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Mumpreneur Survival Guide: The Essentialsby@cryptokenwoman
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Mumpreneur Survival Guide: The Essentials

by Akasha Rose IndreamJune 13th, 2019
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<em>I gave birth. KO. Game over. High score!</em>
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Work-Life and Balance

Mumpreneur Survival Guide: The Essentials

We can give birth, but can we get funding?

Image by Christina Morillo on Pexels

With women founders getting 2% of VC funding, we are in an endurance race to the finish line, writes Women in Blockchain Impact Group (WIBI.io) founder Akasha Rose Indream.

I gave birth. KO. Game over. High score!

As a woman who’s given birth (multiple times), and talked to plenty who have, I can say that after giving birth and raising a young child, you know that you can literally do anything. ANYTHING!!!! (After teaching mindfulness to a class of 22 Prep aged children whilst making slime (mindfully), I think I could even conduct brain surgery blindfolded!)

As a mum you have climbed the proverbial Mt Everest. You have swum the stormy seas of the English Channel. You can get funding for your startup idea, right? As Jeremy Clarkson likes to say, “How hard can it be?”

In 2018, U.S female founders raised $2.88 billion distributed across 482 teams, reported Fortune. At first glance that might seem a good outcome, but to be clear, that’s 2.2% of the $130 billion total in venture capital money received for that entire year.

To put this in perspective, all U.S. female founders put together received $10 billion less in funding in 2018 than one single e-cigarette company, Juul, drew in by itself. And it’s not because the rest of the teams where multi-gendered, no. Teams with women and men founders working together only received an additional 13% share of the funding.

And so in 2018 the future of women founded startups went up in a puff of e-smoke…

The figures get worse.

If you are a woman founder or co-founder, you’ll be giving away 90% more equity in your first funding round compared to male founders, a KPMG UK based Fintech Focus study found:

“Our FF [female founder] fintechs are achieving a lower mean first round valuation of £2.0 million compared to £2.3 million for our comparative sample. This is at the cost of more equity: FF fintechs have to give away 25% of equity in the first round compared to only 13% for the comparative sample.”

Image by CoWomen on Pexels

A study by #ANGELS into the Silicon Valley equity gap also found gender imbalance. In Silicon Valley, they wrote “Women make up 33% of the combined founder and employee workforce but hold just 9% of the equity value. The other 91% belongs to men.”

Image from #Angels News

These figures make me reflect why I am in the startup world at all. Why, as a woman, would you want to be a founder, when faced with these kinds of statistics? Why not just go get a boob job and be an Instagrammer instead?

It seems women, in most cultures at least, can own property, vote, marry and divorce as they please. We even have control over our reproductive rights (unless you’re in Alabama, bless its cotton socks). But we can’t apparently start our own enterprise without facing a great many more challenges than the average working age male.

Anu Bhardwaj, the force behind the sensation Women Investing in Women has this to say:

“Men make more income with the wage gap, so women ultimately SAVE less — this positions new businesses led by women to be tighter with their resources, another hurdle not faced by men — add child care to that mix on top of not having access to the right capital networks at the angel level — you’ve just amplified the difficulty that any single man with a hoodie may ever have.”

I chatted to Doris Ojuederie, a Certified Blockchain Expert and Founder of Blockchain Ladies Africa, about her perspective:

“Its a fact that women have less privileges when it comes to Venture Capital. They get less a proportion of venture funding than their male counterparts, and especially in the technology space. This can be due to multiple factors which can include some kind of unconscious bias, cultural norms, gender equality etc. Women are mostly tend to be associated with family and men with work.

Women may also tend to contribute to some of this factor themselves due to the way the society see them, some women believe that entrepreneurship is not for them, some are intimidated by the process, others can’t even believe that they can make it, even with access to the right knowledge or community.”

In the age of disruption, ideas for new products and services come from gaps between what a customer would prefer to experience if it were available, and the current services that incumbents are able to provide.

