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News & Analysis

Why Australian female founders need access to global VCs

- August 3, 2021 4 MIN READ
STEM
If there is anything that really grinds my gears, it’s the continued lack of understanding exhibited by so many governments, businesses and VCs when it comes to female founders need, and their abilities. 

The recent blunder regarding the Boosting Female Founder initiative is the most recent case in point: after a wide scale email send out notifying many female founders they had been successful in making it to the next round of the program, only a few hours later, it was followed by another government email callously informing them they were actually unsuccessful and that it had all been a mistake.

Connie Ren

I can well imagine the devastation that the second email would have caused:  unlike men, women who start their own businesses do not have easy access to a seemingly infinite pool of funding, respect and faith, and having their hope extinguished in such an off-hand manner speaks to the level of disregard afforded to women founders. 

The blow would have been made heavier by the devastating effects of the pandemic, which, as we know, has affected the work, careers and livelihoods of far more women than men. 

As a female founder who has worked in China and Hong Kong, I’ve also noticed that in Australia, the VC world is quite conservative: most of the cash coming into Aussie startups is from the pockets of men, with the majority of early-stage angel investors in Australia male and most of the VC firms owned and run, for the most part, by men.

 

She Loves Tech helps

A recent survey of major Australian VC funds also found that of 323 active investments made by nine top Australian funds which responded, 85 of the companies – or 26% – had female co-founders. 

This is why I have fought so hard to bring She Loves Tech, the first and biggest global competition for female founders run by an international non-profit organisation of the same name committed to closing the funding gap for women entrepreneurs, to Australia.

Not only does it provide badly needed funding to overall and regional winners, but its connection to more than 40 countries (and hundreds of VC firms, investors and other mentors from all over the world) 

While we officially launched in 2020, Covid-19 made it impossible to launch in the manner we wanted to, relegating all the mentorship and pitching events that are so valuable to online. 

Even then, we attract 110 applications from Australia — the second biggest country to apply — showing just how keen female founders and female dominant startups are for support here. Their keen interest may in part be explained by these less-than-stellar stats: in October 2020, Australia registered 355,000 startups, with just 22 per cent being all-women led — and that’s risen by only three per cent in 20 years.

As a female startup founder, I know just how difficult it is to get your idea off the ground. Ten years ago, I worked in education marketing in Beijing where I learnt a lot about how technology can help solve seemingly unsolvable problems. 

For example, Beijing traffic is notorious, and we found that so many students were either running late or unable to attend their classes due to the three-hour travel time (for a 30 minute lesson!). So we worked to bring the class to them — through ed-tech. This is when I truly realised the power of technology and how it was going to lead the world. 

 

How I built Tanggram

Fast forward to 2013, and I’m in Melbourne, working in the property investment sector — while also on the way to raising three boys (the first one being just over two years older than my twins).

This is where I learnt how the property market works and the processes behind capital raising and investments, which eventually helped me identify a huge gap in the Australian market when it came to ordinary people accessing investment opportunities. Everyone was talking about shares — but entry levels were (and still are) through the roof for regular folk. 

So it got me thinking: what if there was a product that could connect technology with investing in a way that lowers the entry barrier?

Eventually, Tanggram — our fintech app that gives young people a kick-start in building wealth by earning credit while shopping online — was born, but not without the help of my co-founder Nick, who was able to secure the funding we needed much easier than I, a single mother of three with many expected obligations, could find the time — and opportunity — to do. 

When I told my story to She Loves Tech co-founder Rhea See, she saw my passion to help women achieve their dreams, and, despite initial misgivings (most other regional partners are governments or incubator) agreed to sign Tanggram on as the official Australian partner and organiser of the pitch round here. 

Being a founder who is single-handedly raising three young boys, I see the need to elevate talented and ambitious women as crucial to the development of both young men and women.  The She Loves Tech competition is not only a way to win prize money, but is also the badly needed bridge to connect local Australian startups with a gender lens to global investment. 

Female founders already face discrimination when seeking funding, are taken less seriously as ‘real’ entrepreneurs, or are expected to prove their worth where their male counterparts may not, and through She Loves Tech, which is looking for entries from female-led technology  startups, I want to ensure they get as much help as possible.  

Apply for She Loves Tech here.

 

  • Connie Ren is a mentor at She Loves Tech, and co-founder of Tanggram, Australia’s first app which allows people to invest while they shop with partnered Aussie companies