Women remain a minority among startup founders. According to Pitchbook , even though women-led startups in the United States received a record $20.8 billion in funding during the first half of 2022, U.S. companies with one or more female founders received less than 20% of total venture funding in 2022. U.S. companies solely led by female founders received less than 2% of the total funding .
The panel, titled Female Founders: Planning, Pivoting, Profiting, was held at NYU LA’s campus and was moderated by professor Shivani Honwad and featured Anjali Kundra , co-founder of bar inventory software Partender ; Montré Moore , co-founder of the Black-owned beauty startup AMP Beauty LA ; Mia Pokriefka , co-founder and CEO of the interactive social media tool Huxly ; and Sunny Wu , founder and CEO of fashion company LE ORA .
The panelists shared their advice and insights on starting and growing a business as a woman. They all acknowledged feeling pressure to not appear weak among peers, especially as a female founder. But this added weight only causes more stress that may lead to burnout.
“The mental health aspect of being a founder should not be overshadowed,” said Kundra, who realized this during the early stages of building her company with her brother..
Growing up in Silicon Valley, Kundra was surrounded by the startup culture where, “everyone is crushing it!” But she said that no one really opened up about the challenges of starting your own company. .
“Once you grow up as a founder in that environment, it's pretty toxic,” Kundra said. “I felt like I really wanted to be open and be able to go to our investors and tell them about challenges because businesses go up and down, markets go up and down and no company is perfect.”
Honwad, who advocates for women’s rights, emphasized the value of aligning yourself with people with similar values in the tech ecosystem. “[Those people] can make your life better not just from an investment and money standpoint, but also a personal standpoint, because life happens,” she said.
Moore, who unexpectedly lost one of her co-founders at AMP Beauty, said that entrepreneurs “really have to learn how to adapt to [their] circumstances.”
“She was young, healthy, vibrant and we've been sorority sisters and friends over the past decade,” she said about her co-founder Phyllicia Phillips, who passed away in February . “So it was just one of those moments where you have to take a pause.”
Moore said this experience forced her to ask for help, which many founders hesitate to do. She encouraged the audience to try and share their issues out loud with their teams because there are always people who will offer help. When Moore shared her concerns with her investors, they jumped in to support her in ways she didn’t think was possible.
Kundra said that while it is important to have a support group and listen to mentors, it is very important for entrepreneurs to follow their own thinking and pick and choose what they want to implement within their strategy. “At the end of the day, you really have to own your own decisions,” she said.
Kundra also said that while it is easy to turn to your colleagues and competitors and do what they are doing, you shouldn’t always follow them because every business is different.
“When I was in the heat of it, I kind of became [a part of] this echo chamber and that was really challenging for us,” Kundra added, “but we were able to move beyond it and figure out what worked for us [as a company] and we're still on a journey. You're always going to be figuring it out, so just know you're not alone.”
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