings to grow.