It’s this void between the potential for frictionless customer experiences, and the inertia of businesses who either don’t have an innovation budget or a customer-centric mindset, that provides the fertile chasm for future tech unicorns to spawn.

Women, if you haven’t noticed, experience a great deal of friction in our lives that are unique to us as a gender. We have issues pertaining to sexuality, reproduction, personal safety, freedom of expression, and physical health, as well as child care, that few men will ever experience or understand from a first hand basis.

Don’t want to own your own bike? That’s fine, use a micromobility or shared mobility app. Don’t want to own your own pram or child’s cot? Show me an app for that. (Give me the funding — I’ll build it! The share economy is the future of the world.)

If overwhelmingly male VCs are exhibiting bias against funding startups solving pain points with which they have little to no experience, it means that women’s lives aren’t being transformed at the same exceptional rate as the standard working age male.

By logical extension, this means a trickle down of comparative greater social and economic burdens being piled upon the shoulders of working age women that add to the disadvantages we already face in accessing — for example — equal income and equity that derives from a cultural, religious and legal bias against women in business going back hundreds of years.

Fast Company identified pitching to men who don’t get your product as the number 1 challenge facing female founders in 2018 from their survey of 279 women entrepreneurs.

Doris from Blockchain Ladies Africa proposes this solution:

“VCs may need to spend more time following and reaching out to communities of female entrepreneurs. The same way some corporations go out of their way to recruit female engineers, If we have a good number of Female VC, Funding for female will be higher because female executives understand the issues females face in business and only they can truly understand. Without this, the firm lacks empathy and understanding.”

BCG did a study into companies founded or cofounded by women in collaboration with MassChallenge, an organization that has backed more than 1,500 businesses which have raised more than $3 billion in funding and created more than 80,000 jobs. About 42% of all MassChallenge-accelerated businesses — of all types and in all locations — had at least one female founder.

Across this group, investments in companies founded or cofounded by women averaged $935,000, which is less than half the average $2.1 million invested in companies founded by male entrepreneurs.

BCG wrote that the findings were statistically significant, and ruled out factors that could have affected investment amounts such as education levels of the entrepreneurs and the quality of their pitches. It was, unequivocally, because of their gender.

Capitalism is the main socially accepted mechanism through which society transforms itself over time. Yet male VCs are the current gatekeepers to how and why society will transform.

So being a woman gives you at least one superpower — being able to give birth among others. But it also gives you another equally powerful disadvantage: a culturally imposed powerlessness to change the future direction of society through capitalist endeavors. At least until now.

Words by Gus Speth, image from Facebook.

This factor is actually why I joined the Blockchain industry in the first place. I recognised that the democratic funding model of crypto and ICOs meant that the inherent bias of white collar VCs against diversity and inclusion could be overcome, and women founders would face a more open playing field, with their proposals for platforms being able to be judged on their social merits rather than the beliefs of the observer.

However, I was naive. I realised that you need some kind of VC funding to run any kind of effective ICO (when ICOs were still the goto method for capital raising in crypto). And, more to the point, 95% of crypto investors are male, which compounds the effect of the potential investor having little to no experience with the proposed benefits of the business platform you are proposing if your customer segment will be predominantly female. Convincing one person whom you build a relationship with of a potential product-market fit is I would suggest a far easier task than trying to convince a multitude whom you don’t know.

Screenshot of a forum thread discussing the blockchain platform of a woman founder on 4chan. Reproduced with permission.

So, let’s get to the bit about being a mum. Read on, we have some gold for you. (Sorry, not physical gold, I’m just a woman founder after all.)

Giving birth demands a woman go on an exquisite journey of personal endurance, mental and physical, whilst holding responsibility for her own life and the life of her child in her hands. Pregnant women have as much endurance as elite athletes a new study shows.

Through motherhood, and caring for children generally, you develop all these new levels of skills you didn’t even know were possible in you — superhuman capacities for multi-tasking, organisation, managing, listening, staying objectively above the fray, saying no, and how to keep smiling through some of the most boring, inane hours of your life— playgroup.

