Interview with Pemo Theodore: Women-Owned Startup Expert

BlogHer Original Post

I recently had the pleasure of connecting with start up coach Pemo Theodore of EZ Biz and Pitch Perfect for a personal interview. Theodore recently teamed up with the Startup Genome to help get a greater number of women to participate in the Startup Genome Compass so that women's voices could be heard as part of the overall DNA of startups.

This is important because according to Astia, a group that supports women-led companies, only 10% of all venture-backed startups are women-led. This is disproportional to the number of women owned private businesses in the United States.Women- and equally owned firms together represent 46% of U.S. businesses (State of Women Owned Businesses Report from American Express, 1997-2011).

An Australian entrepreneur, Theodore came away empty handed from her own efforts to drum up venture capital funding. As the Forbes article "Crowdsourcing A Conversation On The Start-up Funding Gap" details, her failed efforts were not without a new direction and focus for her business that has the potential to impact women business owners and the face of startups everywhere:

She came away empty-handed, but with a desire to explore the well-documented gender gap in funding for female-led start-ups.  She decided the best way to do this was to get people talking and then let the cameras roll.

A recent Forbes article written by SheNegotiates called "Do Women Have a Unique Genome for Startup Success?" sums up Theodore's involvement in the women specific research this way:

The Startup Genome has already learned that “approximately 70 percent of the startups in their dataset scaled prematurely,” notes Theodore.

For this reason Theodore is interested to see if the same pattern holds for women, because through the interviews she’s conducted the consensus has been that “women tend to be perfectionistic, moving slower but more surely than their male counterparts.”

Her critical question is: “Is it possible that the more careful nature of women may cause them to fail less?”

Theodore graciously spent some time sharing her personal expertise and perspective on this phenomenon and her lessons learned.

Pemo Theodore Startup Expert
What inspired you personally to undertake the year long project of interviewing venture capitalists, angel investors and women founders?

I had made a personal commitment to help women raise venture & even though I failed myself, I decided to do the project. First to learn what the real hurdles were for women, if any & how to succeed from women who had raised venture. I wanted to learn this information myself & speaking to many different people helped me personally to determine the truth of the issue. I doubt if I would have had the time to do this project if I had been successful as it has been very time consuming. The bonus for me personally was meeting & becoming inspired by women from both sides of the table & men who were genuinely interested in changing the gender imbalance.

What was your #1 biggest takeaway - personally and professionally - from your year long project?

I was inspired to try again by deciding to form another startup myself. The people that I met & interviewed confirmed to me that this was the area of business where I needed & wanted to be. They are my kind of people, passionate, smart & creative. The surprising thing that emerged was that I love the venture industry & feel committed to continuing to promote & support that ecosystem, particularly female venture capitalists. It has been proven that the more female VCs there are, the more women that will raise venture. It really is a cottage industry & there are many different colorful & interesting characters which appeals to me.

What do you see as the pros and cons of the fact that women tend to go the route of alternative funding versus getting funded via venture capitalist?

Yes it appears that women raise funding through many other means because there are so many female owned businesses in the US. However I agree with Cindy Gallop, Founder IfWeRanTheWorld that it is a rite of passage for women in general to feel that they can as easily raise venture capital as any male can. Having said that raising venture is not easy for anyone & 99% of startups do not make the final grade. At present I think women are becoming less intimidated by these odds as more women are successful & also more women are thinking in grander style & wanting to scale their businesses. These changes are gradual but in almost 2 years I have seen surprising shifts in awareness in the culture. This seems to be a global movement & women are jumping up to be counted. I really believe that world economies will be led out of economic problems by encouraging startups where innovation is most likely to occur. Women led startups now will be major players.

What is your role within the Startup Genome Compass project?

I approached Bjorn Herrmann & Max Marmer of Startup Compass as I was enthusiastic about their project. Data can be helpful when used in such a positive way as they are doing with their project. I was really frustrated about the lack of stats & focus on women led startups particularly about venture funded startups. They agreed to add the gender piece to the project so that we can get some benchmarks & stats & determine if women led companies have any major differences than male ones. We worked together finalizing a summary of my findings & I have been promoting the project ever since, encouraging women led startups to sign up to change the status quo. It can be helpful for a founder to be able to check into their program & through completing the questionnaire get a great overview of their business & what are the next best steps. For more details check out interview with Bjorn.

Now that your year-long study is complete (for now) what is your next big endeavor? Has this next chapter changed for you as a result of working on this project?

I want to continue to support entrepreneurs in general to raise investment. I also feel a bit of a mission about humanizing investors particularly for entrepreneurs who are not in the Golden Triangle of the Bay area, NYC & Boston & don't have access through their networks. I like to bring investors & entrepreneurs together through the power of video & virtual platforms. I have already developed a virtual program PitchPerfect which is currently being hosted on Udemy. Entrepreneurs can obtain feedback from 3 investors after successfully creating a deck & video pitch. The human factor is greatly underestimated & it can be a bridge both for women & men to succeed in their startups & to raise investment.

[BlogHer Entrepreneurs '12Do you want to start something? Whether your goal is to strike out on your own with a brilliant idea, or to bring an entrepreneurial approach to innovation within a company, you should attend BlogHer Entrepreneurs '12 -- register now!]

Paula Gregorowicz is owner of The Paula G Company and The Intuitive Intelligence™ Coach and helps you learn how to tune into and turn your intuitive knowing into practical action for better results in your career and business.

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