What we’ve learned from evaluating more than 3,000 women-led startups

Peggy Wallace, managing partner of Golden Seeds

November 2, 2017

Since Golden Seeds opened its doors in 2005, we’ve evaluated more than 3,000 women-led startups. While those evaluations have led to more than $100 million invested in 143 companies, they’ve also taught us quite a bit about the work of female entrepreneurs.

Below are seven of our key learnings:

1. Great women entrepreneurs exist all over the country.

Women don’t pick up and move to startup hotspots, but they are all over the country. From New York to Boston to Silicon Valley to Texas and beyond, women are starting companies. This is a primary reason why our network of angel investors is also nationwide. We want to find the best women entrepreneurs, wherever they are.

2. Women entrepreneurs often start companies after they have had five to 10 years of experience in their fields.

When women start or lead companies, they often bring with them the perspective of experience. We’ve certainly seen women who are still in college or are recent graduates, but the trend leans heavily toward women turning to the idea of entrepreneurship later in their careers.

3. Women entrepreneurs often focus on solving problems.

Perhaps because so many women leaders have worked in their fields for a number of years, they are less likely to create products simply because they realize it’s possible or that the technology suddenly exists to do it.

Rather, they focus on addressing real issues or problems they’ve observed. And the issues they tackle are significant — health care, clean technology and cybersecurity are examples. Many times, these companies are finding solutions to problems where they have streamlined a solution that adds efficiency and speed — and saves money.

4. Women entrepreneurs are capital efficient.

Despite great advances in the past 12 years of women entrepreneurs successfully raising capital, women are still likely to raise less money than their male peers. Women know this — that they most likely will start with less capital and may also need to scale their companies with less funding than men. This is a difficult reality for women entrepreneurs, but it often makes them more efficient and focused on the most effective use of their resources.

5. Women create more diverse company cultures.

There is a perception of startup cultures that trends toward 24/7 workstyles and homogenous teams. These are not the kinds of cultures women leaders are fostering. The entrepreneurs we’ve assessed design their companies for the diverse needs of diverse workforces. They create policies that are good for everyone, and they are likely to be collaborative, inclusive and consultative with their teams.

6. Women entrepreneurs are active in every sector.

If you’ve assumed that women start businesses mainly in one sector or another, think again. The teams we’ve evaluated over the years work in enterprise technology, healthcare and life sciences, financial services technology, artificial intelligence (AI) and more. Women entrepreneurs have the skills, education and talent to start businesses in every sector.

7. Women are increasingly becoming serial entrepreneurs.

Angels invest their own capital, so they are naturally risk averse and tend to value serial entrepreneurs with measurable track records. When Golden Seeds first started, we rarely saw serial entrepreneurs among the women we evaluated.

That is changing.

Thus far in 2017, serial entrepreneurs have comprised one-third of the women-led companies in which we have invested.

The rise of women who have founded multiple businesses is a significant shift. These entrepreneurs have the swagger of successful exits — or even unsuccessful ones, through which they’ve learned critical lessons and acquired the grit that will contribute to their future success.