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The Future Of Founder Is Female! Only 2.3% of all equity funding raised in 2020 globally went to women-led startups

By Ritu Marya

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It's been seven years since we launched our Women-Led initiative Shepreneurs series in March intending to elevate women founders' voices in the startup and business ecosystem and create a community where women entrepreneurs can support fellow members of the community. Woman's Day is today akin to karvachauth for shepreneurs and it is exciting to see how women are taking up the biggest problems in society and changing the world. Through this annual feature, we focus on shepreneurs as we talk to them about their unique ventures, their team values, how gender affects (and doesn't affect) their experience of entrepreneurship, the challenges and opportunities of starting a company in an almost completely virtual world, and more.

What is interesting to see is how shepreneurs today are improving the lives of women as they create solutions for problems in their own life. In this issue we encapsulate the vigour, the perseverance and the determination of all the women featured.

Indeed, the number of shepreneurs is on the rise but in hindsight the number of women scaling their business is not growing in the same proportion. Women are (still) shy to take big financial decisions and and more likely to delegate them.

Women need to start thinking financially from day zero of the business and the roadblocks towards scaleup can be removed by acquiring proficiency in technical skills, core skills technology, access to capital. Only 2.3% of all equity funding raised in 2020 globally went to women-led startups. There is currently an imbalance between VC mindset to fund high growth business vs. highly mission led women owned business. There is also a dearth of sector-specific role models for women entrepreneurs, who are willing to sponsor or develop them. This deprives women of access to foot-in-the-door opportunities, which can be instrumental in scaling businesses. We need successful shepreneurs to come forward and set up support systems on funding, growth for women.

As Ostrow says "Having success is no longer about doing one thing exceptionally well; it's about building an empire and having 25 irons in the fire at once". One set of women entrepreneurs who are catching up and making most of the current wave is young celebrities in Bollywood and there is a lot to learn from their focus and single-mindedness towards success for shepreneurs in the business world. A successful film and TV project is no longer a golden ticket but just fuel to create the mass global appeal they need to build their brand and business. It is a never before rush where celebrities are creating their consumer product brands spurred in partnership with startup founders or pairing up with D2C incubators or taking ownership stakes in existing companies. Many stars continue to pursue licensing agreements, which in some cases look more like ownership deals, with equity involved and payouts at certain benchmarks. For their part, startups and major companies are pairing up with Bollywood stars and gaining access to their social media reach. What is new, however, is that stars are today happy to write cheques to come on board with startups. We are in an era where India's young celebs will build the next billion-dollar brands and we are placing our big bet on Sara Ali Khan, the young cult star with just the right chutzpah to understand the soft sensibilities of Indian audience and a global outlook to experiment with everything from cinema to licensing.

Ritu Marya

Editor-in-Chief, Entrepreneur Media (APAC & India)

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