Why women are good for startups

A new survey finds that the more women executives that are involved in a startup, the more likely it is to succeed - and I have a theory why


Leah Busque of TaskRabbit and Brit Morin of Brit & Co., two women who've had startup success

REUTERS/Stephen Lam

I’ve always, it seems, been surrounded by women. My house is filled with them (wife and two daughters, mother-in-law is here frequently, as are my mom and sister) and I’ve worked with and for many over the years. As a result, nobody needs to tell me just how good the more populous sex is at running a business or a household or negotiating financial deals - or, for that matter, pointing out clothes I shouldn’t wear after Labor Day.

I certainly wasn’t surprised, then, by the results of a recent Dow Jones survey of startup companies that found that having women in executive positions at startups is more likely to lead to success. The survey found that, while women only made up 7% of the executives at the startup companies surveyed, the median share of female executives at companies that were “successful” (i.e., ones that were acquired, went public or turned a profit) was 7.1%, compared to 3.1% at “unsuccessful” startups. In other words, the more females executives at a startup, the more likely it is to be successful.

The obvious question, then, is why do women help startups succeed? I think I got a hint as to why when I attended the 4th annual Startup Bootcamp at MIT yesterday.

The bootcamp was a one day event featuring 10 startup founders, five men and five women. It was an impressive array of tech startup talent, including Kevin Rose of Digg, Lee Hower of PayPal and LinkedIn and Kathryn Minshew of The Daily Muse. They each got up and took 30 minutes to tell their story and answer questions.

The men’s stories were interesting and had common themes: don’t start a company for money, work with people you trust, always be in fundraising mode, etc. They all seemed passionate about what they were doing and had useful nuggets to share with the many would-be startupers (upstarts?) in attendance.

The women also repeated many of the same themes and had good advice to offer. However, most of the female speakers related their choice to start a company based on more personal reasons than the fellas. 

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