Creating Connections That Stick
Countless business leaders often espouse the importance of mentorship and making connections, and, as an entrepreneur, I agree that both are critical to grow a business or advance a career. Yet, something about networking in practice makes me feel uneasy. When you are at an event with hundreds of others and given a limited amount of time, it is difficult to have a real conversation or make genuine connections. Often, it can feel disingenuous, making people wonder whether their time was well spent. As a woman who has worked in a traditionally male industry, I’ve felt even more pressure to network and seek mentorship to get ahead professionally. Unfortunately, the fear of hearing “no” or being branded a stereotype sometimes held me back.
"Women entrepreneurs are a fast-growing and important part of our global economy."
According to a Goldman Sachs report, narrowing the global gender employment gap – in part by bringing more women into entrepreneurship - could increase global income per person by 20% by 2030. Research also tells us that women have unique views and appetites for risk that would make them great entrepreneurs. If that wasn’t enough, startups with women in business leadership roles succeed more often. All of these stats thus beg the question: why don’t we have more successful women entrepreneurs?
I believe women entrepreneurs today lack access to networks critical to grow their businesses, particularly when it comes to raising capital. In the US only 7 percent of venture capital funding goes to women-owned businesses. In the UK, one study found that male entrepreneurs are 86 percent more likely to receive venture capital funding than females. This is despite of the significant number of women entrepreneurs seeking financing. For example, 47 percent of campaigns made on Indiegogo, a popular crowdfunding platform, are led by women.
Bias certainly plays a part in this problem and is something that needs to be addressed. However, I’ve also found many of my female colleagues have innate fears about networking or asking for help. The result of this is missed opportunities and connections. It’s something I struggled with when starting out in my career, and have grown to be passionate about in my own entrepreneurial journey. Out of these struggles came the idea for Hiver, a mobile app to improve the networking experience for women and men alike.
Hiver (noun): One who builds and creates a place for people to busily come together, a hive. Hiver
Hiver helps create a sense of connectedness and brings people closer. The app supports users by keeping track of people they meet using their mobile device’s built-in capabilities, specifically by leveraging advanced geolocation technologies along with the power, resilience and agility of analytics. It enables users to discreetly identify the people they want to meet at an event and never miss or forget a contact again.
This ethos of connectedness is something I’ve also taken to heart when building my team. I’m a Brazilian-born German who studied in the US and now lives in the UK, so I consider myself a citizen of the world. At Hiver, we always strive to build as diverse a team as we can, not just in terms of gender balance but nationalities. Six countries (Brazil, Germany, UK, Austria, Greece & USA) are represented within a team of 7. Such a diverse group can generate very heated and interesting discussions but, more importantly, it means we have a strong and well-rounded product.
"In many ways, entrepreneurship is the next battlefield for women in the quest for equality. Networking is a powerful tool in this effort and women should seek greater access as they grow their businesses."
Technology can play a big part in bridging some of the gaps by increasing confidence and achieving greater impact from time invested in making connections. This is why I started Hiver and this is what drives our team today. My advice to any women launching a business is to truly jumpstart their networks. The connections you make and lessons you learn will help shape your ideas and, more importantly, transform them into something real.
The LER would like to thank and acknowledge Komaki Foster (MBA 2017), Nancy Sawan (Sloan Fellow 2014) and Jin Kwon (MBA 2017) for making this article possible.