Tag: Jan Ryan

Female Entrepreneurs Connect and Learn at Women@Austin

Founder of Silicon Hills News

Bzd3VsvIIAAS9bx“Leave Your Superwomen Capes at the Door”

That’s Jan Ryan’s only rule for Women@Austin events at Capital Factory. The meetings provide a receptive environment for female entrepreneurs to connect and learn from each other while enjoying wine and hors d’oeuvres.

“Authenticity is what makes the magic for women,” Ryan said. “And being able to talk to each other with our guards down is when we learn.”

And since the group launched last February, Women@Austin has become extremely popular. The events have filled up within days of being announced and always have a waitlist.

For Austin Startup Week, the event filled up within five days with 140 women and a few men registered and a waitlist of 78 people, Ryan said.

The group also focuses on educating women-led startups about finding funding. Babson College recently released a study showing that women entrepreneurs have made considerable progress since 1999 in getting venture capital, but a wide gender gap still exists.

The study found “the amount of early-stage investment in companies with a woman on the executive team has tripled to 15 percent from 5 percent in the last 15 years.” Yet despite that progress, “85 percent of all venture capital-funded businesses have no women on the executive team.” And just 2.7 percent of venture capital funded companies had a woman CEO.

Bzdxmp9IUAAdUEjThe event also featured a special “Elevate” award given to Jimmy Treybig, founder of Tandem Computers and a venture capitalist in Austin since 1996. He’s been a big supporter of many female-founded companies in Austin and serves on many boards, Ryan said.

In a brief talk, Treybig advised entrepreneurs looking to raise money to study the VC firms and angels before approaching them. Entrepreneurs need to find out if the VC firm invest in their field, how much they invest, whether they invest in new entrepreneurs with little experience and whether they invest in Austin and does the VC have money, Treybig said.

Seventeen VCs turned down Treybig when he started Tandem.

Women entrepreneurs also need to research whether the VC firm has female partners, Treybig said.

“Or do they have a man that has worked with women all of their life, like me, and realize how special, how smart, how motivated and how much contribution women can make and that’s never a question,” Treybig said. “If there isn’t either a women or that type of man, then I wouldn’t spend time…or I would put it way down the list.”

“The main point is there are two types of VCs,” Treybig said. “One type is VCs that have run companies. Others are financial VCs. They might not have worked with a lot of women.”

For Naturally Curly, now known as TextureMedia, Treybig found Golden Seeds of New York to invest in the women-run company. Now Mike Maples Jr.’s VC Firm Floodgate Ventures, which invests in Austin startups, has a woman as a partner, Treybig said.

Lastly, women entrepreneurs must be able to show investors how they will get their money back and make a profit on the investment, Treybig said.

Ingrid Vanderveldt, former Entrepreneur in Residence at Dell, also spoke briefly about Belle Capital Austin, a venture fund she’s heading up locally that invests in women-run tech companies.

The event concluded with a 30-minute panel discussion on lessons learned from women run firms. The panelists included Jeanette Hill, founder of Spot on Sciences, founded in 2010, Crista Bailey, CEO of TextureMedia, founded in 1998, and Zeynep Young, founder of Double Line Partners, founded in 2009.

Ryan asked the panelists to talk about some of their failures and lessons learned from their ventures.

Hill advised new entrepreneurs to make sure that they have a good product and market fit. The product doesn’t sell itself, she said. It’s important to know how to market and sell it.

Bailey told new entrepreneurs to raise as much as money as they can to give their idea some gas.

Young advised new entrepreneurs not to give big titles to early employees. Reserve those titles for when the company grows and becomes successful so that those titles will be there to hire on the talent to grow the company, she said.

Pioneering Women Tech Entrepreneurs in Austin

Founder of Silicon Hills News

A panel of women entrepreneurs in Austin managed to find funding for their ventures despite the odds being stacked against them.

“There’s no ratio or statistic that has gotten in their way,” said Jan Ryan, serial entrepreneur and CEO of Women@Austin.

That panel at the Austin Technology Council’s CEO summit included Sara Gates, founder and CEO of Wisegate, Cathy Thompson, CEO of Motion Computing, Karen Bantuveris, CEO of Volunteerspot.com and Crista Bailey, CEO of TextureMedia.

