Battling the ‘Bro’ Culture: Helping Women Entrepreneurs Win At Startup Scaleup

By Janet H. Cho
The Plain Dealer, Cleveland

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) A panel at this year’s “Startup Scaleup” event aims to help women navigate the competition for investors, allies and credibility.


This year’s Startup Scaleup, JumpStart’s all-day networking and expertise-sharing event for entrepreneurs and small businesses, has just added a panel provocatively called “Battling the Bro Culture: Being a Woman in the Startup World.”

The conversation, scheduled from 12:15 to 1:15 p.m. Aug. 15 in the Near West Cafe in the Gordon Square Arts District, aims to help women navigate the competition for investors, allies and credibility. And it has already received more likes and page-views than the other 35 panels scheduled for that day.

“We’ll examine what gender bias really looks like and explore ways to overcome that bias and get your ideas found — and funded — by investors,” says Amy Martin, JumpStart’s senior partner in marketing, on the Startup Scaleup website.

Panelist Yvonne Campos, president of Next Act Fund LLC for women investing in women and founding CEO of Campos Inc., said that “bro culture is only the extreme of the behavior that has always existed” and that women have had difficulty changing. “We can’t break in, so we’re creating a parallel universe” with our own sources of funding, she said.

Janet Makepeace, founder of JAR Leadership Coaching, is one of 200 angel investors in a network called Pipeline Angels who invest only in women- and nonbinary femme social entrepreneurs, who identify as women. She said women entrepreneurs need more than money; they also need investments of social and human capital to succeed.

Cathy Belk, president of JumpStart, said only 3 percent of the venture capital funding was raised by women CEOs, or only $1.5 billion out of a $50.8 billion industry, according to a study of nearly 7,000 companies between 2011 and 2013.

Not only that, but 89 percent of those making investment decisions at the top 72 venture capital firms are male.

And all-male teams were four times more likely to get venture capital funding than those that had one or more women on their executive team, according to JumpStart.

“By reaching out and welcoming everyone to Startup Scaleup,” JumpStart is expanding the kinds of startups it might consider investing in, she said.

Lynn-Ann Gries, chief investment officer and venture investor, Early Stage Partners, said she wants to dispel assumptions that women are less inclined than men to make risky investments. “I am just trying to get local women comfortable investing in startups,” sometimes by personally advocating for those she believes in.

Last year’s Startup Scaleup drew 1,200 people to Gordon Square, which stretches roughly from Sweet Moses Soda Fountain & Treat Shop, 6800 Detroit Ave., to Happy Dog at 5801 Detroit Ave., and organizers are expecting nearly 1,500 this year.

The $20 admission price gets you two $5 snack tickets and one $10 lunch ticket redeemable at participating restaurants and coffee shops, who turn over their businesses for the event.

“We are currently at 750 signups, but we typically get more than 50 percent of signups in the 48 hours leading up to the event,” Martin said. “We don’t necessarily sell out, but seating at all sessions is first-come, first-served, and we often have to shut the doors for some of our big speakers.”
Startup Scaleup
Organized by: JumpStart Inc.
Presenting Sponsor: KeyBank
What: A day of learning, networking and storytelling for startup founders, small business owners and side hustlers in the Gordon Square Arts District.
When: 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 15.
Cost: $20 (discounts for groups of five or more)
Event app: Startup Scaleup for iPhone or Android

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