By Maris McEdward (Community Manager, Startup Weekend)
Taking the plunge into entrepreneurship is daunting, to say the least. It can be even more daunting for women since tech entrepreneurship is still a man’s world in many ways. For example, women are outnumbered by men 4:1 at the average Startup Weekend event.
Luckily, appearances can be deceiving. I’ve attended 10 Startup Weekends, collected data on over 200 Startup Weekends and compiled Startup Weekend’s first book. So I have some advice for you.
There are three big ways women can thrive in entrepreneurial settings like Startup Weekend:
- Entrepreneurship is about story telling — At Startup Weekend, we’ve found that the teams that have the biggest impact on the audience and judges are those teams that can tell the best story — not necessarily the teams with the best story. Potential customers have to be able to share a startup’s vision, even if that’s all there currently is. Entrepreneurs have to be good at communicating in all senses of the word — listening, asking questions, crafting and sharing stories, incorporating feedback — “soft skills” that women are stereotypically strong prove to show a great ROI. Women at Startup Weekends have said getting the courage to lead the communication efforts is the hardest part, as telling the story comes naturally.
- Entrepreneurship is about making connections — One of the most important truths at Startup Weekend is that an entrepreneur is only as good as her network. This fact can be scary for people new to the entrepreneurial scene since their networks are small and they have a long list of people they need to meet. But again, women need not be unduly intimidated. As a group, women are connectors. We are already good at balancing the needs of complex social, professional, and personal networks—as entrepreneurs we need to purposefully leverage these existing networks to promote ourselves and expand our reach.
- Entrepreneurship is about working together and compromising — Yes, of course, entrepreneurship is a dog-eat-dog world but there are places where collaboration has to happen or else can. At Startup Weekend, we understand that competition motivates people to work that much harder. We are also very careful to foster an environment where entrepreneurs can ask questions, learn new information, share wacky ideas, and bounce suggestions off one another. This is yet another skill where women have an edge. We are fiercely competitive and we are good at working by together: making decisions by committee, delegating tasks, and soliciting feedback from the group. The strongest teams at Startup Weekend are those with good chemistry, not those with the rock star developers or fancy MBAs.
At the end of the day, it’s the individual who jumps off the cliff into entrepreneurship. But parachutes are always nice. Next month, Startup Weekend will be publishing our first book, Startup Weekend: How to Take a Company from Concept to Creation in 54 Hours. The book serves as a roadmap of early-stage tech entrepreneurship as we’ve experienced it and is full of our best practices, lessons learned, and advice from entrepreneurs who’ve been in the trenches. Sure, you’re an entrepreneur but that doesn’t mean you have to reinvent the wheel.
Startup Weekend: How to Take a Company from Concept to Creation in 54 Hours will be available for sale in stores and online November 8, 2011.
Photo credit: Startup Weekend
Editor’s note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below.
About the guest blogger: Maris McEdward is the Community Manager at Startup Weekend, where she tries to keep up with the startup activities of over 30,000 passionate, hard-working entrepreneurs. When not sharing startup success stories, Maris can be found combing through the antique markets and browsing the local farmers’ market. Maris holds a B.A. from Agnes Scott College and an MBA from the University of Florida. Follow her on Twitter at @mmcedward.