But the blossoming of these new found skills doesn’t always match with how you are viewed in the founder space. At networking events you might be seen as a second class citizen: you can’t work the hours of the “truly dedicated” founder — up to 60 hours a week! — and you can’t use time after work for professional development to keep updating your skills. The days you stay at home you aren’t being a productive, flexible, remote founder — you’re looking after sick school kids.

Regardless of the statistics facing female founders, perhaps you have an idea burning inside of you that you just can’t put down. You’ve identified that there’s a gap between what would be an ideal experience for a customer, and what they are able to access. You’ve developed your customer persona, mapped their journey, and developed a product-market fit. You’ve become a queen of stats and figures. And you know you are the perfect person to build it.

I actually embarked on my first tech startup when my eldest child was a month old. I had no mentors or objective support and working with my business partners seemed like a great idea at the time. I didn’t ask for paperwork. I didn’t ask for legal documents with my name on it. I contributed ideas and labor, and then four years later I realized that it was all for nothing.

A decade later, many more resources are available for not just founders generally but women founders specifically. I run a group for women in blockchain, WIBI.io and if you are a woman in the Blockchain space there’s 20 other groups you can join.


20 Top online groups for women in blockchain_Blockchain is a global movement and so are it’s women_medium.com

In Q 3 and 4 I’m also participating in the Australian Female in Fintech program put on by Stone & Chalk and karen cohen.

Somehow, I’m going to to balance my involvement with taking care of myself, my family, and the entire household of two dogs two cats and five horses. Because that’s life as a mother.

When we lift ourselves up, as a woman, we contribute to lifting all other women up, too. We aren’t doing this alone — we are doing this for each other, our sisters, daughters, grand daughters. We pave the way for women after us who aspire to do as we do. I’d like to offer some tips to fellow mumpreneurs from my own personal toolkit and entrepreneurs I know about how we can not just survive but thrive.

Build your Village

It takes a village to raise a child, and with the time pressures of child raising combined with being a startup founder, you will need all the extra help you will get. Money will be tight. Save your baby sitter fees, and find friends that your kids can spend time with. (Or, if you can, live close by to family!) If you don’t have free help, don’t be ashamed of getting a house-keeper or au pair.

Veronica Mihai Co-Founder of Bloomwater Capital says:

“If your child is very young, get reliable help and keep a balance by having some rituals that you and your child share daily. Guilt will be there, it’s natural, but remember that quality time, attention and love that you give your child makes a difference. It is applicable for single moms as well as those with a partner.

My husband was working away and coming home only on weekends. I was working full time as a contracting consultant (having my own small company) and my child was just 8 months old. I tried nursery from 4 months old but she got very sick quite often so I had to get a live in nanny. And she was doing everything for her but I made sure that evening bath before sleep I was doing it every single night.”

Build a Professional Support Network

Other women (and men) have gone through the challenges are you facing as a startup founder — you aren’t alone. Find groups online and offline that support you. A co-working space, an online group for female founders like WIBI.io, and an in person accelerator program like Females in Fintech. If you don’t have a meetup group that fits you, generate your own. Do whatever you can to gain the wisdom and mindset to ensure that you will get the funding you deserve for the share of equity you are willing to give.

Anu Bhardwaj says: “When raising capital, remember that you are your BIGGEST investor and only accept investment that will accelerate either you personally on your business and if there is anything that makes you uncomfortable, don’t accept it.”

Create a Work-Life balance

Now that your time is even shorter, your family will need you even more present during the hours they have you. For the sake of your sanity, designate days, or certain hours, where you put the Slack app down. Negotiate with your children’s other parent, or members of your family, to provide childcare for an hour at a time a few hours a week so you can catch up on uninterrupted me-time and take care of your mind and body — even if it’s only doing yoga via online with your SmartTV.

Dr Jemma Green co-founder of Power Ledger suggests:

“Carve out 10 mins a day for space for yourself where you aren’t doing anything productive.”

