Mashable is at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland this week working with our partner Scribd to bring our community an inside look at what some of the world’s young leaders, technology pioneers and forward-thinking organizations are discussing at the conference.
SXSWi - AKA the South-By-Southwest Interactive Conference held annually in Austin, Texas - has become the de facto once-a-year mecca for the digital, tech and new media industry. It’s a place for new products to gain traction - like Twitter, Foursquare and GroupMe, which all became stars out of the conference - and it’s also where partying doubles for networking as new drinking buddies become new contacts, colleagues and partners in new ventures. It is a place of visibility, access and opportunity - which means that women should be right there in the mix.
Last year’s attendance numbers were the highest ever, and this year is looking to outpace that - and that extends to the SXSW Panel Picker.
The SXSW Panel Picker is the where all the proposed panels for next year’s event are posted to be examined, discussed and - most importantly - voted on by upcoming attendees. According to SXSW, voting from the public accounts for about 30% of the decision-making process for SXSW panel programming. (The SXSW Advisory Board (40%) and the input of the SXSW staff (30%) make up the other percentages.)
That first 30% is incredibly influential - especially if you can demonstrate that your panel has hit a nerve. This means having a panel with vigorous comments and lots of upvoting (as any social media guru will tell you, influence is everything! In fact, there is probably a panel for that). Your vote WILL matter - and will make the difference in what panels are selected.
So what constitutes an amazing panel? Well, great content presented by smart people, of course, but another initiative important to the SXSW 2012 planning team this year is diversity. As the tech industry continues its rapid evolution, diversity of voices has been key in this growth with women-lead initiatives leading the charge.
According to data scientist Emma Persky, a New York developer at Hashable, the number of women submitting proposals to the SXSW Interactive Panel Picker has increased by 8 times over the last 5 years, from just 140 in 2008 to over
1200 this year. The increase in female speakers, however, has been decidedly less notable. According to Persky, “[t]he rapid growth in submissions to the SXSW Panel Picker is being driven by women.” (Click here to see the entire analysis.)
Which means that in 2012 we should be seeing even more amazing panels led by women, right? Right - but it couldn’t hurt to vote for a few, just to be safe. To that end, Change The Ratio has assembled a list of some of most interesting panels featuring some of the smartest women in this industry. Change the Ratio is predicated on the belief that visibility begets access begets opportunity - and we want to maximize it all for women next year at SXSW 2012.
So, without further ado, here is the list - vote, comment, discuss and share so that we can maximize this groundswell and see the best and brightest of women in tech shine at SXSW next year. We know we didn’t catch everything, so please also feel free to suggest other awesome panels in the comments section of this post. (You should be commenting on the panels in the comment section on the SXSW Panel Picker!).
Good luck to all submission hopefuls - can’t wait to see you in March!
Just reread this op-ed that Tereza Nemessanyi, founder and CEO of Honestly Now, wrote last sumer. We’ve seen a lot of good writing on this topic in the past year, but Tereza’s piece deserves a major shout-out for being a critically-important first. Never mind smart and filled with compelling data-based arguments, it was a breakout moment for challenging the “pattern recognition” stereotype - arguing that such a narrow vision of what made an entrepreneur left out a giant chunk of people, and the massive markets they could tap into. Fred Wilson posted it on his highly influential blog, where it got seen and made waves. (It’s actually great proof of CTR’s central thesis: That visibility begets access which begets opportunity.) It’s also how I first heard of Tereza and her company - and working with her on matters CTR has been awesome for me personally and great for the whole. Take a moment to reread this piece. One year later, way more big players in the startup world are getting it - but not nearly enough. So, one year later - Tereza!
After decades investing in “white male nerds who’ve dropped out of Harvard or Stanford,” venture capitalist John Doerr broke a pattern in July: he invested in a woman.
Not that Kathy Savitt was a risky bet.
The former CEO of American Eagle Outfitters and a senior executive at Amazon, Savitt built Lockerz.com, a social networking and commerce site for ages 13 to 30. She grew it from 50 college and high school students to 15.5 million users in less than twelve months, leveraging natural networks of friends and social influence. In the web technology world, she’s a rock star.
Doerr, and his firm, Kleiner, Perkins, Caufield and Byers, are well-known for prescient, industry-leading investments including Google, Intuit, and Amazon. They estimate they’ve created 150,000 jobs.
