Hera Venture Summit 2017 Challenges Narrative on Women in Business
Now in its fourth year, the female-focused event at University of San Diego encouraged attendees to shift their mindsets around investing, pitching and the flow of funds
More than 200 women from as far as the United Arab Emirates traveled to San Diego for Hera Venture Summit, a one-day educational event hosted by business accelerator Stella Labs. Now in its fourth year, the event at University of San Diego underscored three key themes: encouraging more women to see themselves as investors, challenging the narrative on women in business, and the importance of overcoming fears and asking for help.
35,000 people in San Diego County have home-based businesses, noted San Diego City Councilmember Chris Cate, who welcomed attendees to the event. Hera Venture Summit seeks to reach these businesses – especially women-led business – that could benefit from resources, funding and a global perspective.
Speaker and founder of SheEO Vicki Saunders is making this happen on a global scale. Based in Canada, Saunders is leading an effort to fund women-led businesses in 150 regions by 2025. Named one of the 100 most influential leaders of 2015 by “EBW – Empowering A Billion Women”, alongside Melinda Gates, Sheryl Sandberg and Michelle Obama, Saunders noted that women are starting businesses worldwide at 1.5 times the pace of men, yet only 4 percent of venture capital goes to women.
“Five men have the same wealth as 3.5 billion people in the world,” she added. “We have this whole narrative of winner takes all…we need to change the way we do things.”
Andrea Guendelman, CEO of career-building platform BeVisible LatinX, says women need to change the way they do business, which includes putting emotions aside.
“If you are going to be ruled by your emotions in this journey, you’re going to put the brakes on everything,” said Guendelman. “Seeing yourself as small or inadequate or incompetent makes you place the brakes on yourself…take a step back and listen.”
Putting revenue first and not being afraid to ask for help are also at the top of Guendelman’s list of startup tips.
“Another issue women face is asking for help,” said Guendelman. “I have learned to surrender. If you ask people for help, they’ll realize you’re serious about your business. When you ask for help, it shows persistence and motivation…that it’s not about you, it’s about the business.”
Speaker Elissa Freiha echoes this advice. The angel investor and founder of WOMENA, says asking for support, especially from other women, helped her start her all-women investment group in Dubai.
“Women were less judgmental and more helpful,” said Freiha. “This ‘womentum’ was really comforting for us. That’s how we started.”
Freiha added the importance of rewriting the world’s narrative about who has money and how they get to use it.
“Women in the Middle East have been at the forefront of our entrepreneur economy,” said Freiha. “Most people assume that women [in the Middle East] are oppressed…but it’s the same narrative we’re seeing everywhere. When you recognize and acknowledge that there is an issue, you can create platforms to overcome that.”
Now in its fourth year, Hera Venture Summit is that platform in San Diego.
“We’re growing a culture where women both launch and grow businesses and see themselves as investors,” says Dr. Silvia Mah, founder of Stella Labs. “We’ve helped startups raise over $500,000 in seed capital from connections made at Hera Venture Summit.”
In the past two years that San Diego resident Samantha Urban has attended the summit, she’s landed investment deals of more than $400,000 by forming or strengthening investor relations during the event.
“Two out of two times, I’ve been invested in,” said Urban, founder of Urban Translations. “You can’t expect an investment to happen right away … you have to be persistent,” she told attendees as a speaker this year.
In addition to attending startup panels throughout the day, guests participated in a gamified pitch contest. Audience members in teams reviewed due diligence packets and “invested” “Hera dollars” into their startup of choice. San Diego biotechnology startup Aguam took home the winning title, along with $5,000 in non-dilutive financing from “She Invests!” podcast, startup advisory services from SEED San Diego and exclusive mentoring from SmartMoney Startups.
Hera Venture Summit will return to San Diego next September.