SEA Female Founders & The Gender Issues They Face In Business

[This is a paid article with Reapra.]

An HSBC study found that more than a third of women entrepreneurs experience gender bias when raising capital. And overall, half of investment locations led by women entrepreneurs are denied funding.

And a Crunchbase research backs up this claim. In 2019, the all-male founders raised a huge 195 billion US dollars, while the all-female founders raised a 6 billion USD.

This is a question worth exploring and Reapra has given us the opportunity to speak to some entrepreneurs and hear firsthand their personal hurdles as Founders.

1. I had trouble gaining the respect of other business peers

Rachel Lee, co-founder of Uplevel (a Singaporean edtech coding company), believes her gender has sometimes put her at a disadvantage when speaking to other business owners.

“I had a few meetings with men where I felt they would have shown more respect for me and my time if I had presented myself as a man.

She even met potential business partners who immediately showed little interest in the collaboration once they found out they were meeting a founder.

Rachel Lee, co-founder of Uplevel / Image credit: Rachel Lee

There is hope, however, because according to Nga Levi, the co-founder of Spiderum (a Vietnamese publishing platform for writers), people in the startup ecosystem tend to be more open-minded. Fortunately, she has not yet been discriminated against on the basis of her gender.

2. Not recommended to use identity as wife or mother

Ginger Arboleda, co-founder of Taxumo (a Filipino tech start-up that helps SMEs and freelancers with tax and compliance issues), runs the business with her husband, EJ.

At first, some friends advised her to avoid using her married name and not revealing to investors that they had a daughter.

She didn’t realize the magnitude of the problem until she personally encountered people who discriminated against her simply because she was a woman.

I think in their minds, EJ was the one who was the most focused, logical, and dedicated to the business. To be precise, I was actually worried that they might question my ability to compartmentalize work over personal life. Some investors saw me as emotional and worried that I would be overwhelmed and give up.

Ginger Arboleda, co-founder of Taxumo

3. Asked about their commitment to the company

As the founder, Nga had to find the right balance between work and life. She said it was a hill to climb, especially as a mother. She had to juggle her responsibilities as a mom for the first time and her role as a founder during her 10 to 12 hour workday.

In America, census data shows that mothers lose around $ 16,000 a year in wages due to childbearing. And companies are concerned about a mother’s commitment to the company when she is carrying a child.

Nga Levi, the co-founder of Spiderum / Image credit: Nga Levi

But Ginger, as the mother of a 7-year-old, said motherhood has helped her improve as a founder.

As a parent who uses positive parenting, she has realized that the values ​​she encourages at home are reflected in the workplace as well. And it has created a work environment that values ​​integrity, responsibility, etc.

4. Severe lack of female role models in the industry

In 2018, 134 US companies backed by venture capital are valued at $ 1 billion or more, but only 16 of 134 have a wife co-founder.

“There is a dearth of female technopreneurs that we can admire, and while there is, we don’t hear much about it,” Ginger lamented.

Due to this lack, she had gnawing fears of whether she could be successful in the industry and this created a sense of self-doubt.

Ginger Arboleda, co-founder of Taxumo / Image credit: Ginger Arboleda

So she thinks it’s important to have accessible support for the younger generation.

Having someone to encourage them to persevere and help them overcome challenges is the first step in creating role models for the younger generation.

5. Pressed to conform to traditional societal norms

Nga’s parents weren’t enthusiastic about his desire to start his own business. They even advised him to stick to tradition and work a steady job rather than take a risk.

In Vietnam, women are often encouraged to follow a safe path in every aspect of life: choosing a career, a lover, a lifestyle.

Nga Levi, Spiderum co-founder

In the early days of Spiderum’s management, the company was forced to shut down due to a lack of money and a proper monetization model. She then took her parents’ advice to work for a large company with a stable income.

However, she struggled with the work environment despite the perks that came with the job. So she left the company to restart Spiderum.

“I always knew Spiderum was where I could be me, where I could work tirelessly and be always happy. Most of the team [who left Spiderum after it closed] was working on it without compensation and Spiderum somehow survived. The platform has continued to grow despite our silence.

Her parents finally understood her determination to run a serious business and started to accept her.

But not all businesses are able to survive without someone running the ship, and building a sustainable business is important.

That is why Reapra, a Singapore-based venture capital builder and investment group, has partnered with Future Females to launch the very first SEA.Build to last“Virtual hackathon.

What is “Building to Last”?

“Building to last” is a virtual (online only) hackathon that aims to help founders realize their ideas on building a sustainable business.

Note: For Reapra, sustainability is about meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. In the business environment, this mindset is essential to counteract the pressure exerted by CEOs and companies to achieve short-term results at the expense of long-term interests.

But, unlike typical hackathons where participants solve a particular and specific problem, the Build to Last Hackathon allows participants to choose any company or industry to work on, as long as it follows their theme of Durability.

Open to all teams from Southeast Asia, companies must have:

  1. An existing business idea OR a company in its infancy.
  2. A team of 2 founders maximum. You can join solo female founder.
  3. A founder. A mix of a female founder and a male co-founder can apply.

Priscilla Han, Reapra’s chief investment officer, told Vulcan Post that the organizers had the same goal: to inspire more female founders in their pursuit of entrepreneurship and to foster for-profit businesses.

The panel of judges during the hackathon. From left to right: Priscilla Han (Chief Investment Officer of Reapra), Lauren Dallas (Co-Founder and CEO of Future Females), To Ha Linh (Founder of the Chapter of Future Females Singapore) and James Bitanga (Chief Culture Officer of Reapra) / Image Credit: Reapra

She also sees “Build To Last” as a starting point for participants in their entrepreneurial journey.

Unlike traditional cash prizes in hackathons, Reapra offers winners the option of offering funding up to 100,000 SGD to turn their ideas into reality.

Through ‘Build to Last’, we hope to provide a platform for women entrepreneurs to scale up, explore and refine their business ideas, with the ultimate goal of turning their ideas into reality. At the same time, we also aim to inspire and bring together like-minded communities and individuals to understand the concept of business sustainability, in order to create a new generation of businesses to last.

Priscilla Han, Chief Investment Officer of Reapra

  • Register for the ‘Build To Last’ virtual hackathon here. Registration closes August 31.
  • For more information on Reapra, click here.
  • Read what we have written about Reapra in the past here.

Featured Image Credit: Rachel Lee, Ginger Arboleda, Nga Levi

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Jothi Venkat

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