But in an industry obsessed with placing bets based on what’s known as “pattern recognition,” women-led companies are funded less than 9% of the time. According to Shaherose Charania, founder of Women 2.0, this recently dropped as low as 3%. For women age 40+, the rates are even lower.
Savitt, a 47-year-old mother of two, breaks that mold.
Mark Heesen, president of the National Venture Capital Association, describes this more recent phenomenon: “There are more women in the world. They represent a greater share of markets and purchasing power. Being more proactive about increasing their presence in the industry just makes sense.”
Recent studies by the Kauffman Foundation and venture capitalist Cindy Padnos of Illuminate Ventures show high-tech businesses with women in leadership outperform the rest. They are more capital efficient, launching with 30%-50% less capital, generate 12% higher revenues, and have lower failure rates.
If women are so good at starting businesses, then why does it take them longer to start one? Well, according to a Tampa University study, women are bitten by the entrepreneurial bug later than men. Our startup sweet spot is between the ages of 35 and 45 — after we’ve finished school, gained professional experience, had children, and transitioned out of the early “interruption parenting” years. We are eager to apply what we know, to create new businesses on our own terms.
Nonetheless, the two-white-guys-in-a-garage stereotype remains the romantic ideal.
Consider Y Combinator, the tech industry’s most prestigious startup incubator.
Founded in 2005 and located in Mountain View, CA, Y Combinator’s mission is to introduce many ideas to the market quickly and cheaply, so mistakes are small and earnings arrive early. The model works.
It’s funded by big, smart tech money, which is backed by internet pioneers Paul Graham, Trevor Blackwell and Robert Morris. Its participants, who hail from around the country, get to rub elbows with the biggest names in technology. A Y Combinator badge is like flypaper for investors.
But it turns out that fewer than 3% of Y Combinator participants are women. According to Y Combinator partner and author of “Founders at Work”Jessica Livingstone, this ratio represents their applicant pool.
Now, I’m a swing-for-the-fences kind of gal so last year I looked into applying to Y Combinator. They require a three-month relocation to the Valley. Trouble is, I’m a 40-year old suburban wife and mother of two young kids from the New York. So no can do.
I blogged and commented in recent weeks about it, and learned I’m not alone.
Leading venture capital investor and blogger Fred Wilson also blogged about the topic to his 10,000 daily readers. And out came a tidal wave — four times his average comment activity. Hundreds of women emerged from the shadows.
Do we need an “XX Combinator” for women entrepreneurs age 40+? Perhaps.
But many male voices of “a certain age” came out too. So did women in their 20s and 30s, without kids. So did African Americans.
They offered compelling alternatives such as the “Kids-In-Bed Combinator” — prime work hours from 9pm to 2am!
Or we could call it “NY Combinator.” The New York startup scene is breaking out. Great wins are happening for our home-grown, such as Gilt Groupe, Foursquare, Etsy and Tumblr. While these groups weren’t conceived by women, despite some of them directly serving that population, New York’s creative class does provide a mother lode of female talent. According to Richard Florida’s 2007 “singles” map, he counted 185,000 more highly-educated, creative single women than men.
These creative juices could be flowing to tech startups if they could get products to market and raise capital. We should grab this moment to support the diverse technology innovation that is popping up all over New York and start serving up the best of what New York — and everywhere else — has to offer, including young-white-guys-in-garages too.
It’s taken me, a Wharton grad with 18 years experience and several startups and an IPO under my belt, twelve months to get from idea to product introduction. In an era where speed-to-market is the name of the game, that is way too long.
Our country is in desperate need of jobs. Innovation creates jobs. And great ideas can come from the most unexpected of places. Including a mom from the ’burbs who yearns to build the next Google.
Thanks to Julie Ruvolo for including us in her great piece for Forbes - “To Entrepreneurially Minded Women: New York Welcomes You! The emergence of hookup mentorship among New York’s digerati, and advice from the women driving it.” Great to be included with Dina Kaplan, Pat Mitchell, Laurel Touby, Reshma Saujani, Sara Holoubek (Holla Back, Girl!), Tania Yuki, Yao Huang, Tikva Morowati, June Sarpong and my Summit Series roomie Dee Poku. Amazing bunch. Full article here. Go Julie!