Tell us about your role and how you got here. What inspired you to be part of the tech landscape?
I co-founded Rad Campaign to work at the intersection of web and app development and digital strategy to effectively build movements and mobilize people into grassroots advocacy. I started Women Who Tech initially to cast a spotlight on the lack of women panelists and keynote speakers at tech conferences.
The first program we produced was the Women Who Tech TeleSummit, which brought hundreds of women (and some men) together online for a virtual day-long conference. We’ve featured inspiring women such as Arianna Huffington, Angie Chang (one of the Co-Founders of Women 2.0), and Rashmi Sinha (Co-Founder of SlideShare).
After producing several Women Who Tech Telesummits and networking events across the US and in Europe, and seeing the rise in the number of women in tech organizations we evaluated the challenges that women in tech and startups face. We learned that only about 2% of VC funding went to women-led startups. For women of color, the stats were even more dismal. About 0.2% of funding went to women-led startups.
We then launched the Women Startup Challenge in partnership with Craig Newmark, Founder of Craigslist and Craig Newmark Philanthropies to close the funding gap and draw global attention to the significant gender bias in venture capital funding. We provide capital, mentoring, and other resources needed to scale for women who are creating the most innovative tech companies globally.
As a woman in a tech-heavy ecosystem, what message would you give to other women, especially in the Marketing and Sales functions?
It’s the most exciting time to be immersed in tech and diverse founders and teams are the key to unlocking innovation. There’s so much opportunity to create and market products that can really solve some of the world’s toughest problems. But the industry for women definitely has its challenges, too, and you’ll need to be prepared to bust down those doors that have been closed off. Focus on building up a network and support systems internally and externally. And get out of toxic environments as fast as you can.
What are the key skills and attributes needed to be among the top influencers in the industry?
It all boils down to being an impactful leader. One of the biggest lessons we’ve learned from Elon Musk is it takes more than launching rockets into orbit or creating electric cars to truly be an effective influencer or CEO in the industry. It takes leadership across every part of the organization.
- Hire people who are better than you.
- Keep your ego in check.
- Have passion for your product and compassion for your team.
- Don’t obsess about the competition as it causes you to lose focus.
- Treat everyone with respect.
Could you tell us more about the Women Startup Challenge Europe? How does it empower tech startups to achieve their business goals?
The Women Startup Challenge Europe has one core goal — to showcase and fund the best early-stage women-led startups. You can’t scale without funding.
We partner with mayors of cities in major tech hubs — such as Mayor Anne Hidalgo in Paris — who are investing in diversifying the local tech ecosystem. We also partner with major tech companies such as Mozilla that have strong diversity and inclusion built into the heart of their organization. For this upcoming Women Startup Challenge Europe in Paris at City Hall on October 25th, Mitchell Baker, Co-Founder and Chairwoman of Mozilla, will be awarding an additional $25,000 grant to the startup that best incorporates privacy, accountability, and transparency into their product.
These allies are very important because they are helping to empower our program, elevate women-led startups and give them a global platform to showcase their startups. We open up investment opportunities so these game-changing startups can scale their products. And it works. Our cohorts have gone on to collectively raise over $28M.
The Women Startup Challenge Europe is especially important for the EU right now. The latest data shows that the amount of VC funding for women-led startups has been declining. That is unacceptable. In 2016, 14% of funding went to women-led startups. Our data shows they now receive about 10% of VC funding.
Which leaders in the industry do you closely work with? How do they help you stay close to the ethos of Women Who Tech?
We have an active and growing pipeline of over 2,300 women-led startups. We also work with a lot of investors and serial entrepreneurs who either want to fix their leaky pipeline or simply want to be a part of an impactful and diverse network of startups and investors that is unlocking innovation and has traction.
Is one area of tech more conducive to startups? For example, the MarTech ecosystem instead of cybersecurity?
One of the best things to come out of the Women Startup Challenges is to see the incredible diversity of startups across every vertical from MarTech to FinTech to VR, AI, healthtech, etc.
Have you noticed an abundance of AI-centric startups coming through the Women’s Startup Challenge this year over previous years’ competitions? If yes, why do you think this is?
Yes, we’ve seen a lot of AI and ML women-led startups. The tech world is obsessed with gathering as much data as possible and automating everything. One of the unique aspects of our program and why we’re excited to be working with Mozilla is we want to help our founders bake privacy into their products early on, as we believe data and privacy is critical to tech and consumer trust, which feels like it’s at an all-time low. The tech world has got to do better and we’re on a mission to fix it.
One word that best describes how you work.
What apps/software/tools can’t you live without?
What’s your smartest work-related shortcut or productivity hack?
- Make my to do lists the night before so I can immediately get started knocking out tasks in the morning.
- I also schedule calls vs in person meetings unless it’s essential we meet face to face. This saves a lot of time on commuting and focuses the conversation on the tasks at hand.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Just do it! Life is too short to not pursue what you want. What’s the worst that can happen? It does not work out and you move on.
What are you currently reading?
With everything that has been happening with the SCOTUS, I’ve been reading a lot of news sites like The Guardian and CNN. I also read Medium and The Information for tech and startup trends, ideas, and opinions.
Tag the one person in the industry whose answers to these questions you would love to read:
Thank you, Allyson! That was fun and hope to see you back on MarTech Series soon.
In 2007, Allyson founded Women Who Tech: A Telesummit for Women in Technology, featuring Arianna Huffington of HuffingtonPost.com and Joan Blades of Moveon.org. Through Women Who Tech, she champions women who are inspiring change and transforming technology. She also serves as an expert for news reporters who are writing about women in technology. In 2015, as a part of Women Who Tech, Allyson launched the first-ever Women Startup Challenge to help showcase and fund women-led startups. She is also the co-founder of Rad Campaign, a web agency that works with nonprofits to fight the world’s toughest problems, ranging from climate change to health care reform. In 2012, Allyson wrote the nonprofit best-selling book, Social Change Anytime Everywhere, with Amy Sample Ward.
She sits on the Advisory Board of the Anita Borg Institute and the Planning Committee for NTEN’s Nonprofit Technology Conference.
Founded in 2008, Women Who Tech is on a mission to close the funding gap. We’re shaking up a culture and economy that has made it exceedingly difficult for women to launch startups and raise capital. By showcasing women-led ventures through Women Who Tech’s flagship Women Startup Challenges, we provide capital, mentoring and other resources for women who are creating the most innovative tech companies to help scale their products. The Women Startup Challenge was launched three years ago, in partnership with Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist and Craig Newmark Philanthropies. It’s one of the largest global programs to showcase and fund women-led tech ventures with a pipeline of over 2,000 women-led tech startups. The Challenge has been hosted for women innovators across the world, including New York, Silicon Valley, and London, co-hosted by the Office of Mayor Sadiq Khan.
The MTS Martech Interview Series is a fun Q&A style chat which we really enjoy doing with martech leaders. With inspiration from Lifehacker’s How I work interviews, the MarTech Series Interviews follows a two part format On Marketing Technology, and This Is How I Work. The format was chosen because when we decided to start an interview series with the biggest and brightest minds in martech – we wanted to get insight into two areas … one – their ideas on marketing tech and two – insights into the philosophy and methods that make these leaders tick.