Jason Calacanis put 50 female founders into a room. Here’s what happened.
Female founders are definitely well aware of the conversations surrounding gender these days. So when jason Calacanis and his team invited 50 female founders for his Founder University this week, it was a topic that was not discussed at all.
Okay, I exaggerate. Over the course of two days, maybe one person might have subtly hinted at it. jason himself brought up the topic at the very end of two days, to raise that fact that he and his staff debated whether or not to address the topic, and left it up to us attendees to bring it up:
“But you didn’t want to talk about it — you just wanted to talk about your companies.”
What Female Founders Want
First, I commend jason and his amazing staff for bringing us all together; Wilson Sonsini for hosting us; all the speakers who took time out of their busy day to travel to drop crazy knowledge bombs on us.
You might think “ok, another startup seminar targeted towards females. So what?” But it’s just that — it was just another startup seminar, filled with amazing speakers, curated for goldilocks founders (post-idea, pre-Series A), that happened to be attended by founders who are female.
No talking down to us, or thinking they had to be extra nice instead of candid.
No casual ‘so, when are you planning to have kids?’ questions.
No talk about “how do I get funded as a woman?”
My point? We were treated as real founders. And that’s what we wanted. Trust me — we already know the barriers are insanely high. We already know we’re going to have to work harder than every other competitor to get noticed and be taken seriously. So the one thing I appreciated most was that Founder University gave it to us straight. We all know its a tough road ahead; that everything that could possibly go wrong probably will; that sleep will be a luxury. And because of that, we’d rather be challenged and pushed to the brink than given the ‘be nice to the damsel’ treatment.
And don’t get me wrong — there is a time and place to have discussion around the things we’ve had to endure as a woman, and how to deal. That’s incredibly valuable. It’s just that its not the only thing I want to talk about. I want to talk about how to gain traction and growth to merit funding. I want to talk about how to grow a lasting company and recruit superstars.
I’ve never sat in a room like THAT before
I’d never sat in a room like that before. By that, I’m referring to a room full of women who had a product, had revenue, had funding, and were getting shit done. Don’t get me wrong — I know a lot of amazing, successful women. I just don’t know a lot of women founders who got somewhere in the startup world. I can’t think of more than a handful of women founders who have gotten to a Series B (I’m sure there are more than the ones I’ve heard of. But the point I’m trying to make is that its not exactly a road well traveled). The women in this room, by and large, had product, funding, and revenue.
There were women solving autism and affordable housing. Women working with tractors and growing bugs. And there were women working with panties and breast milk.
I’ve come away from the experience, hopefully a little wiser, but very inspired, knowing that there are other women out there who are killing it — and supporting other women who are doing the same.
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