“One of the best kept secrets in Austin right now is the talent around entrepreneurial women,” Ryan said.

She has made it her mission to shine a spotlight on the success of women entrepreneurs in Austin. Last year, Ryan noticed that the ATC CEO Summit had few women presenters and only a handful of female CEOs in attendance. She worked to change that and organized the panel for this year’s summit.

Ryan along with 16 other successful female entrepreneurs created Women@Austin, an organization with the goal of making Austin the most successful and supportive city in the nation for women.

“It’s not just good for women,” Ryan said. “It’s good for economics.”

Women launch 1,288 new businesses daily, double the rate from three years ago, according to the 2014 State of Women-Owned Business Report, commissioned by American Express OPEN. Those are primarily small businesses, Ryan said.

But Harvard recently did a study showing the number of women led big businesses with $10 million or more in annual revenue has grown by 57 percent in the last 12 months, Ryan said.

“There’s a movement afoot we can leverage,” she said.

The impact diversity has on profitability and the effectiveness of a team is huge, Ryan said. The company that has a balanced management team with even a single woman on the team is poised to perform better, she said.

Yet women-run firms received just an estimated 5 percent of the $29.4 billion invested by venture capitalists in 2013.

A big part of the success for female entrepreneurs is having a good mentor, Ryan said. Studies show women with a mentor are seven times as likely to succeed, she said. She asked the panelists who mentored them.

For Gates, her mother, a former opera singer, served as her mentor and told her she could do anything her brothers could do. That foundation helped her found Wisegate, an IT research firm. She also had a strong local mentor, Mark McClain, CEO and Founder of SailPoint Technologies and her former boss.

Bailey with TextureMedia, which runs web sites for women with curly hair, mentioned Jimmy Treybig, founder of Tandem Computers as her mentor. He is also an investor in the company and serves as its chairman of the board.

“He has tremendous empathy for entrepreneurs,” she said. “He also has innate belief in the good in people. He believes in men and women working together to create great companies.”

Bantuveris, founder of Volunteerspot, a leading coordination tool for moms, gave “props to the Austin community in general.” She called herself an accidental entrepreneur.

“I don’t think I could have started up a company anywhere else but Austin,” she said. “Everybody was so welcoming and they wanted to listen to what we were trying to do.”

Thompson, CEO of Motion Computing, a rugged laptop company focused on the enterprise market, said she has had several mentors. In particular, Michael Dell let her move from the finance department to run a division of Dell. She also mentioned Rudy Garza at G-51 Capital and David Altounian, founder of Motion Computing.

Landing venture capital can be a huge challenge for any entrepreneur but female entrepreneurs face some unique challenges when pitching women focused startups to a room full of men.

At first, Bantuveris bootstrapped her venture and then she received seed funding from the Central Texas Angel Network and additional capital from a nationwide network of angels.

“What’s fun for me is to say go home and ask your wife,” Bantuveris said, about the need for an organizational tool like Volunteerspot for moms. There aren’t that many women venture partners, she said. Venture capitalists tend to fund what they know and understand and what they are comfortable with, she said.

TextureMedia, received funding from CTAN in 2007, and additional investment from Golden Seeds in New York.

“You’ve never lived until you’ve tried to raise money for a platform for women with curly hair and you’re standing in front of a room full of men,” Bailey said.

Motion Computing, founded in 2001, is about to start raising outside capital, said Thompson.

“We see a huge market and growth opportunity,” she said.

She said when it comes to raising outside capital, you can’t take it personally.

“There’s times where you’re going to be a good fit and times when you’re not going to be a good fit,” she said.

