Women in NYC Tech: Agathe Assouline-Lichten of Red Velvet NYC


Are you a woman in NYC Tech and interested in participating in this series? Make sure to read the whole article…

Much has been said and written about the lack of women in the tech sector, be it as investors (or associates), founders, or in management positions at major companies. Is the problem the old boys network – or that success in technology is seen as a young man’s game?  In this series, we speak with some of the top women in tech in New York as they discuss the challenges they face, the perceptions that need to be changed and the work that’s being done – or not – to help to promote women in tech.

Today we speak with Agathe Assouline-Lichten, cofounder of Red Velvet NYC, the food tech startup disrupting the $12B US home baking market. The ecommerce business revolutionizing the way people bake at home, was founded by Agathe and her sister Arielle, who are heavily involved in the women in tech as well as the NYC FoodTech scene. In addition to brightening your day with desserts, the company proudly supports Bright Pink, the breast and ovarian cancer nonprofit saving young women from cancer. Agathe is an indispensable part of the NYC startup ecosystem and is passionate about a better future for women in tech.

Agathe Assouline-Lichten headshot landscape

Agathe Assouline-Lichten of Red Velvet NYC

What’s your background and how did you develop your career as a female entrepreneur in the NYC tech ecosystem?

I launched Red Velvet NYC a year and a half ago. Prior to starting the company, I spent nearly a decade in marketing working for international luxury companies, where I focused on strategic partnerships. I received my MBA in Hospitality from the École hôtelière de Lausanne in 2010, where I consulted for Nestle, and focused on gaining a strong knowledge of the food and hospitality business. I spent a year working on the company while I will still at my full-time job, writing my business plan, researching, and preparing for our launch at the end of 2015.

I have made it a priority to be very involved in not only the NYC tech world, but the food tech world as well. I’m an active member of organizations focused on the development of food and tech. I am also an active member in the female entrepreneurship community. I spend a lot of my time networking, meeting with other female entrepreneurs, and building meaningful relationships. I try to support my fellow female entrepreneurs as much as possible, doling out advice or guidance when I can, or acting as a sounding board for other women in my position.

What are the advantages of being a woman in tech?

Right now, there is a lot of attention being paid to women in tech, spanning from a topic that’s more often in the news to conferences around women in tech. It’s an exciting time to be part of the movement. New York City offers an amazing community of women entrepreneurs, many of whom are focused on tech, trying to help one another. There are a tremendous number of organizations that cater to empowering women, creating space for and facilitating networking, assist in access to funding, and provide opportunities to level the playing field.

What can be done to further promote female entrepreneurs and women in tech in New York?

A few things:

Mentorship and support. Women are already doing so much to improve the environment and ecosystem of women in tech. Already stretched very thin, there is little time for mentorship and additional support. With more guidance, encouragement, and advice, women will be able to help one another even more. This would even mean getting men involved in the discussion and contributing in a meaningful and impactful way.

Funding remains a major issue. Women are still not able to access as much funding as men. One of the reasons women have such a challenging time accessing funding is due to the lack of female VCs (only 7% according to TechCrunch). There is an unconscious bias that exists which needs to be addressed so that it becomes a more conscious part of the discussion. This is a problem in NYC as well as in the rest of the US.

Notoriety for going against the grain. There is a much smaller amount of credit given to women who are cash conservative, who wait to raise funds, and attempt to bootstrap for as long as possible. There is almost no reward for those who try to make it on their own for as long as possible. Instead, raising money continues to be the only bar for success.

What is diversity to you and do you see it evolving in tech?

Diversity is equal representation in the workplace, equal pay, and access to the same resources. Diversity represents an inclusive environment where everyone is treated as equal, and able to work in a strictly professional environment. Diversity is a great asset to an organization, where different points of view and experiences come together to shape a movement. Women are still not represented as key players in tech. It’s important that diversity continues to evolve, so that the often under-represented are given a chance to sit at the table. While there is awareness around the issue of diversity, this is only the first step towards making progress.

Why do you think it’s important that women retain, grow, and develop into senior roles within their organizations?

We’ve already proven that more female leaders in the workplace improve a company’s financial performance (according to Fortune report, March 2017). It’s extremely important that women are represented in all areas of a company, adding value to the culture as well as the bottom line. If there is a more equal representation of women at the top, it will empower women starting their careers to aim for the same goals. It’s important that we foster work cultures and environments that empower women to work in all areas of any organization.

How do you see the future of teams and interactions in a diverse environment and what implications will this have?

With a more inclusive culture that encourages diversity, teams and interactions in the workplace will be more well-balanced and harmonious. Ideally, there will be less bias, greater flexibility, and a better understanding when it comes to the personal sacrifices women are sometimes forced to make. An alternative work-life balance may be something that’s embraced. This shift will provide women with confidence, respect, and admiration that they deserve.

Agathe Assouline-Lichten Quot Red Velvet NYC

How can women rise in the ecosystem and what are the unseen barriers?

There is a lot of hidden bias that exists for women in the ecosystem. There are stereotypes of women as leaders, women as managers, and women as colleagues. Women are judged based on their commitment to their personal life or family, and it’s important we create a more inclusive and flexible community where women can excel. If we can break away from the existing stereotypes and bias’, close the pay gap, support women who bear the greater burden of taking care of their family, we can leverage the talent that women bring to the table and empower them.

Please tell us about a few organizations that you are involved with or respect that are promoting women in tech.

I am involved in several organizations that promote women entrepreneurs, and women in tech. These are organizations that empower women to think of their businesses as scalable, providing valuable resources and tools to grow their companies, connect women to funding, connect women to others in the community to support one another, and provide a forum to be able to ask for advice or help.

They include: Project Entrepreneur. Monarq. SheWorx. Mogul. Levo League. Food Tech Connect. SheKnows The Pitch. Toklas Society.

What can men do to participate in this discussion?

Men can play a major role when it comes to female entrepreneurs. Making a more concerted effort to mentor women is key, as it allows women to look outside of their typical resource areas. Men can focus on providing women with greater access to funding. Incubators and accelerators can make a greater effort to include female run companies. While men are becoming part of the discussion and are increasingly aware of the gap that currently exists, they can also be held accountable for the changes that need to happen to create a more inclusive and diverse landscape.

The team at AlleyWatch believes it’s important to have an inclusive discussion around the challenges facing women in tech along with highlighting the work of the female entrepreneurs that have made NYC one of the best places for women in tech according to some recent studies. That’s why we are running this series that showcases women in tech in New York.

If you are a female founder in NYC working in tech and interested in participating in the series please visit this link or click on the image above.

Please feel free to pass this on to any women in NYC that you feel should be considered for the series. Thank you.

About the author: AlleyWatch

AlleyWatch is the destination for startup news; opinions and reviews; investment and product information; events reported, experienced, seen, heard and overheard here in New York. But it’s who we are that makes us different: we’re the writers and the entrepreneurs; the investors and the mentors; the lawyers and the marketers; the realtors and the recruiters – the people who work in the industry.

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