Female Founders in Tech and unconscious bias

I have always been one to not hide behind gender stereotypes as a disadvantage and create my own opportunities… but today, I am finding it really hard to tell myself that I do not have a disadvantage.

Let me first give some background: I have been working on my startup for 10 months. I have an MVP in the market, 4K active users and some revenue …. but I am not coding it myself. I would classify myself as non-technical but can review every line of code and can judge the quality of code. I am also funding this business myself.. and have another 12 months of funds left at least (assuming revenue does not increase).

This brings me to my question:

I continue to be written off and rejected from pitch events… the very events that are focused on very early stage startups… many who have presented with much less traction than me.

The reason I get every time is that I need to have a technical co-founder…

I 100% agree that 2 people are better than 1.. and having a technical founder is a value.  But here is some my unfiltered thoughts:

1. Even if I were to feel confident I can code the product myself… I would still opt to outsource it given that is one of the only things that I can outsource (I can also afford to). It is much harder to outsource the hustle, strategic thinking, product management, PR, business development …

2. If the pre-requisite to getting someone to feel you deserve a chance is to be technical… and only 20% of engineers are women.. what kind of opportunities for entrepreneurship are we truly creating in tech for women? My easiest path to finding a co-founder who is technical is a man… just based on the numbers/ odds. What does that say about the opportunities out there for a female-only tech startup?

Am I overreacting? I know rejection is part of the path I took as a founder… but anyone deserves at least someone who believes in them.. gives them a chance.. when I am written off every time because of what is on paper as a non-technical founder… it feels the odds are against me.

I know that I can make generate 100K in revenue this year alone.. and may never need to raise funds.. but I feel for other women in my shoes.. that may not have as easy of a path to revenue or may need to raise money.

Would love to hear thoughts.


  • Hi, I have faced exact opposite problem, of being a tech founder and written off as not worthy. Being single founder is hard irrespective of the gender. I guess gender bias adds to the issues. I have found some solace in microconf and effectuation.org which may be some solutions to your situation. Having said that I feel its a matter of time and you will take off very soon. Good Luck with everything.

  • Startups with no technical founders have abysmal success rates, which is why it’s easier for investors to just reject them all. It isn’t personal. Investors don’t want to invest in a company without a technical founder because when it goes bust (and it likely will) the investor ends up looking foolish.

    Stop referring to yourself as non-technical. Stop thinking of yourself as non-technical. When asked you can say you’re the product architect and that you make all the important technical decisions. Don’t say you’re outsourcing, instead say you want to hire a great CTO and engineering team so you can focus on your CEO duties: hiring, sales, marketing, and fundraising. Explain why you are uniquely qualified to run your startup. Talk about your strengths and accomplishments. Talk about your traction and how big the opportunity is.

    If you get written off based on what’s on paper, change what’s on paper. Don’t disqualify yourself.

  • 4K active users is very low to get even angels excited, unless they are paying users. I know many companies with 50-100k active users not being able to raise 500k

    Above is just so you have that Baseline in mind.

    Not having a technical founder makes a degree harder to find you.

    Best way to get around is grow twice as much as a solo founder than a cofounder team and then go to market to raise. You will differentiate yourself.

    Also if you have to get a tech founder who is a male, it doesn’t sound that bad. Find a one that respects you.

    Make it happen.

  • To answer your initial question: There is not necessarily unconscious bias, but the process is biased, in terms of the skills and lingo it expects.

    The better you know that, the better you can counter this – one extra step you have to take, if that is what you want.

  • the data does suggest there is a bias against women and against single founders

    Capital as a service is one that is trying to overcome the first basis. As for the second maybe you can count yourself as technical, however if you can afford outsourcing you can hire someone and give them 10% and a cofounder title just like Atlassian did. The earlier you catch women the more there are becuase they haven’t been pushed out yet. You can do tests of programming ability for someone who can’t code then put them through a coding boot camp and training.

  • Sorry for sounding harsh, but money does not flow to a certain gender but to bussines opportunities.

    4k is not much and having a single person carrying the whole work load is a tremendous risk.

    Stop defining yourself non-technical. Experienced female engineers (what is what you are actually looking for) very often hate to work with ladies that play the I-m-not-the-technical-girl-card. As a female engineer you worked too hard to evercome this evil picture.

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