Dr Green with Richard Branson before receiving the 2018 award for Necker Island Extreme Tech Challenge. Image from Facebook.

Be Ultra Security Conscious

I’ve talked to numerous female founders who, after putting the full name and phone numbers online for social proof to attract investors, have had their bank and social accounts hacked into and suffered as a result. Other founders were subject to relentless trolling. If you must share your personal details, install 2FA on everything. Better yet, have some layers of friction between your business and private identity. Don’t be ashamed of not having your photo online or using initials only on Linkedin.

Prioritize your Tasks

Don’t be afraid to say no. Put your time where you will be paid — into your own startup. Both men and women get asked to do things without payment. In my experience, a woman, even if she is senior, is more likely to say yes. If you aren’t sure you will be paid (i.e. it’s not in a legal signed document) then don’t invest your time. The chances are that, if it’s not legally bound, you won’t be paid. Save your freebie favours for people who people who really need your help rather than people who want to make money by exploiting you. Anthony Moore in The Startup suggests that we value our time as worth $1000 an hour and I find this very good advice.

Amy-Rose Goodey from CryptoClothesline: has this advice:

“First job on your daily to-do list is the job you least want to do. Learnt this the hard way.”

Outsource

Have a lean startup approach to your resources. Outsource everything you can in the most effective way. Generally, getting someone you know to do a task will have a better outcome than a gig economy platform. Find people to do jobs for you who have a vested interest in an ongoing relationship — you’ll get a better outcome.

If there’s a platform that streamlines processes, like Kajabi for leads, Active Campaign for CRM, Hubspot for content marketing, or Loomly which combines workflow approvals with social media publishing, choose the most diverse package rather than the cheapest. If you find one platform that does three tasks, you’ll save time from logging into all those different platforms.

For some free tools check out as resources:


Fifteen Free Startup Tools 2019_Your startup will hit the ground running with these essential online tools_medium.com

I talked to Ada Jonuse, founder and CEO of the Blockchain backed fitness platform Lympo, about her top tips for other mumpreneurs:

Always mute your mic. Always.

“As a mompreneur I have a lot of calls in new settings: while breastfeeding, nappy changing, when the baby is happy and wants to laugh and play or when, unfortunately, I am enduring 20 minutes of extensive crying. I was able to travel less and did more home office, especially in the first months, so I had even more calls than usual. In order to avoid explaining all the funny background noises (some people get a bit confused to hear that you are breastfeeding at this very moment. I wonder why… ), the mic must always be muted when not needed. Me and my colleagues even had a secret sign that signals that I forgot the mic situation. In addition to this, it is always good to have a colleague on the call just in case something urgent erupts exactly when I have to talk and that does happen more often than expected (see point 2 below).”

Expect the unexpected.

“No matter how organized and structured I am, I had to admit that with the baby things are not going to be the same. Giving up control was extremely hard, but the faster I learned that I just have to let go, the faster I could adapt to my new situation. Babies don’t follow the schedule as much as we wish and every day something unexpected happens. Even if you plan for it. In these unexpected situations I understood that I am not alone: that I can trust my team. This is an extremely valuable lesson.”

Don’t worry: you will get much more productive.

“Babies teach how to be much more effective at work than ever before. So, even if I spend less hours working when I have to simultaneously take care of our son Leonidas, the good news are that I do everything much faster. When you have these few precious hours, Facebook scrolling and checking news does not happen. I learned how to 100% focus on the most immediate tasks and to finish them in the given timeframe. There are no second and third attempts. I know that I have to do my best now as there will be no additional time afterwards. This helps to prioritize and just get the stuff done.”

Ada Jonuse, image from Everipedia.

As this is the Essentials guide, I’m going to add a few more.

Be efficient with your nutrition

Being a mother and being subject to the vagaries of broken sleep does strange things to our hormones and puts padding in all sorts of places we’d prefer it didn’t. This year, after sitting on my derrière far too long performing computer tasks, I’ve cracked open the Protein Shakes. I’ve talked to other moms, who find that they keep them full, so we don’t get distracted by hunger or headaches.

