In the world of startups, female founders are underrepresented. Last year, less than 3% of all the venture capital in the US went to companies founded by women. It’s an equity problem that we need to help address.
With this in mind, I’ve designed a new Female Founder program for the 4thly Startup Accelerator, and we’re launching our first cohort in November.
Recently, I told my friend Christina about these plans. She’s one of the most successful women I know, running a fast-growing $60M company and is a passionate advocate for women in business. She listened intently as I describing my plans for a new startup accelerator program focused on women. She slowly took a sip of her wine, looked up at me and said “You are aware that you’re an old white man, right?”.
Excellent point. I’ll never know what it’s like to be a female founder. But my personal superpower is my rolodex. I know a lot of amazingly smart and successful Silicon Valley women who have agreed be guest speakers in my new program. I will lean heavily on them during the program to provide inspiration and guidance to the participants.
My life today is focused on helping entrepreneurs of all stripes succeed and thrive. After a Silicon Valley career of my own, I now teach entrepreneurs at Stanford and coach them at the Miller Center for Social Entrepreneurship. Over the past ten years, women in my Stanford course have gone from less than 15% to nearly half. I’m very proud of that. I also have five daughters. But I realize that just because I’m a startup guy who believes in women doesn’t automatically mean I can effectively run an accelerator program for women. Which means I’ll need to work extra-hard at it.
“True leadership stems from individuality that is honestly and sometimes imperfectly expressed… Leaders should strive for authenticity over perfection.” — Sheryl Sandberg
In addition to the great guest speakers, the core of the 4thly Female Founders program will be rooted in the same principles we apply to all our 4thly programs:
Global and diverse. There’s a big wide world of different kinds of interesting startups out there, and we passionately believe that cross-pollination between diverse participants is a key driver for success. As we select entrepreneurs we specifically want to put together cohorts that are global and diverse.
Pure digital, no travel. We use Zoom, Slack, and other tools for real-time remote immersion — no travel required. You fully immerse with the other participants in the program while still taking care of your life and business at home.
“Women are the largest untapped reservoir of talent in the World.”- Hillary Clinton
Meet you where you are. Some entrepreneurs are strong in finance but weak on the technology side. Others are strong engineers but with no marketing background. In the 4thly program we meet you wherever you are and help you to build the skills and knowledge you want, across all dimensions.
Intensity matters. Some accelerator programs last several months. Ours is a 60-day intensive, with full-cohort Zoom meetings every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, plus additional 1:1 calls during the week. Great entrepreneurs embrace intensity.
Equity belongs to entrepreneurs. Most startup accelerators take equity in the startups as a price of admission. I’ve never liked that model much, because entrepreneurs work their asses off to build the equity in their startups and they deserve to keep every percentage point they can. So the 4thly accelerator is strictly fee-based — participants keep 100% of their startup equity.
“What I learn from talking to so many women around the world: If you can empower them with the right things, the right tools, they can lift up their family. And that ultimately lifts up their community and their society” — Melinda Gates
More doing, less talking. When I teach in a university classroom, it’s in a typical lecture format. Many accelerators also have lectures, class time, and curriculum they follow. But the 4thly accelerator is about doing.
Team is everything. Everybody in the cohort is focused on getting everyone else in the cohort to the next level. If someone’s bus gets stuck in the mud, then everyone in the accelerator jumps out and helps get them out of the mud and moving forward again. In the world of entrepreneurship, there is nothing more important than great teams.
These core 4thly Accelerator principles, combined with an all-star lineup of female guest speakers, are designed to make this a transformational experience for the participants in our first Female Founders program.
So yes, Christina, I am an old white man. I can’t change that. But I’m gonna run the most kick-ass Female Founder program, ever. :-)
Find out more about the new 4thly Female Founder Startup Accelerator.