Start-Up Stepping Stones – Business Advice for Today’s Women in Tech

Jill Krasny from Credit.com shares sound financial and business advice from interviews with women in tech.

Tech jobs are growing rapidly in the United States, but women still risk being left behind. According to Girls Who Code, a national nonprofit dedicated to closing the field’s gender gap, this problem may actually be worsening with time.

For women who work in computing in particular, Girls Who Code proves that the rift between men and women’s success has only deepened since the 1980s — from women comprising 37% of all computer science graduates in 1984 to only 18% in 2016.

So how can women business owners handle the problem? By choosing to arm themselves with the right information and advice from fellow females in the field. Here, a couple of successful businesswomen offer advice for succeeding in the tech sector as first-time entrepreneurs.

1. Ask for More Capital

“Tech, more than any other startup area, requires intense capital investment,” said Amy Baxter, the Atlanta medical doctor behind Buzzy, a bee-shaped pain blocker. “Women tend to be more debt averse,” she said, “which compounds the problem of scarce funding for women. When a female CEO is trying to be lean and frugal, the perceived timidity may be less attractive to investors than a speculative ask for 10 times the funding. It's easier to get more than less.”

Of course, asking for funding isn’t always so simple, especially when you’re just starting out. To that end, the experts we spoke with recommended staying frugal and building your credit. If you’re new to the world of credit or have a thin file, a secured credit card, which requires a deposit, may be a good place to start, as these credit card issuers generally report activity to the three major bureaus. (Just remember, it’s wise to keep your debt levels low and make payments on time.) Alternatively, if your credit is in good shape, business credit cards may offer a way to keep your business afloat before you land funding.

2. Build Strategic Relationships

“Startup culture is very risky, you’re always out of money, and you have to go really fast,” said Hannah Chung, the Providence, Rhode Island-based founder of Jerry the Bear, an interactive plush toy for children with Type 1 diabetes. It’s important to build strong relationships. Baxter recommended “picking three to four ideal co-development partners,” who can teach you the market and offer pointers for honing your product.

3. Change the Conversation

“I think as a young entrepreneur, you can be perceived as not having enough experience,” said Chung, who launched her first company, Design for America, when she was only 19. “You kind of have to prove yourself, to speak in a way so that age is not a barrier for you.”

Chung also said minority women like herself will come across challenges when addressing diversity. The question is, “How can you drive a conversation that may seem uncomfortable?” she said. This thinking applies when deciding how to market, design your product, conduct your research and so on. Chung said to ask yourself, “Are we being diverse? If not, how can we change that?”

4. Find Mentors, Nurture Relationships

“Nurture your relationships with your mentors. Find people in your specific area who have been there and done it enough to be able to recognize patterns, and stick with them,” advised Baxter of Buzzy. Just make an effort not to ask for advice more often than you provide updates — no one wants to look needy, she said.

5. Tailor Your Pitch  

“You need to understand your audience really well,” Chung advised. “In our case, we might be talking to medical experts, or we might be talking to parents. I don’t think there’s one pitch for all, you really need to tailor your pitch to those people.”

When delivering your pitch, Chung said it helps to have a “bucket of information” that you can draw from as needed. Think of this bucket as a library of sentences and stories, she said. “This will give some variety to your pitch,” she said, and make you sound like less of a robot.

Rallying support for women-led tech start ups is crucial to the current and future success of the industry. To confront the myriad complexities of climate change and the global challenges and opportunities facing us all today, more women in the workplace is essential. Take the advice we’ve offered and use it to build and amplify your own success.

Jill Krasny is a reporter and editor at Credit.com. Prior to joining the company, she was a senior writer at Esquire and Inc. Magazine, where she covered a range of lifestyle and business topics. Her work has appeared in Mashable, Travel + Leisure and MTV.