Technological ventures ceased to be an exclusive territory of men. Now there are more and more women who risk taking on aspects related not only to technology, but also to technical careers. This gave rise to WeXchange, the largest platform for STEM entrepreneurs (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), which is organized by the Entrepreneurship Laboratory of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB Lab). Susana García-Robles, the CEO of IDB Lab, referred to the great contribution of women to business success.
Why did you create the WeXchange?
We created it in 2012, and the first edition was in 2013. We began to analyze what was happening and we realized that, in general, women did not feel identified with entrepreneurship because most entrepreneurs were men . In the 90s, with the internet boom, most of the technological ventures were led by men, who sold their companies, made money, were able to start again and became angel investors, so women lacked role models and a specific mentoring.
What aspects needed to be strengthened for women to identify themselves or be encouraged to undertake at a technological level?
Women generally have to find a balance between family and professional life, so there were no mentoring adapted to them and they lacked training. The woman tends to be much more detailed and controlling – and I don’t say it on a negative level, but she wants to control, understand well how the business will grow, and needs specific training to help her project that business, to help her achieve company numbers, who will you look for as an investor, etc. The woman also needed to make a networking (network of contacts) much more professional. Then, we had to give them the training and inspiration they needed, and we decided to put on the stage women from Latin America and the Caribbean who managed to become entrepreneurs and who are now important referents of the entrepreneurship and innovation ecosystem of their countries. Thus, through mentoring (learning management), pitching (presentation for the investor to invest in your company), networking (expand network of professional contacts) and training is that WeXchange was created.
What qualities or visions can women contribute to a venture?
Women can bring a different vision to a business than men’s. There is no better or worse vision, they are complementary. But there is a very important fact that indicates that 64% of the global decisions for the purchase of services and products fall into the hands of women, so if a startup has the management team in charge of a woman, she will understand marketing much better , the sales strategy, the product, that is, it will adapt better to the needs.
At present, women are more encouraged and are not afraid to be in charge of an enterprise. How do you see that empowerment process?
In these five years of WeXchange we have seen an incredible growth of women embarking on topics such as education, finance, health and agribusiness. We believe that this is the result of a struggle and perseverance in working with government, public-private, foundations, universities, investors, investment funds, family businesses, to make them understand that entrepreneurship is something really important for all countries. of the world, but when focusing on our region, it seeks to solve real challenges and problems. For example, there is a lack of access to financing for the poorest and most vulnerable, a fintech is created that gives microcredits; lack of access to health in a remote area of Colombia, a telemedicine startup is created; it is necessary to make a matching that gives dignity to the domestic workers, they are made a matching and then they go to the banks and ask for credit lines; All these aspects go through the machine of entrepreneurship. At a time when Latin America and the Caribbean are suffering a lot, entrepreneurship can be an element to find ways of solution so that society is more fair and equitable.
How is the incursion of women in startups? Are there possibilities for them to break through in that sector and succeed?
Absolutely. With the six editions of WeXchange we have reached more than 6,000 women entrepreneurs and participants in the ecosystem, which is to create this favorable environment for entrepreneurship. We have entrepreneurs who count in our congresses that have raised USD 1,000,000 or more of that amount and how they managed to insert themselves in this business world. We have WeXchange graduates, like Ceci Reteggi, who today with his company Solberg, which is in Argentina, Peru, Mexico and Colombia. We have Silvia Chevi, who was one of the first WeXchange entrepreneurs, came to the Picht Competition, created her company and failed, and recreated it and now generates lessons from failure and helps entrepreneurs to create startups.
How can women contribute to the success, in particular, of startups?
Women can contribute a business vision, marketing, how to achieve the product with the quality that is needed, according to what is being sought. It is also proven that companies that have women co-founders or at the level of what is called CEO positions C, give higher financial returns. Also, when women undertake they tend to seek financial return, but also social and environmental return to a greater degree than men, so companies become more complete, they look for what is called investment: profit from profits, planet and people. In English it is called the three P: People, PGlanet and Profit.
Also published on Medium.