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These women entrepreneurs are working to help each other succeed

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22.04.2019

When Polly Rodriguez started sexual wellness company Unbound, she struggled to find her place among male-dominated tech entrepreneur circles. “It was hard to be taken seriously in general because of the products that we were selling,” Rodriguez says. “And I grew up in the Midwest from a lower-middle-class background–so there was no one in my life that had started a business before.”

Instead, she turned to some of the enclaves for women founders in New York. “I think that’s how I ended up building a massive network of female founders,” she says. “I absolutely would not be here today if I didn’t have them to turn to.”

You’ll hear similar accounts from other female founders, many of whom feel shut out of more traditional networks of mentors and entrepreneurs. (Not to mention they’re starved for venture capital dollars, which are largely reserved for male founders: In 2018, just 2.3% of total capital went to women entrepreneurs.) Elle Huerta gave up on general networking events while starting Mend, a self-care app for heartbreak. “It was always interesting to me that a lot of people–men especially–couldn’t be imaginative about something that they didn’t have direct experience with,” she says. “This is something a lot of us experienced, so after a while, I stopped going to those events because they were just a waste of my time. I was like, ‘It would be more valuable for me just to go home, focus on building my company, and get traction so that I can be taken seriously.'”

For these women, building out networks of their own–much like the “mafias” of homogeneous founders spawned by tech exits–can be key to their success. In Silicon Valley, the moneyed alumni of tech heavyweights–and soon, the likes of Airbnb and Uber–have long offered guidance and financial backing to their peers and friends. For investors, entrepreneurs with that pedigree can seem like a sure bet. “They are looking for any indication or sense of validity because they’re inundated with pitches,” Rodriguez says. “You see time and time again........

© Fast Company