‘Funding dogs global women entrepreneurs from scaling businesses’

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Toronto, July 18 (IANS) Women entrepreneurs worldwide face funding challenge to scale their businesses due to investors’ trust deficit in the success of their firms, said some of them at a global women entrepreneur summit here.

“Investors, who are largely men, are often interested in putting their money into firms run by young men in their 20s with no experience compared to women in 40s with lot of experience in their areas,” President and Chief Financial Officer of Toronto-based gaming firm Blot Interactive Norma Rossler told IANS.

A majority of investors do not see the “potential” in firms led by women that they find in those businesses run by men, she said on the sidelines of Dell Women’s Entrepreneur Network (DWEN) summit held here from July 15-17.

Though women entrepreneurs worldwide are estimated to be 274 million, according to the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor for 2016-17, women-led businesses are known to receive fewer investments compared to those run by men, indicating stark gender bias.

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Several studies depict that only about two to four per cent of venture capital is invested in women-owned firms across the world, making the survival of several female entrepreneur-led firms difficult.

About 110 women entrepreneurs and investors from 16 countries including Canada, US, Britain, Brazil, Australia, France, Japan, India, Mexico, Panama, South Africa — with a majority from North America — discussed during the summit various challenges faced by women entrepreneurs to set up and succeed in their businesses.

The women present at the event owned or led businesses related to technology, healthcare, lifestyle, communications, financial services, education among other fields and had experience ranging from less than five years to over 20 years.

They, however, found lack of access to funding, networks and trust among investors to be some of the key challenges plaguing their businesses.

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Serving 15 years in the information technology industry as the chief executive of ITLine Technology, a tech sales and services company in Brazil’s Sao Paulo, Sylvia Bellio said women leading firms across the world continue to struggle to be taken “seriously”.

“I find that male-dominated IT businesses do not take a woman entrepreneur seriously no matter how much experience she has. A woman in IT has to work twice as hard as a man to be heard and become successful,” Bellio said.

Interventions by governments to help women-run businesses receive financial assistance can ensure their longevity and success, she added.

Global platforms that allow female entrepreneurs to discuss and find solutions to the hurdles faced can also help them grow their businesses, said the managing director of Delhi-based public relations firm Crosshairs Communication, Stuti Jalan, the lone Indian woman delegate at the summit.

Platforms designed for women entrepreneurs help in networking and meeting businesswomen from across the world who are facing similar challenges with respect to their growth and together find solutions to overcome the problems — like access to funding, mentoring etc, she added.

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Despite receiving low funding, women-run companies, however, perform better and yield better returns than those run by men, a study across 11,000 global companies by Scandinavian bank Nordea from last year said.

With an aim to promote women entrepreneurs, female investors like Singapore-based Pocket Sun, the founding partner of venture capitalist firm SoGal Ventures, are seeking out to invest in women-led firms across countries.

“Venture capitalism is a male-dominated space, so we look for diverse, millennial ideas that can revolutionise the way people, especially women, lead their lives,” Sun added.

(Bhavana Akella is in Toronto at the invitation of DWEN. She can be contacted at [email protected])

–IANS

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