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. In this series, we speak with some of the top industry women 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 focus the spotlight on Daphne Kis, Managing Director of GoldenSeeds, one of the largest and most active angel organizations in the US. With nearly 30 years of experience in taking early stage entrepreneurial ideas through the many phases of raising capital, business development, and clarifying and executing on strategy, Kis is a leader in global technology, venture and entrepreneurial circles – and has a solid track record of successful implementations. She brings thought leadership and innovative thinking to the early-stage companies, corporate projects and the non-profits with which she works as a consultant, equity advisor, and board director.
Her special interests include education technology, gender diversity and investment, and international entrepreneurship; she regularly serves as a public speaker and moderator on these and related topics.
What was/is the biggest challenge facing you as an female entrepreneur?
The VC community is still a boy’s network and it is hard to get past that to gain access to major funding.
What can be done to further promote female entrepreneurship in New York?
Women should support other women both by opening their wallets and investing in them, and by providing much needed access to strategic partners, pilots projects to help grow customer/user bases. As we’ve seen over and over, women-led companies tend to get underfunded. They may build a superior product, but are inhibited from capturing market share because they are financially constrained. If a woman entrepreneur had founded Fab and had the same massive funding, what would she have done with it?
What is being done that you like presently?
I am not sure that women-led companies need to be separately incubated, but being in a peer group you can relate to, can be very helpful. I appreciate those accelerators that are making a concerted effort to bring in women entrepreneurs, but they could do more. There is no way that TechStars got 1000 applications and only one or two women-led companies qualified.
Are you involved in any organizations that help to promote female entrepreneurship?
Yes, I’m a member of Golden Seeds which, despite all the criticisim (some of it very legitimate,) has poured tens of millions of dollars into women-led companies. I also serve on the Tech and Media Council of Springboard and regularly mentor women-led companies.
Do you feel investors have a different mindset when it comes to investing in a woman-run company?
For sure the work/life balance comes up. For one thing, many women come to entrepreneurship later than the 22 year old dudes who live in Bushwick and do their laundry once a month. By the time they start their companies they already have other commitments. They actually need to get paid in more than equity. That is often a challenge for investors.
Do you think that women in top roles at major tech companies are scrutinized more closely than their male counterparts?
Women in general still have to work harder than men to prove their value. As long as the criterion for success is as narrowly defined as it has been in the past, women will continue to work harder. For VC-funded entities, women tend to manage money, while men think in terms of growth. Each is judged accordingly.