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Breaking the Glass Ceiling: Insights from Female Founders

Posted at: 03.08.2023
We spoke with 6 female founders about leading, running, and scaling successful businesses, in a field lacking gender diversity.

Bringing an idea to life and building a successful business is a challenge, no matter your gender. Unfortunately, women are underrepresented in tech. In 2022, only 14.8% of startup founders in Europe were women.

This International Women’s Day, we talk to 6 leading female founders about what they’ve learned along their entrepreneurship journey.

CEO and co-founder of Opuscope, Soraya Jaber is an entrepreneur promoting diversity and inclusion in entrepreneurship and new technology. She has been working to use the potential of AR and VR to allow the world to offer and share a new look at our world. 

“It"e;s essential to surround yourself with a strong team. We all know that building a business requires a diverse range of skills and perspectives, and I"e;ve learned to leverage my team"e;s strengths to achieve the company’s goals.

“Recruit ambitious people who believe in your mission. A strong sense of instinct has proven essential over the years. The complementarity of associates is an essential key to building a strong team that will support your vision.”

Founder of BECA, the Black Executive CMO Alliance, Jerri DeVard started her entrepreneurial project in 2021 providing a trusted space for Black C-suite execs to come together. today, BECA has 50 hi-potential Future Leaders in the program from iconic F500 companies. 

“Interrogate your idea(s) and invite constructive feedback early on.

“Like a good marketer, before the launch of BECA, I spent months developing a robust marketing plan. I reached out to friends and colleagues and asked, ‘Is this a good idea What am I missing’ I received lots of great ideas that helped shaped the organization, ideas far better than my own. 

“Our success would not have happened without a clear inspiring mission, exceptional partners, and asking for help.”

Take advantage of technology to empower unemployed women and use their cooking skills – the challenge Loubna Ksibi and her co-founders took on in 2017 with Meet My Mama. By 2019, she was running a successful business championing female migrants and was selected for Forbes 30 under 30 list. 

“A successful business starts with identifying a real problem that people face and offering a sustainable solution. In the case of Meet My Mama, we identified a problem of migrant women struggling to find work in the formal economy and offered a solution by connecting them with customers who wanted to enjoy their homemade food. 

“It"e;s important to build a product that you are passionate about. When you are personally invested in your product, you are more likely to put in the hard work and dedication needed to make it successful.”

Former investment banker, serial entrepreneur, speaker,  venture capitalist, and Latina, Renata Merino’s entrepreneurial story is one of inspiration, vulnerability, and making the impossible possible. Eight years ago, she launched a female founder community called Blazin Babes and is an angel investor and LP.

Make money before you ask for money. Have an MVP (Minimum Viable Product) or generate some revenue before you raise capital. This will help you refine your startup, as well as make it easier to raise capital and convince investors or venture capitalists to invest because you have proven that people will buy your product or service.

“When raising capital, make sure you are thinking about strategic investors in addition to the big checks. An industry expert can make intros to customers and give access to their network.”

Former software engineer at Apple, Shana Azria realized that most product protection plans came nowhere near AppleCare"e;s service. In 2022 she and her 2 co-founders launched Evy, a product protection for e-commerce. A year later, the startup is now a team of 10, has raised several million dollars in funding, and is looking to expand.

“Surround yourself with the right people at the right time. You may need a particular expertise and it’s important to find the person who would work best for this stage of your company. If you’re early, the best fit might be a polyvalent person who can wear many hats. At a later stage, you may want someone who knows how to scale and grow a team.

“Find co-founders who are a good fit for your way of working. A lot of founding teams look very different and operate in unique ways. In my case, we are 3 co-founders with very complementary skills (one tech, one product, and one business) and we were very clear from day one that we would operate in each of our lanes.” 

Maria Joite is a female founder with several years of experience in investment banking at a top-tier global bank. She started her entrepreneurial journey in 2021, having co-founded a Berlin-based venture in the space of Web3 and Blockchain.

“ Never underestimate yourself or let others underestimate you. It remains somewhat rooted in our nature to be shy about our knowledge, skills, or success. But there is absolutely no need to downplay any of that – believe in yourself and your ability to succeed.

“In a world full of talented and driven entrepreneurs, it takes effort, focus, and determination to stand out from the crowd. Whatever it takes to achieve ambitious goals, be authentic and stay grounded.

“And most importantly: Connect with your fellow female founders and take them with you to the top. Grow together – and be strong together!”

If you’re a fellow female founder and want to put your startup to the test, VivaTech’s 2023 Female Founder’s Challenge is still accepting applications until March 19. >> Apply now



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