Editor’s note: In the second part of an interview with Local Tech Wire for our ‘Breaking Glass’ feature, IBM exec Ruth Taylor talks about challenges facing female entrepreneurs. ‘Broken Glass’ takes a look at challenges in entrepreneurship and venture funding facing women and minorities. Ruth Taylor has what most would consider a 360-degree view of technology. She knows corporate and she knows startups. She has looked at infotech through venture capitalist eyes and corporate strategist eyes. Now she’s turning her gaze toward biotech.
When asked about gender differences in the startup technologies industries, Taylor says, “I’ve seen more life sciences businesses that were women-owned and operated than straight infotech. I think the venture business is a little different in the life sciences than in information technology. In life sciences there is an expectation to build the business over time. There are no quick flips like in IT. Also, funding is often given to repeat entrepreneurs, of which there may be more men on the IT side”.
Taylor, a former partner at Southeast Interactive Technology Funds and now senior program director, venture capital and strategy in life science solutions at IBM, knows the statistics.
Recent data shows that women tend to receive a higher percentage of degrees in life sciences than in information technology and that they are also more likely to start a life science focused startup than infotech company. As a result, the recent investment community interest in biotechnology may be good for women-owned growth companies.
“Overall, investors are looking for good ideas and gender doesn’t matter”, says Taylor.
Or does it?
Percentages don’t reflect ownership
Recently released data shows that women-owned businesses receive only 5 percent of all venture capital invested even though they own 38 percent of the businesses in the US. Some experts believe the reasons behind why women are less apt to pursue venture capital as a financing option than their male peers have to do with women lacking appropriate networks into the venture capital community.
Taylor agrees this may be the case.
“As a venture capitalist, I saw very few women come in and pitch. People who get funded, get funded by people with whom they are familiar and with whom they can relate. Women as a whole tend to pursue other financing options and not seek out venture funding as they may not be completely comfortable with the industry.
“I’ve tried to be an advocate in this area. It’s something we need to work on so women feel more comfortable with it and pursue it as an option — particularly in the technology businesses. A lot of the investor events tend to be male dominated, although I don’t think that it’s purposeful. Traditionally, there have not been as many women entrepreneurs or as many women in the private equity, finance, or venture professions, so maybe that has made the network smaller. “
Network, network, network —
Taylor’s solution to the issue is simple: “I think women just have to get out there, go to the events, and build their networks.”
What is her advice to women beginning careers in technology or venture capital?
“Go for it! There has not been a better time. There is so much opportunity right now. Don’t wait and don’t look back.”
Taylor also offers some tips to entrepreneurs — male and female:
One: “Build your network. Someone once gave me this advice: get involved. There are a number of opportunities through individual companies, organizations, alumni networks and community organizations. Find something that’s a fit. Once you find a place to start, it gets easier to see what actually needs to be done. It’s not sufficient to just go to an organization’s meetings. Be active and volunteer.”
Two: “Start with a good idea then figure out what your actual business should be like. There are a number of organizations locally to help with this.”
Three: “Don’t get intimidated when you run into roadblocks — and there will be many.”
Four: “Find out what investors look for and be sure to speak to that in your business plan and in your pitch.”
Five: “Find a mentor – ideally one who’s a successful entrepreneur – and gender doesn’t matter.”
Based on the results of Taylor’s career, sounds like she’s offering good advice.
For Part One of the interview with Taylor, click here:
Have a story idea for ‘Breaking Glass’? Email Jennifer Tilden at firstname.lastname@example.org