At 99designs, we help entrepreneurs from all over the world get a logo for their newly-launched consulting practice, or a book cover design for that novel they’ve slaved over for years, or a t-shirt design to commemorate the opening of their new gym. In order to help them get their ventures off the ground, we first have to get to know them. We do this through one-on-one conversations, focus groups and surveys.
Recently, we completed a survey of over 500 US-based entrepreneurs. And I have to say this one has some of the most intriguing results I’ve encountered in my marketing career. Specifically, it highlighted several fascinating differences in how men and women approach entrepreneurship. Even more interesting is that this was not the original intent of our research. Our original intent was to better understand how entrepreneurs apply do-it-yourself tactics to get their ventures off the ground. While the “DIY Entrepreneur” path did yield some great insights, they weren’t as compelling as the findings that resulted when we broke the data down along gender lines.
Having worked with founders of both genders and founded an ecommerce startup myself, I thought it’d be worth weighing in on the meaning behind a few of the findings.
Finding #1: Men are 2x more likely to have raised $100K+ in funding.
Among our US respondents, we found 12% of men said they raised more than $100,000 compared to just 5% of female entrepreneurs. $100K is a good amount of money. This is likely not coming from friends and family, but financial institutions that have large amounts of capital to invest. According to TechCrunch, only seven percent of venture capital investment partners are female. And, while this statistic alone does not mean women can’t get funded, it seems likely to me that there are inherent gender biases in these institutions that don’t favor a female entrepreneur.
My theory is supported by a recent conversation I had with Dan Perkins and Don Mazella on The Recalculating Radio Show. Dan, an investment professional with many years of experience, said he consistently saw businesses run by females suffer from under-capitalization. From personal experience, I, too, see women are not keen on asking for financing unless they are confident they can generate the expected returns, which would cause them to shy away from raising large sums of money.
Finding #2: Men are more likely to start their entrepreneurial ventures at a younger age (under 35).
40% of men started their first entrepreneurial venture before the end of their 35th year, while only 33% of women fell into this category. This may not seem like that big of a difference. But, I purport that it is. This is because most entrepreneurs fail. As anyone in Silicon Valley well tell you, it’s OK to fail. BUT, you need to fail fast so that you can try again. By starting their entrepreneurial ventures earlier in life, men have more time to fail, to learn from failure and to start again. This cycle improves the chances of success as the entrepreneur, giving men an edge.
We did not ask the women in our survey why they started their ventures later. But, I would venture to guess that more women start their own business once their children have gone to school. This is when women typically have more time—outside of their obligations to corporate America or full-time motherhood—to dedicate to a passion or a money-making pursuit.
Finding #3: More men think patience is the most important trait of an entrepreneur, whereas more women say it’s networking
19% of men said patience was a more valued trait whereas only 12% of women said the same thing. Networking was closer, but 22% of female respondents favored networking versus only 19% of men.
Research says that women are more patient than men. Research also shows that women tend to have smaller professional networks than men (according to LeanIn.org and McKinsey & Co via the Huffington Post). I think the the reason for the disparity between the genders is that each is seeking to improve one of their perceived areas of weakness. It seems both sexes are attuned to their “weaknesses” and cite “most important traits” they strive to improve upon.
The good news in these findings is the knowledge with which we—and now, you, are now armed. We can use this data to help us identify and understand the gender biases that might affect women starting businesses, and the men and women who support them.