“A Tale of Two Valleys,” the latest feature article in the New York Times Magazine section published March 16th is about overvaluing youth and undervaluing experience. I am pretty sure author Yiren Lu did considerable research to portray what is perceived to be a growing problem: that young bucks want to work on cool apps with their cool friends while rejecting the idea of working for some of Silicon Valley’s storied innovators like Cisco, Intel, Oracle, where their dads work. It’s quick bucks for young bucks, and investors pay big bucks to back them.
The Magazine Cover for the story is titled “Trouble in Start-Up Land.” I can tell you it’s not the only trouble in start-up land. Here’s more big trouble: This start-up land leaves no room for bright, innovative women. Is it any wonder that women in science and technology are not attracted to the young buck environment? Author Lu asks “Why do these smart, quantitatively trained engineers, who could help cure cancer or fix healthcare.gov want to work for a sexting app? “ Smart kids want to work for a sexting app because other smart kids want to work for the sexting apps,” he concludes.
To me, it’s a guy thing. Like Bang With Friends, an app that won a demo competition a year ago, mostly because the investors in the room wanted to use it. Sure. Cool. Who wants to bang now? Sort of like Uber: Quick, responsive and in this case free. It’s the new one and done model. And oh, by the way here are my friends on Facebook, you might like them too.
In the words of one of Tennis Hall of Famers John McEnroe, “You Can’t Be SERIOUS!” Really, is this the best we can do?
These and other reasons sighted in Lu’s article pointed out the young bucks of Silicon Valley are driving today’s culture and no one else seems to be welcome. This is the very reason why a group of us started Springboard Enterprises 14 years ago in Silicon Valley. There just wasn’t any room for women (young or experienced) to launch technology and life science businesses there. We had to create our own culture to even get them in the game. Over 14 years, we’ve built out the human capital networks to accelerate these women led companies to success. Hundreds of investors, lawyers, accountants, entrepreneurs and corporate champions offer sage advice and counsel
Our first class of 26 women entrepreneurs presented their companies at the Oracle Conference Center generously hosted by Larry Ellison on January 27th 2000. You know what happened then?
Twenty two got funded, two entrepreneurs combined their companies, one sold hers and one wasn’t funded. Our first IPO came from that class: 51 Job of China, registered on the NASDAQ in 2004. Today it has a market cap of $2.2 billion. Dozens more companies presented that year, a class that produced 5 IPO’s. Among them was Robin Chases’ Zipcar, a company that revolutionized the world of car sharing. Gail Goodman’s Constant Contact, also presented in Boston at Springboard 2000, and brought e-marketing to a new level. Xenogen was in biotech, and the fifth IPO was Viacord.
None of these companies, nor the 545 that Springboard has presented to date, were started by young bucks in Silicon Valley. They have been launched by women, most of whom have 10 or more years of relevant experience to their credit. They are found in 39 states. Not surprisingly, a majority of them are found in Silicon Valley, the Bay Area, Boston and New York. But a rising number are coming out the Mid-Atlantic States, the Midwest and Texas, where sustainable companies are growing every day. It’s a good thing capital is democratizing in the US. Crowdfunding will prove productive for those who don’t fit the mold in Silicon Valley. Smart investors will learn how to find these innovative women and be rewarded with great returns on their investments.
Just for the record, 83% of the 545 Springboard companies presented over 14 years have raised capital and 80% of them are in business today. Amazingly, 33% have had liquidity events for their investors, including 10 IPO’s. Collectively, these companies have raised over $6.2 billion, created tens of thousands of jobs and have billions in revenue. They may by newer to the game, but their impact is growing. It’s mostly coming from places other than Silicon Valley.
Look, Silicon Valley was and still is the Mecca of venture capital. Great companies are created there. Some of them should be by women. It’s just time we changed the picture on the poster. Not every poster has to have a testosterone driven guy under 25 on it. It’s time to include some very successful women. Here are some of ours.