Inclusive Entrepreneurship, Rev1 Style

Rev1 is on a mission—to encourage more women and minorities in Central Ohio to consider entrepreneurship as a career.

We call it inclusive entrepreneurship. About 22 percent of our client companies are minority-led and 17 percent are led by women. TechCrunch reports that as 2014, 18 percent of the U.S.-based startups in CrunchBase had at least one woman founder. That’s up from 9.5 percent in 2009.

So, the picture is changing, but not fast enough. There’s plenty more female and minority talent in this region, and we are stepping up our ground game to make connections with more of these individuals earlier.weldlogosmall

Our first women & minority-focused event of 2016 was a panel discussion co-host with WELD, an organization committed to advancing women’s leadership and business growth.

Titled “Is Venture Financing Right for Your Business,” the discussion by female investors and entrepreneurs was open to the public. The room was packed with a crowd of more than 65 participants. The audience was about three-quarters female and quite diverse.

We asked for a show of hands to see how many were interested in pursuing venture-backed funding—the subject for the panel discussion—and then things got really interesting.

Only a few people raised their arms. We were surprised. This is the opposite was what usually happens when we hold an investment “how to” panel at Rev1.

So why did all those people (mostly women) come to this panel discussion and engage when it was billed as an exploration of venture financing?

I think it’s because the event was co-sponsored by WELD and the environment felt welcoming and comfortable to women and minorities who might have an early interest in entrepreneurship or even just a curiosity. And that’s a great start.

Moderator Ryan Frederick, Principal, AWH, and Director of Startup Grind Columbus jump-started the panel, and we proceeded with serious interest and engagement from the audience. The Q&As could have continued another hour or more.

The four-woman panel offered practical tips and advice:

“Keeping your cultural identity is important. Don’t lose sight of that. Just because you look or speak differently does not mean you don’t know what you are talking about. Practice getting out there and telling your story rather than being nervous and not giving your best.”

Natasha Pongonis, co-owner, Nativa and co-founder, OYE!

“The Columbus startup community has been very welcoming to females. At times, my gender actually felt like more of a challenge when working in the corporate world. In terms of being taken seriously as a true co-founder versus a first employee though, you may have to reiterate your title more than once.

Stephanie Murnen, co-founder of Ardina

“Experienced women in positions with the means and opportunity to invest, can engage in that. If we don’t have the means to be an investor, we can mentor and coach. It’s not just about the money. It’s about so many more things that an entrepreneur needs to grow a business. Women should network and give back.”

Lisa Delp, Partner, GDI Business Consulting

“Sometimes women look at the world differently. Sometimes we may be too conservative, not have enough confidence in ourselves, and try to de-risk the opportunity too much before we jump in. We just need to keep in mind that women-led tech companies that are VC-backed bring in about 12 percent higher revenue than similar male-led companies and 33 percent more ROI We are capable of thinking big enough and need to be confident in communicating our big ideas.”

Bethany George, Director, Investment Funds, Rev1Ventures

We’re going to do more to support women and minorities. If you have a great idea for a tech business don’t hesitate to contact us