The Trouble with Paul Graham and Female Founders
Wait, we need Paul Graham to think outside of the box!
That was my surprised reaction to Graham's recent post on female founders, which he wrote as a rebuttal to the kerfuffle over some of his recent comments.
As a result of those comments, Graham, the co-founder of the incubator Y Combinator, was accused of sexism. He then took to his own blog to clarify his thoughts on female company founders. In that post, he noted that in the current Y Combinator class, 16 out of 68 companies, or 24 percent, have female founders. That's almost twice the rate at which venture capitalists fund such companies, he notes. Then he writes:
Is there another organization that has done more to help female founders than Y Combinator, measured by the number of female founders helped times how much we've helped each one?
I did a double-take and thought, of course there is. Springboard, Astia…
Possibly. But the amount of thought it takes to answer that question shows we are at least among the organizations that have done the most.
That's where my jaw dropped. It takes about zero thought to answer that question. Could Graham really be unaware of all the great organizations that are working with female founders to help them build better companies? Maybe he thinks his readers are unaware of them? Maybe he thinks they're not really helping? Consider, for starters:
Springboard This not-for-profit virtual accelerator mentors female entrepreneurs and prepares them to pitch for and receive equity finance. Since 2000, 537 companies have completed Springboard's programs. Together these entrepreneurs have raised a total of $6.2 billion. Ten of them have had initial public offerings.
Astia With its network of some 4,000 experts in 32 countries, this not-for-profit has been around since 1999 and also mentors women entrepreneurs. In 2013, Astia launched its own angel investment group, called Astia Angels.
Count Me In for Womens' Economic Independence This organization runs a competition called Make Mine a Million. Its goal is to help women-owned micro-enterprises grow into million-dollar businesses. (Count Me In's founder, Nell Merlino, was also a co-founder of Take Our Daughters to Work Day).
Golden Seeds This angel investor network funds women-led companies. Since 2005, it has invested $58 million in 58 companies. If we're ranking organizations by investment, we might want to look at venture firm Canaan Partners, too. Its current fund includes a dozen companies that have female founders or co-founders.
I doubt that Graham really thinks Y Combinator has done more for female founders than say, Springboard. But it sounds possible that he doesn't know that much about Springboard, or about these other organizations.
Frankly, that's crazy. Graham is hugely influential and plugged in, and he wants to see more female founders running great companies. The heads of the other organizations mentioned above? The same. And it sounds as if they don't work together. Might not even know each other.
You know what would be really swell? If all these folks would get together for lunch. Just lunch. Something great could happen.