Lessons Learned at Female Founders Conference


Y Combinator’s Female Founder Conference couldn’t have come at a better time. Silicon Valley has been inundated with negative stories about the role women play in the region. Female Founders Conference gave us the other side of the story.

The event featured Black Girls CODE founder Kimberly Bryant. After a successful career at Genentech, Merck, and Pfizer, Kimberly took Black Girls CODE from an idea to an international organization with seven chapters across the U.S. and one in Johannesburg, South Africa, reaching over 3,000 students.

I met Kimberly Bryant when she first launched Black Girls Code. I’ve been consistently impressed with her ability to make a significant dent in a pervasive problem – very few African American girls are exposed to technology leading to fewer women entering the field of engineering. I expect to see these numbers change in the near future.

Kimberly shared her advice on beating the odds as a founder.


We heard from Adora Cheung, CEO and co-founder of Homejoy. After a successful career in product management, Adora spent time cleaning homes, which lead to the founding of Homejoy.

Adora was relentless in acquiring her company’s first customers. In the early days, she attended outdoor street fairs to hand out water bottles with her company’s logo. It’s no surprise that today she reads all customer feedback to help her fine tune the Homejoy experience.

Show Me the Money

No event would be complete without a fundraising panel. Several successful entrepreneurs provided insight into the fundraising process.

Nancy Hua, CEO and co-founder of Apptimize, provided the audience with great advice on timing. She described the difference between raising a seed round and a Series A round as the difference between consumer sales and enterprise sales. Getting an angel investor to write a small check based on your vision and limited traction is easy. Getting a large investment from a VC fund requires time, substantial traction, and due diligence.

Make sure you don’t let this sneak up on you. Plan early for your Series A.

Mathilde Collin, CEO and co-founder of Front, an innovative method of sharing inboxes stated her fund raising was aided by targeting an anchor investor who had deep domain expertise, lending credibility to her company. She targeted Paul Buchheit, the creator of Gmail who eventually came on as an investor.

Find an investor who has credibility in your space. Like attracts like.

The Next Generation

Last but not least, the attendees were equally impressive. The event attracted women from all over the country. Jennifer Aldoretta from Austin, Texas wrote about her experience here.

I hope you will take the time to view the conference and share the link with women you know. We can complain about the negative portrayal of women or we can create our own story.

Videos of Female Founders Conference can be viewed here.



This post originally appeared on Atelier Advisors. Lili Balfour is the founder and CEO of the SoMa-based financial advisory firm, Atelier Advisors, and Creator and Host of  Finance for Entrepreneurs.

About the author: Lili Balfour

Lili Balfour is the founder and CEO of the SoMa-based financial advisory firm, Atelier Advisors, creator and host of Finance for Entrepreneurs, author of Master the Finance Game, and host of the Finance for Entrepreneurs broadcast on Spreecast.

After spending fifteen years in investment management and investment banking, she decided to develop a firm to cater to the specific needs of early-stage companies. At Atelier Advisors, Lili advises leading brands across industries: from tech to consumer goods. In the past, she has advised over 100 brands, including:

Bag, Borrow, or Steal, Visual IQ, Alpha Theory, Derivix, Practice Fusion, Peeled Snacks, Sustainable Minds, Firescope, Chix 6, Duchess Marden, Erin Fetherston, Eckart Tolle, and Stuart Skorman (founder of Reel.com, Elephant Pharmacy, Hungry Minds, and Clerk Dogs (sold to Netflix)).

While advising companies at Atelier Advisors, she observed a common theme – -brilliant founders avoided finance. She began writing about entrepreneurial finance to solve this problem.

As a native of Silicon Valley and a first generation Mexican American, Lili understands the importance of imparting wisdom learned in Silicon Valley to the rest of the world. Her goal is to teach the entire planet about entrepreneurial finance.

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