Tereza, an AVC regular and active community member, wrote a blog post yesterday proposing that someone start XX Combinator, a Y Combinator style startup accelerator focused on women in their 40s.Here’s the basic argument:
Y Combinator participants are for the most part very young — in their early 20’s. This is not when women would be most inclined. Women who start businesses like to know what they’re doing, and be trained and experienced in it. That takes up our 20’s. We have kids in our 30’s. Our entrepreneurial sweet spot is around age 40. Conventional tech investors are not really into this group and the metrics they look for are really hard for these people to hit. Most of the (few) women’s businesses that go big were funded by friends & family or strategics, not traditional angels and VCs.
She also points out that the Y Combinator program is purposefully focused on hackers and that is not a term often attributed to women. So Tereza proposes that XX Combinator come pre-populated with hackers, kind of like Betaworks is.
XX Combinator is a cute name and makes the point well. But I suspect a different model is required if this were to work. First, it is not so easy for 40 something women to move to silicon valley for three months. Second, if you have a team of hackers in-house, then you are an incubator more than an accelerator program.
But Tereza is right about a bunch of things. First, there aren’t enough women entrepreneurs. There aren’t enough women VCs. There aren’t enough women developers. The startup ecosystem is largely a man’s world and as a result, we see a lot of certain kinds of businesses and not enough of others. People are drawn to scratch an itch. If it is a 20 something developer, then they are scratching a certain kind of itch.
I know what Tereza is working on. I’m not sure if it is cool to talk about it here so I won’t. But it is the kind of idea a women in her 40s would be working on. And it is not an idea a 20 something man would likely work on all by himself.
Tereza is not alone in her evangelism. The Gotham Gal, who talks to and works with a lot of 40 something women entrepreneurs tells me that this group is “breaking out.” She told me about a conference in NYC this fall that she is involved in that is targeted at this group. And she told me last night that TED is working on a conference for women. Brad Feld wrote a great post yesterday about this topic. And he links to an excellent Eric Reis post that also articulates the need for more diversity (especially women) in the startup sector.
So maybe the time is right for an effort to build one or more efforts focused on helping women get started. These startup accelerators need a leader. Y Combinator has Paul Graham and his partner Jessica. Tech Stars has David Cohen and his partner Brad Feld. Betaworks was started by John Borthwick and Andy Weissman. So we need entrepreneurs to create these efforts, not committees, governments, or companies.
And we need entrepreneurs with a plan to deal with the realities that Tereza lays out. If there are entrepreneurs out there with the idea, the plan, and the passion to do this, please contact me. I’d be happy to help get something like this rolling.
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