Why most women-led startups fail

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women-led startups

While we are still in the International Women’s Day mood, I think addressing this white elephant in the room is truly essential. The theme for this year’s celebration was #ChooseToChallenge. Being a woman, I believe that women are and should continue to demand equality in all spheres.

As you may know, 90% of all startups fail. I am particularly interested in why women-owned startups fail. I looked at several reasons, and I would like to share some here:

  • Women-owned startups attract less funding than their male counterparts:
    A study by the Boston Consulting Group and Mass Challenge found that women-founded or co-founded companies received an average $935,000 in VC investments, which is less than half the average $2.1 million invested in companies founded by male entrepreneurs. This challenge ultimately leads to startup failure because every business needs capital to scale.
  • Women play multiple roles:
    If you’ve read Shonda Rhimes’ book: Year of Yes, you would understand the gist of this statement. Women juggle motherhood, being a boss and running a business all at the same time. They wear it as a badge of honour and avoid asking for help. Big mistake! This builds up the stuff that leads to businesses failing. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness.
  • Lack of a Co-founder:
    It’s famously quoted, “If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together”. One mistake that some entrepreneurs make is failing to pick a Co-founder. A red flag even when you are looking for investors. Why should an investor put their money into a business where the owner cannot convince someone to be their Co-founder? Look for a co-founder who complements your skills.
  • Missing mentor linkages:
    Every successful business owner has a mentor – people who will look you in the eye and tell you when you are on the wrong path. These are people who probably have made the same mistakes in their journey of entrepreneurship. There is learning that occurs through proximity to successful people. How many women have such people?
  • Perfectionism:
    It’s not only the enemy of productivity, but it is also the enemy of every entrepreneur. Some women entrepreneurs want to have everything perfect before they launch into the market. They end up procrastinating, and the opportunity bypasses them. Some business opportunities will not wait for you to be accurate. You need to get your prototype out and improve on the quality as you get your customers’ feedback.

At Startup Weekend Women’s Edition (SWWE), we give you the training and opportunity to meet your co-founders, mentors and resources to run successful startups. Look out for our next event and make sure you register. You can follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Linkedin for updates.

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