LAUNCH 2020: 5 female founders on why they chose 2020 to launch a startup
As part of Spark Festival I led a panel of five female co-founders from Antler’s current cohort sharing why they have chosen 2020 as the year to build a business. They have all come from diverse backgrounds into entrepreneurship, from management consulting, corporate, motherhood, VC and more.
Antler is a global early-stage VC enabling experienced and aspiring entrepreneurs to build the defining businesses of tomorrow.
We are maximising founders’ opportunity to succeed in the Australian tech startup ecosystem by providing financial support from day one, building relationships as long-term strategic investors and leveraging our global platform for support and scaling.
Since launching in Sydney 16 months ago we have run three cohorts from which have created and invested in 41 companies. Personally, I am delighted to say this includes 23 female founders.
2020 will be marked in history as a turbulent year, rife with disruption and uncertainty. This, teamed with research showing that women are more risk averse than men, is why we chose to delve into why Shori, Jess, Margot, Lisa, and Iris took the leap to build a business now.
Shori comes from a strong academic background as a Harvard graduate and athlete having trialled for the Olympic swim team. As many do with that starting point she went into management consulting with top tier consulting company BCG. After two years, she made the move into an EduTech startup, where she worked for a year prior to joining Antler.
What did she bring from her management consulting toolkit into entrepreneurship?
“The ability to do deep research and empathise with a person’s perspective. Being able to break down a problem in various component digestible parts sets you up for startups,” she said.
“It was fun but overwhelming going from hierarchical structure to entrepreneurship. No one ever feels ready to dive into entrepreneurship but seeing so many people I admire in the space do it themselves and hearing that themselves — just go for it. Being able to join Antler with a community gave me comfort.”
Jess’ journey by contrast was very different coming from a non-linear career path covering many sectors and geographies.
How did she find validation of her skills and experience outside of hierarchical structures and job titles?
“Come from a non linear career path — each of those experiences gave me a range of skill sets,” she said.
“I spent a lot of time thinking about things I was good at, what I had learnt, which of those skills were transferrable, all of those things are powerful.
“Entrepreneurship chose me not the other way around”
Margot also started as a management consultant, but with Bain and Co. From there she was part of the founding teams of two Rocket Internet ventures and then joined the VC world with Tempus Partners.
How has starting a business in 2020 differed from when she launched The Iconic and Dalini?
“Fundamentally what changes is the environment,” she said. “That is who is around you and how much capital you have. Honestly, it doesn’t feel different — I have a fantastic co-founder and I’m super grateful for that.”
And why would someone with her prior business building experience join Antler?
“Antler has three key propositions: capital which includes the network to investors, curriculum and coaching and pool of potential co-founders.
“What was really exciting about Antler was the amount of effort the team puts into tracking down exceptionally talented people who wanted to quit their jobs to be founders of the next big thing. So I joined to leverage that hard work to accelerate my hunt for the right co-founder. And it turns out, it was a good decision.”
The mission of Margot’s business is to bring better bras to women. Has she faced challenges pitching a female focus product for investment in which remains a male dominated environment?
“Pitching to men, the difference is that I need to prove that the problem is real. This means being very focused around numbers and size of opportunity,” she said.
Lisa joined Antler to build her passion, a product that would bring increased financial literacy and empowerment to women.
“To do this you need to be really obsessed with the problem and not the solution, you must hold the customers at heart,” she said.
Meanwhile, Iris came straight from her second maternity leave into Antler. While it was somewhat a daunting experience to return to work, she did not let self doubt get the better of her or let a great opportunity pass her by.
“Are you not doing it because of anxiety? Identify what is the real reason and otherwise just give it a go as every step you take is another brick in the wall to get started,” she said.
These women were part of Antler’s third cohort which attracted 1,400 applications from which 99 founders were selected who went on to form 29 teams. From this, Antler invested in 16 companies, and in over 60% of these businesses there is a female co-founder.
For Margot 2020 has been an enabler for her business thanks to the push for female empowerment and the revolution around e-commerce.
“Let’s run at this thing fast and then what’s my worst case scenario as if I don’t build this someone else will,” she said.
To see Antler’s latest portfolio companies, tune into the upcoming Demo Day.
Read more articles from this series below:
Adele Moynihan is a Director of Recruiting, Antler Australia.
Antler enables exceptional people to create exceptional companies. If you want to become a startup founder, find the perfect co-founder and create impactful companies to shape the future, apply now and begin your Antler journey.