I did a lot of research before picking the best shakes for my body as a mother, as I didn’t want caffeine or stimulants, wanted balanced nutrition, and a reasonable price. If you’d like to know which ones, reach out to me. I tried the fasting method recommended by other entrepreneurs (e.g. Charles Hoskinson from Cardano Foundation), and, frankly, as a mum it just didn’t work. Fasting actually PUT ON the kilos, because I had to eat so much during the times I wasn’t fasting to keep me from getting exhausted and faint during the times I was.

Staying fit on your phone

If you are a mumpreneur who has time for the gym, I would be jealous but I don’t have time to be. My own solution is to have a selection of reliable fitness apps on my phone. I have one for a Fitball, one for a Bosu , one for a TRX, and one for Cardio. I can select how long I have time to work out and whether I want to focus on one body area or a whole body workout. Not having to leave home saves on commute times.

Getting the right kind of sleep

The most important hours for you to have hormonal sleep — sleep that helps you stay balanced — is between the hours of 10pm and 2am. I try to turn the computer off at 8pm (she says as she writers at 1 am at night) and take some magnesium supplements or spray it on to help me relax. Magnesium is used by the body in some 400 cellular processes, particularly in the production of sleep hormones. I get up early if I have to in order to complete my work.

Making special time sacred

You hope, as a mumpreneur, your kids remember who you are. Well, they certainly can’t forget you, because you keep nagging them to do all those chores you no longer have time to do for them. Seriously, though, I make sure I know as a parent what activities my kids care most about, and am present each week to take them or to facilitate. We fit in lots of what they love.

Never stop learning

You’ll need a thousand new skills as an entrepreneur — a single lifetime isn’t enough to learn them all. Luckily, there are some great resources out there that help us target what we need to know. Start with Linkedin Learning, and Hubspot Academy which is free. When I am running, I listen to audio books on marketing and business from Audible.com. And you can find a host of great resources here on Medium such as How to write the best pitch deck, by Augustin Sayer.

Keep your sense of humour

As a woman entrepreneur, you are likely going to have lots of questionable things said to you over time. Not everyone will be your friend — not even other women. So, utilize humour wherever possible to keep your spirits high, and put a little distance between you and what is said or done. Don’t let things get under your skin.

Staying hopeful

Maybe 2019 will be the year where women founded startups get 3% of VC funding. Maybe we’ll get 5%.

I don’t know what year we will get 50%. 2025? 2050? Maybe we should start taking bets. (Is there a crypto platform for that?)

The reality is, however, that just as giving birth as a mother was on your shoulders and your shoulders alone, so will sourcing funding for your startup be your responsibility in order to take it to the next level. This goes for all founders and co-founders, not just women or mothers. We do it alone.

More than anything else, believe in yourself. You’re here with a special gift to share with the world. You’ve seen something no else has seen, and you have the life experience that no one else has to know that it’s a worthwhile vision to bring to fruition.

Being an entrepreneur is about finding a way to make life richer for people, by giving them more time, more ease, more choice, and fuller experiences, through their economic power. It’s not a job, it’s a way of thinking.

Have faith in yourself. If you fail, it wasn’t you — there’s a whole world history ramming beliefs about what is valuable and worth rewarding financially down a throats. I treat that pressure as being like the world asking us a question — are you, as an individual, are you really committed to building your vision, even if the whole world is against you? It it that important? Then if so, proceed. The world will have to move around you. The challenges that exist aren’t your fault, it’s just another part of the lie women entering the workforce and business have been fed for decades.

Above all, be kind to yourself. If you need to rest, pivot or get a regular job to feed your family, do. And when you’re ready, come back again, and share your vision for a better world.

We’ll still be here, waiting, for it to be a reality.

Have I missed anything? What are your top tips to surviving as a mumpreneur? Tell us in the comments below! And please join me and Alice Hlidkova where we talk more about how to be your own SuperHeroStartup.com