Women@Austin Provides Insights on Startups and Fundraising

The steering committee behind Women@Austin, photo by Sara Peralta

The steering committee behind Women@Austin, photo by Sara Peralta

Founder of Silicon Hills News

The Capital Factory in downtown Austin smelled like roses and perfume on Thursday night.
Red heart balloons, roses and heart-shaped doilies decorated the tables, walls and windows of the main presentation room.
The tech accelerator and incubator hosted more than 100 women for the inaugural Women@Austin event, which kicked off with networking over wine and hors d’oeuvres. The event sold out in five days, said Jan Ryan, its founder.
“I think we hit a nerve,” she said.
A steering committee of 16 women began meeting last fall to plan for Women@Austin which aims to triple the number of women-funded companies in the next few years, provide more mentoring and increase the visibility of female entrepreneurs in the community.
“This is the debut of a new mission-driven community to really accelerate women in Austin,” Ryan said.
Josh Kerr, co-founder of Written.com, was one of the few men in attendance. He was one of the first ones to sign up, Ryan said.
Usually, Capital Factory is teeming with a lot of men working on startups. Kerr’s company is based there. But on Thursday night, the women took over except for the first speaker, Bill Wood, general partner at Silverton Partners. Laura Kilcrease, founder of Triton Ventures and founding director of the Austin Technology Incubator, introduced Wood. She said he was the first person she met when she moved to Austin in 1984. And he was the first person she consulted when she decided to become a Venture Capitalist and to establish Triton Ventures.
“He gave me insightful information,” Kilcrease said.

Advice from Bill Wood, general partner with Silverton Partners

Bill Wood, general partner of Silverton Partners, photo by Sara Peralta

Bill Wood, general partner of Silverton Partners, photo by Sara Peralta

And Wood provided insightful information about raising venture funds in his talk. Increasing the number of women-backed ventures is something he said he feels very strongly about.
“Women are under-represented and they add such a different dimension,” Wood said. Having women involved in startups leads to better outcomes, he said.
Women have “lifestyle obstacles” but those can be addressed and handled, he said.
Wood gave basic information on the different stages of how startups raise money from friends and family to angels to seed funds and then early stage funds and lastly, growth equity.
“We are a classic seed stage, early stage fund,” he said. “We’re the first institutional investor in our deals, but there are almost always angels where we invest.”
Venture capitalists look for a validation of a product’s market opportunity when they decide to invest in a startup, Wood said. Everything is driven by data and metrics today, he said.
“Business has gone from judgment and insight and wisdom to metric-based decision making.” Wood said. “That’s just the way it works…It’s all math. We’re looking for some validation in the numbers.”
The expectations also go up dramatically when a company gets venture capital, Wood said.
He also said there are lots of great businesses out there that don’t make sense for VCs.
“Don’t get your feelings hurt,” he said. “If you don’t raise VC money, that means you own more of the company. If it’s successful, good for you.”
VCs are looking for outcomes in the $100 million range, Wood said. It’s not just that the business is a really good business, but it has to be able to get to a size where it can provide a big return to investors, he said.
Silverton Partners only invests in Austin companies and most of its investments are in the software industry or consumer applications, Wood said.

Three Female Founders Give Startup Advice

From left - Jan Ryan, Patti Rogers, Heather Brunner and Erica Douglass, photo by Sara Peralta

From left – Jan Ryan, Patti Rogers, Heather Brunner and Erica Douglass, photo by Sara Peralta

Following Wood, a panel of three female founders took to the stage to share lessons they learned raising money and running companies. The panel featured Patti Rogers, founder and CEO of Rallyhood, a productivity platform for groups, Heather Brunner, CEO of WPEngine, a WordPress hosting company, and Erica Douglass of MarketVibe, a blog marketing startup.
Ryan asked them what challenges they faced launching their businesses and the lessons they learned.
“When you’re starting something new, every day is a new surprise,” Rogers said. “Having tolerance for that is super important.”
Douglass recounted how Josh Baer, co-founder of Capital Factory, told her that no one cared about her $1 million exit and that she shouldn’t mention that when she pitched investors because they think it’s too small. She cried, she said.
She did go on to raise $640,000 as part of the TechStars Austin program and she’s getting ready to raise another round soon, she said.
Women@Austin, photo by Sara Peralta

