Women 2.0 Conference – changing the face of tech

This week I attended the Women 2.0 Conference in Las Vegas along with my colleagues, Jennifer Argüello and Brian Dixon.

Women 2.0 is a conference for women in technology and innovation.  Women 2.0 describes it as:

“At Women 2.0 we believe that cutting-edge technology isn’t just for the select few, nor is it a dream to defer into the distant future. We’re dedicated to bridging the gap between the latest breakthroughs and and the realities of our diverse lives, empowering change, improving lives.”

It is an understatement to say that the energy in the room was exciting. It was a room full of hundreds of women looking to find a community of support, find partnerships, make connections, and learn from each other. At an average tech conference, you might see 10% of speakers being women. At Women 2.0, more than 80% of the speakers were women. The panels addressed some big issues that you don’t often hear about at the traditional tech conferences.

It’s clear that when women are starting companies and running teams, different market problems will be addressed. While there was a giant spectrum of types of industries represented in the attendance of female founders– including Jane Poynter’s amazing work in space travel– I saw several exciting companies looking to solve problems that are very applicable to moms or families. That’s not surprising, given how hugely untapped these markets are! One company was trying to solve the problem of finding day care, another was offering solutions to plan financially for your maternity or paternity leave, and another was offering a platform to resell your child’s lightly used clothes and toys after they outgrow them.

As a member of the investment team at Kapor Capital, I often get questions about the minimum addressable market size that we look at when talking about “niche” or “impact businesses”, about the risks of pitching to VC’s when you risk being perceived as less profitable by nature of being a “mommy business” or a “pink label company,” or about the frustrations of pitching to VC’s without a technical co-founder when you’ve built an MVP by a contractor. To those who ask these questions regarding pitching to VC’s, I respond – lead with the numbers.

Surely, if you’re a woman and trying to start a business in a more niche market, you might find that you have a bit more trouble in the beginning convincing a traditional institutional investor who has less experience with that niche market. However, remember that in “niche businesses” there is also a lot of power. You have the opportunity to capture a larger market share because there is often less competition. You are uniquely positioned to solve the problem because you intimately understand it. If the problem you’re solving is as large as family planning, marriage, babysitting, etc – you’re actually looking at a huge addressable market. If you lead with numbers and show some traction—particularly paid traction—you’ll be sure to get investors’ attention.

I couldn’t be more excited about fostering the connections I made with the attendants at Women 2.0. I foresee many great companies and entrepreneurs coming out of these conferences!