Female start-up entrepreneurs in the limelight

30 Apr 2021

Never before has the LMU EC Accelerator had such a high proportion of female founders. Nonetheless, the start-up scene is still a pretty tough place for women.

"We've never had so many female entrepreneurs," Anna Paulsteiner is delighted to report. "It's really quite exceptional." According to Paulsteiner, whose background is in operative management, since the LMU EC Accelerator was established to help guide young start-ups as they put their business ideas into practice, this is a first: nine of the last batch of 17 participants were women.

An astonishing number, especially after a look at the German startup scene. Deutscher Startup Monitor reports that, in 2020, a mere 11 percent of all start-ups were led by all-female teams, mixed teams accounted for 20 percent, while a whopping 69 percent were founded by all-male teams. This means that the women's quota of German start-ups is currently at 15.7%.

The number of female start-up entrepreneurs has risen by just two percent in eight years

But why do so many more men than women launch start-ups? "There are a whole host of reasons," says Paulsteiner, "which can be traced all the way back to how children are raised and socialized. Generally speaking, boys are encouraged to take risks, while girls are taught to be friendly and industrious. However, a willingness to take risks is a key character trait for a start-up venture." Moreover, most start-ups are launched between the ages of 30 and 40, when couples are more likely to have a young family. Women still tend to be the primary caregiver for children and do most of the household chores.

These roles do not show any signs of changing so far. "Since 2012, the proportion of female founders has risen from 13 to just under 16 percent, an increase of roughly 2%," Paulsteiner says. "That's relatively little growth in eight years."

Admittedly, even if they already have a start-up idea, women have to overcome many more obstacles than their male colleagues. For example, female-led start-ups are granted considerably less investor capital. "This is because women are more likely to found companies in the green economy or social entrepreneurship segments, rather than scalable high-tech projects," Paulsteiner explains.

Batch 2020/2021 female entrepreneurs of the LMU EC Accelerator

  1. Shireen Stengel

Cecilia Chiolerio and Dorothea Haider joined forces to found the start-up Twostay. Their idea: "We use locations, such as bars and restaurants that are unoccupied during the day, as co-working spaces—not just during the pandemic!" To honor the sustainable nature of Twostay's dual use of space, which revitalizes the life of the neighborhood at the same time, the two entrepreneurs succeeded in scooping Munich's Innovation Award. The co-working spaces may be established in any district and used in a flexible way. In particular, start-ups, students, and freelancers are regular visitors to the Twostay spaces, but more and more parents started turning up during the pandemic. Meanwhile, co-working spaces are available in seven different cities, with more planned.

As a sustainability consultant, Shireen Stengel feels particularly strongly about climate protection and nutrition. "I realized just how dire the situation was in canteens. The food is of inferior quality, the origin of the products is unclear, and vegetarian or vegan meals are rarely available, let alone organic dishes. This gave me the idea for Green Canteen." The start-up operates as a digital farmer's market, enabling canteens to purchase products directly from small organic farmers in the region. "We take care of the entire process, including the logistics. Not only does this save the canteens time and money, it also boosts sales in sustainable agriculture."

Cybersecurity is becoming increasingly important. Companies therefore hire experts, known as pentesters, to identify potential vulnerabilities and close any security breaches. With her platform "requestee", entrepreneur Fabiola Munguia offers organizations the tailored services of verified ethical hackers and puts them in touch with trustworthy penetration testing companies.

Niao Wu came up with the idea for her start-up "onyo" at the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, when her friends started complaining about backache and inadequate working conditions while working from home. With her start-up, she aims to offer as many people as possible the opportunity to set up their offices at home with high-quality, ergonomic equipment. "We make working from home a healthier, more sustainable, more affordable option with a financing model similar to that for a company car or business bicycle."

Annika Breu, a former management consultant, launched her start-up "OH MY! FANTASY" in summer 2020. With her couples' fantasies, couples can enjoy new "sexperiences" together and discover a new intimacy. "The sexual wellness sector is expanding rapidly and my mission is to create female-centered products with my start-up. Our sexperiences approach the taboo topic of sex and lust in relationships, focusing in particular on the female libido." Photo: © Julia Bombel

Together with Marcello Schreiber and Jacqueline-Amadea Pely (from left to right), Dr. Desiree-Jessica Pely founded, a change engagement software that looks at every employee affected by corporate restructuring. Using behavioral science and technology, helps companies achieve their goals for change, such as agility, digitalization, diversity, and sustainability.

Jutta Merschen is the founder of the start-up "FamilyPunk", a digital coach for parents. Via an audio platform, "FamilyPunk" presents knowledge and tried-and-tested strategies for raising children and surviving parenthood. "We offer parents audio content that is short and to the point, helping them to bring up their children without going insane."

Yet investing in a female-led start-up pays dividends. "Studies have found that women generate substantially higher revenue from capital expenditure than men." Nevertheless, men prefer to invest in their male colleagues—and female investors are still rather thin on the ground. According to Paulsteiner, society's attitude would have to undergo fundamental change to encourage more women to venture onto the start-up scene.

"Moreover, apart from excellent child care, we need more flexible working hours for a better work-life balance, juggling the demands of a start-up and a family. "Women's networks are also very useful. There are already quite a few, such as Businettes, women’s hub, and women.start.up! Networks of this kind are becoming more common in the start-up scene. We have organized our own female founder meet-up and try to offer active support to female entrepreneurs by this means." This event also included pitch training for female entrepreneurs, for example.

"Furthermore, we are working on a number of different initiatives and content formats to systematically raise awareness of our services among women," says Paulsteiner. "We aim to encourage and help women to step into the limelight, turning their own start-up ideas into reality."

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