Women@Austin, photo by Sara Peralta

“Fundraising is something that takes all your time,” Douglass said. She recommended putting together a list of 125 active investors and spending a month or two just focused on fundraising. It’s important to find out if those investors have written a check in the last year, she said. Austin has a lot of people who say they are investors, but they never write checks, she said.
“You don’t want to waste your time with people who aren’t active investors,” Douglass said.
On the personal side, founders have to get used to rejection, Brunner said.
“Get used to the fact that not everyone is going to love your story,” she said. But make sure to get feedback from them, she said.
Brunner also recommended vetting venture capital firms and investors to find the right fit for a startup’s industry and for those investors who already had investments in that space. That will save time, she said.
She heard from a lot of investors who loved WPEngine’s metrics and were in love with the story, but it didn’t fit their investment metrics, she said.
Ryan also asked the panel how they coped with stress running a startup. Brunner and Rogers do Yoga a couple of times a week and Douglass plays games on her mobile phone with friends.
Lastly, Ryan asked them to give advice to other startup founders.
Rogers said it’s important to really know your story.
“And to continue to refine it and craft it and repeat it and make it better all the time,” she said. “And deliver it with clarity and confidence.”
She also recommended reading Steve Blank’s Startup Manual.
Brunner said it’s important to “know who your hero customer is and find as many of them as possible and talk to them. Make sure you really understand their psyche.”
Douglass told the founders not to opt out. She recommended reading Sheryl Sandberg’s book “Lean In.”
The crowd at the Women@Austin event by Sara Peralta

The crowd at the Women@Austin event, photo by Sara Peralta

Women@Austin Wants to Foster More Women Entrepreneurs

Founder Silicon Hills News

janryanpic2014Founding a high tech startup and raising venture capital is tough for everyone.
But it’s even tougher for women, according to the Clayman Institute for Gender Research at Stanford University.
In a recent study, the institute reported “women founded only three percent of technology firms and one percent of high-tech firms between 2004 and 2007.” And that only five percent of venture capital investment went to women-owned high-tech firms in 2001.
Those figures are also true in Austin, according to Jan Ryan, a successful serial entrepreneur. She knows those statistics really well. She has raised venture capital for her software companies and now she wants to help other women succeed.
At Social Dynamx, Ryan, a co-founder helped to raise $3 million in a seed stage investment. In 2012, Lithium Technologies Inc. acquired Social Dynamx. Last year, Ryan became a mentor and partner at Capital Factory, a technology accelerator and incubator in downtown Austin. She noticed that Austin lacked a central networking group for women entrepreneurs. So she joined together with 16 experienced women entrepreneurs and executives and they founded Women@Austin and defined its vision.
“We want to do something about the ratios of women in business in Austin,” Ryan said. “These are experienced women coming together saying we want to change this. We want to create an organization that helps bring together women on the front lines to be inspired and get actionable advice.”
Women@Austin is really both an organization and an initiative, Ryan said.
“I’m hoping this will be a movement,” Ryan said. “Our vision is to make Austin the most accessible and supportive city in the nation for women. We should be known for that.”
A lot of women entrepreneurs don’t go to traditional networking events, Ryan said. They may be working too hard at their early stage company. They often find themselves in a silo and they may be reluctant to ask for help, Ryan said.
“We want to create a trusted network for them to have some peers and mentors to talk to about problems,” she said.
One of the goals for Women@Austin is to triple the number of women funded businesses in the next three years. The organization also wants to expand the ecosystem for women and provide more visibility and mentoring, Ryan said.
“We need more mentors and more role models,” Ryan said. Studies show that if a woman has someone in her sphere of 50 close contacts doing something entrepreneurial, she will be more likely to do something herself, she said.
Women@Austin will help to showcase women-led deals and celebrate and highlight successes, Ryan said. They will also help women early on in their startup cycle to help them improve their chances of success. Female founders need to meet with potential funders early on and develop relationships so they have a network in place when they seek funding later on, Ryan said.
“Everywhere we see male images – men speakers on panels – men at keynotes. We need to change the narrative,” Ryan said.
Women@Austin is planning on having an event once a quarter to bring women entrepreneurs together.
It sold out for its first event “2014: Be Bold” Thursday night at the Capital Factory with 115 people attending and 50 people on a wait list. Bill Wood, general partner at Silverton Partners will be speaking to the group, along with a featured panel of three female entrepreneurs of start-ups including Heather Brunner, CEO of WPEngine, Patti Rogers, CEO of Rallyhood and Erica Douglass, CEO of MarketVibe.

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