An Austin Primer for Female Entrepreneurs— Follow These Leaders & Join These Groups
Updated: Aug 7, 2018
It’s been 6 month since my co-founder and I started Reset — a chunk of time that has both whizzed by and felt like I’ve been doing this my whole life. In that time, I’ve been consistently delighted by the support and enthusiasm of the Austin startup community.
It’s like that warm belly feeling after a full bowl of ramen. But with a couple sleepless nights and many, many Trello boards.
What does that look like?
In July I spoke on a panel at 3 Day Startup Global Roundup, an opportunity that sprung out of a connection in a Female Founders Facebook Group. A week before that, my co-founder and I attended the Boss Babes ATX WORK Conference, along with hundreds of other female creatives, and entrepreneurs where we met a potential founder, who then connected us to a restaurant owner.
Austin is one of the top 10 metro areas with the highest economic growth rates for women-owned business, and as our startup community continues to get more VC dollars ($385M in Q2 alone), it still operates in a way that lifts all ships. We’ve got powerhouses led by women here — WP Engine, Bumble, Kendra Scott — but more importantly there’s a community that wants to support and see others succeed.
In that spirit, I want to share some of my top resources for female entrepreneurs in Austin — the thought leaders, the groups and the events. If you’re reading this and you don’t know where to start, start here.
The people you should follow
Sara T Brand & Kerry Rupp |GP, True Wealth Ventures
True Wealth Ventures is a VC firm that leads with the mission to close the venture gender gap by investing in female-led startups across Texas. General Partners Sara Brand and Kerry Rupp are fixtures in the startup community, and especially in driving forward female entrepreneurship. Currently, they’ve raised $19.1m for their fund, and plan to invest in 12 companies.
“4.8% of today’s Fortune 500 companies are led by women CEOs. In the venture capital world, it’s similarly staggering, with 4.2% of deal-making partners in venture capital and 3% of venture-backed company CEOs being women.” - Letter from the Founding General Partner, 09/1/2015.
The firm is heavily involved with Austin startup events and accelerators including Mass Challenge, The ATI SEAL Program, and PowerHer Expo. Regardless of whether you’ll be seeking venture capital, True Wealth’s focus on female-led startups have built a strong community of fans, programming and events in Austin that’s specific to this segment. Not only are they amplifying the data behind why this is a smart business move, but also driving that forward with their portfolio.
Dr. Oksana Malysheva | Managing Partner, SputnikATX
Aside from having my favorite accelerator name (must be the Eastern European in me), Sputnik ATX and Dr. Malysheva have been the source of some of my favorite programming in the last 6 months. Launched in 2017, Sputnik focuses on mentorship, community and finding the right fit between an accelerator and a start-up.
In their own words -“ the Russian word ‘Sputnik’ translates to ‘partner,’ which describes this accelerator’s intention: to partner with and mentor chosen startups.” True to the name, Sputnik ATX takes a formulaic approach to build a ecosystem around their accelerators that propels them to success. Similarly, Dr. Malysheva has advocated for male/female mentorship — especially in STEM — as a way to drive greater equality in business. I enjoy reading her thoughts on Austin since she tends to take a more scientific approach to both the startup/accelerator fit, but also building a community around female entrepreneurship in partnership with men in the industry.
Sarah Ines Calderon| Women Who Code ATX Lead, Developer
Sara Ines Calderon is a developer at Musx, and a lead for Women Who Code ATX Women Who Code is an international nonprofit dedicated to inspiring women to excel in technology careers. In Austin alone, the group has over 3K members, an active Slack channel and plenty of events.
She’s a voice for inclusion especially to coding communities specifically, and general hustle toward what you want. Moreso, she writes about building inclusivity into software design, and her experience as a Latina in Tech. Her writing appear in VICE, Techcrunch and I’m a big fan of her Twitter/Medium articles.
The communities you should connect with
Female Founders ATX Facebook Group
At 400+ members strong, this group is a wealth of information, discussion and community for female entrepreneurs. Started by Laurie Felker-Jones, CEO of Juicebox Hero, it was intended as a space to “ to talk shop and discuss challenges, commiserate and share tips that are specific to growth-oriented female founders in the startup space.” It’s a group that I check daily, and one which has led me to countless events, conferences that drive my business and helped me make new connections (and friends!). The unique thing is it is just as much a community of sharing insights and events, as it is for discussing the very real struggles of being an entrepreneur. The group recently celebrated it’s 1-year anniversary at Native Hostel, and the best part was realizing just how many of the people I had seen previously around Austin.
If you’re a female entrepreneur in Austin, this is a must-join.
Connect with the FB group
Boss Babes ATX | #bossbabesATX
If the name doesn’t get you, the programming will. Full disclosure, I am a bit of a fan-girl of this organization and overall “cool factor”. More importantly though, I love the way they weave community & civic involvement, arts, and female entrepreneurship through their events. In a growing tech city like Austin, its increasingly important to have organizations that are inclusive of other industries as well — Boss Babes is killing it on that front.
A few weeks ago, they kicked off their WORK Conference with hundreds of attendees over a full day of programming geared towards creatives and entrepreneurs. Workshops included topics of price-setting, customer acquisition and legal considerations when starting a business. The conference was held on a Saturday, and it was packed — validation that Austin entrepreneurs want it and are willing to give up their Saturday for it!
The next WORK Conference is coming February 2019.
In the meantime, go to their regular community meet-ups, Babes Fest at the end of the month or their Artist Residencies at Native Hostel.
3 Day Startup is one of my favorite organizations in Austin. It was started in 2008 at UT Austin, with a mission to spur entrepreneurship in students through an experiental, 3-day program where they effectively jumpstart the startup process. Althought the program itself is focused on students, the ecosystem surrounding it is rich with opportunities for all founders.
3DS Global Roundup just concluded, and I had the pleasure of sitting on a Funding 101 panel along with a VC. It was a great experience to not only talk about that bootstrap startup life, but see and interact with student entrepreneurs. It made me wish that I had this when I was in undergrad!
Founders Live Austin Chapter
Founder’s Live is an interesting mix of online community and in-person events with individual city chapters across the US. Their premier event is the Founder’s Live Pitch Night usually held at Capitol Factory, where 5 startups pitch for 5 minutes each to an audience that then votes for the winner.
This is not only a great way to hone your pitch, but also network with like-minded entrepreneurs. They also have a rich online community through the website, with discussions and web streams specifically targeted to Founders.
Reset pitched at one of these, and got some great takeaways solely due to the types of questions asked. For example, a few people asked how Reset works given that restaurants are open — where a key point is that we utilize space when restaurants aren’t open for service. This told me that we were failing at communicating that point, which we changed in future versions of the pitch.
Austin Startups FB Group
This one is very well-known in the Austin community so I won’t add on too much here. The member list is large with 19K members, and there’s good discussion spanning pretty much any tech topic imaginable. The only downside is due to the large member count it is not very specialized in any one particular area.
The above is a great place to start as you build your business. Goes without saying, but there are plenty more outside of this list.
Remember to talk to people, invite them to coffee and prepare to be amazed by this awesome community.