In the Silicon Valley, the conversation on increasing female entrepreneurs in technology and the number of women founders has dominated the tech airwaves. How do women outside of Silicon Valley fare? Last year, we had just 12% female-led companies pitching in our 54 local events and there are clear cultural barriers in many of the emerging markets we cover. Thanks to initiatives like Goldman Sachs 10 000 Women and reports articulating the business case for investing in women, the future is bright for an increasing number of female founders in the emerging markets who are surmounting the odds.
Below are six women entrepreneurs representing Africa, Asia, and Latin America. They come from different backgrounds, geographies, and experiences, but they are united in their passion for solving local problems and their realistic take on the challenges facing women. They are honest about the cultural and social barriers that contribute to lower confidence levels among potential women founders, an issue that they believe can be resolved with more success stories and collaborative sharing of networks and learnings. They share a resolve to see their position as women as an unfair advantage rather than a detriment. They are committed to paving what is often an unseen path, in order to inspire future generations of female founders in their local country.
Cassandra Italia, Founder of TopDocs, Thailand
Cassandra is the founder and CEO of TopDocs, a community marketplace for medical tourists to book their entire medical travel journey. Prior to founding TopDocs, she worked in the medical tourism industry for 9 years working for the world’s most famous medical tourism hospital Bumrungrad International Hospital in Thailand that treats more than 500 000 international patients annually.
In fact there are more males than females at the events, but if we want to be treated fairly. That’s why I am not sure I agree with women only events and prizes, as both parties have to be there. The next steps should be building up women’s confidence and letting them know that they shouldn’t be overshadowed by males and feel that they aren’t just as capable. Don’t let anyone stop you just because you’re female. My father instilled that in me, you can do anything you want. I never had any doubt that I could.
Rana Alaa, Founder of SolarizEgypt, Egypt
Egyptian entrepreneur and environmental engineer, Rana Alaa is from Cairo, Egypt. After stints at both Intel and Shell, she co-founded a solar energy start-up, SolarizEgypt, which has developed solar innovative technologies with financial mechanisms to provide consumers with uninterrupted power at an affordable cost. She has grown the SolarizEgypt team to six professionals who grew the company at an average rate of 300% in the last two years. Her passion is to create a greener, cleaner Egypt.
My advice for female entrepreneurs is not to hesitate in following your passions and diving into the field. Being a female in a male-dominated discipline is not as hard as it sounds, you gain a lot of respect and knowledge by being on the ground. You must also always have perseverance and flexibility in finding creative solutions to obstacles.
Loan Duong, Sales & Marketing Director of Omniup, Morocco
A global citizen born in France but with roots in Vietnam, Loan worked for ten years in global energy groups Schneider Electric and Areva before founding Omniup in May 2014 in Morocco. Omniup aims to bring free Wi-Fi to millions all over the world using local advertising revenue in order to finance local connectivity & infrastructure.
Hopefully, we won’t talk anymore about the difference between male & female entrepreneurship in a near future as they are both focused on value creation. Creating a business starts with having faith in your idea, then making mistakes and finally being sharp to make it happen. Another valuable takeaway is to hear and learn from other’s opinion and yet free your ego from their judgement.
Olivia Nava, Founder of Juabar, Tanzania
Passionate about uncovering what drives human behaviors, Olivia co-founded Juabar, a social business that deploys solar-powered media hubs in unelectrified African village centers and leases them to solar entrepreneurs to provide electricity and connectivity access to their communities. Previously she designed HIV programs in Mozambique and helped fund health innovation programs as a program officer at Tides/The California Endowment in San Francisco.
We need to work in inspiring women – to have powerful speakers and a new generation of female role models and, to be able to tell little girls they can achieve her dreams. In emerging markets, women are used to having to deal with gender-based norms and issues in so many ways.
Warangkana Gear Fajardo, Founder of Good Meal Hunting, The Philippines
Originally from Thailand, Gear previously led the regional expansion of one of the biggest Edtech startups in Southeast Asia. She founded Good Meal Hunting to help home-based cooks by educating and empowering them to have a sustainable business by doing what they love to do.
Women founders should focus more on being collaborative rather than competitive with each other. More can be achieved as a whole by sharing lessons learned, value networks, and possible synergies between their respective businesses and professions.
Magdalena Rodríguez and Rosario Monteverde, Founders of GPSGAY, Uruguay
Combining both computer engineering and design backgrounds, Magdalena and Rosario recognized that LGBT communities are often overlooked by social applications that are marketing to a predominantly heterosexual audience, making it difficult for these communities to find niche services and meeting spaces. This was the inspiration for their startup GPSGAY. The duo also co-founded PRO Internacional in 2007, a wwell-knownweb design agency in Uruguay, that has more than 500 customers in 15 countries and has received worldwide awards, including the Cartier Women’s Initiative Award. Magdalena and Rosario are also legally married.
First of all, being a woman entrepreneur could be an unfair advantage, depending on how you see it. For instance, the statistics demonstrate that women are perceived as being more reliable and honest than men. There are also plenty of programs that are especially supporting women entrepreneurs, so always take advantage of all these opportunities.