Kiva launches Kiva.org/women and Partners with Dermalogica to Give Away $100,000 in Loans
Mar 6 2012

The following is a guest post from Kiva’s press team:

Kiva launches Kiva.org/women and Partners with Dermalogica’s joinFITE to Give Away $100,000 in Loans to Women around the World

Kiva LogoKivaFor those of you who have made loans on Kiva.org in the past, this will come as a piece of good news. For those who haven’t – it’s a double whammy: you’re being introduced to Kiva AND finding out about their newest venture!

First, here’s what Kiva does, in a nutshell: Kiva.org is the world’s first and largest microlending website where anyone, anywhere can help alleviate poverty and empower entrepreneurs across the globe through loans as small as $25. Lending through Kiva creates a ripple effect in a local economy because with as little as $25, you enable an entrepreneur to build their business and bring goods to their community. As these businesses grow, so do other opportunities: to employ other members of the community, or to make enough money to send their children to school and learn to perhaps become business owners themselves one day. So your $25 loan might help lift an entire village out of poverty!

The best part: When the loan is repaid, you can choose to re-lend your money to help another entrepreneur, maintaining a growing cycle of progress. If you want to read some wonderful entrepreneur stories for yourself, check out how Flaura’s photocopy business, Kumri’s sewing shop, Glory’s goats and Grace’s peanut butter came about or reached their potential thanks to Kiva loans.

The latest piece of good news from the folks at Kiva is that, in honor of International Women’s Day, they are launching Kiva.org/women on March 7, 2012 to help empower women and create sustainable change.

To kickstart it, Dermalogica’s joinFITE program is funding a $100,000 Kiva Women free trial program. What does this mean for you? Free money! You’ll be able to make $25 loans to a female borrower of your choice without fronting a single penny (for as long as the Dermalogica money lasts).

Just for the record, Kiva has already been helping women around the world: since its launch in 2005, more than 80% of the loans funded through Kiva have been to women borrowers in 60 countries including the United States. Kiva has connected more than 600,000 women borrowers to nearly 650,000 lenders, crowdfunding more than $200 million in loans to women.

Because women have proven to be such massive agents of change in impoverished communities when given a minimum of resources, this program is designed to focus specifically on them.

Check out the press release on the topic or go ahead make a loan through Kiva.org/women as soon as you have a chance.

Author: | Filed under: diversity, entrepreneurship, fundraising, FYI, guest post, parent stories, working mother | Tags: , , , , | Comments Off

Are Entrepreneurs Born or Made?
Feb 22 2010

Am I back to consistently blogging?  I’m not sure yet.  Believe me it’s been hard not to write.  I’m still sorting out a lot of personal stuff.    But I’ve run across a few blog posts on this age old question recently and felt compelled to do a post about it.

Fred Wilson did a post called Nature vs Nurture and Entrepreneurship and he says “WEP is run by Professor Raffi Amit and as we were making our way from one meeting to another, I said to Raffi that “you can’t teach people to be entrepreneurs but you can teach entrepreneurs business.” He replied to me that his research into the topic suggests that “there are no unique and defining characteristics of entrepreneurs” which leads him to believe that you can in fact teach people to be entrepreneurs.”  Fred lists his characteristics of an entrepreneur.  The post currently has 278 comments.

The topic of women entrepreneurs was raised by Rachel Happe by her comment below and many others had a discussion around her comment.

“At the risk of making this a feminist position… which it’s not really, I would like to add the female perspective because I’ve been a woman on management teams a couple of start-ups and am now starting my own thing. I have to say, I find that the whole VC/young entrepreneur vibe makes me roll my eyes a lot. A lot of older, richer men with money stroking the egos of a bunch of younger men who have an idea and think a lot about themselves. Ugh – turns me off of the entire VC model. So I offer an alternative set of characteristics that I feel more accurately portray me (and I think may be generalizable):

1) A stubborn belief in an idea or alternately a stubborn belief that there is a much better/more efficient way of doing something

2) Confidence (I actually think arrogant people are some of the least self-assured people I know but I digress)

3) A belief that the reward vs. risk of starting a new venture is higher than the reward/risk of working for someone else.

4) An ability to see and articulate a solution

4) An ability to construct a vision and sell it to many others

5) A magnetic personality – to attract talent, partners, investors, etc.

Just my 2 cents.”

I left the following comment:

Having taught entrepreneurship myself at the UT Austin McComb’s school of business and falling into the entrepreneur category myself (2 tech start-ups), I tend to agree more with ‘you can teach entrepreneur’s business’ rather than you can teach people to be entrepreneur’s as you define their characteristics. There are many entrepreneurs out there in high-tech, to restaurants, to non-profits, to retail, to motels, to singers, to artists that limiting them to the characteristics as you define them is limiting. I think your characteristics of entrepreneurs tend to define those in high-tech.

Now I think that all of those people in those different industries have a drive to make a difference or an impact on their world and that is, to me, a defining trait. Whether they are confident or arrogant or otherwise doesn’t really matter to me. Confidence comes with practice which helps with one’s belief in oneself.

As for the gender discussion, as I mentioned earlier make it a goal to invest in more women led businesses whether in tech or not. Hire a women venture partner. People hire, work with, and are attracted to people who are similar. Once women were more accepted in the medical profession, there has been a drastic increase in women doctors. In the accounting profession which used to be mostly men, now at the mid manager and lower level it’s almost 50/50 women…women still have a harder time getting to partner because of the lifestyle.

I’ll be interested in reading about your research into this topic.

I then happened upon a post on TechCrunch by Vivek Wadhwa called A Fix for Discrimination: Follow the Indian Trails.   He discusses how Indians have managed to achieve success in Silicon Valley, and he starts the post by saying:

Women, Hispanics and blacks have always been underrepresented in the ranks of the Valley’s tech companies.  A new analysis by the Mercury Newslast post on the dearth of tech women shows that from 2000 to 2008, the proportion of women tech workers in Silicon Valley dropped from 25.3% to 23.8%, and that the national numbers dropped from 30% to 27.4%.  In 2008, blacks and Hispanics constituted only 1.5% and 4.7% respectively of the Valley’s tech population — well below national tech-population averages of 7.1% and 5.3%. It seems that the problem I highlighted in my is actually getting worse, particularly in Silicon Valley.  And it’s not just the women who are being left out, but also important minority groups.”

He later says:

Thirty years ago, there were hardly any Silicon Valley firms with Indian-born founders.  UC-Berkeley’s AnnaLee Saxenian documented that 7% of tech companies started in 1980–1998 had an Indian founder.  A survey conducted by my research team at Duke University found that this proportion had increased to 15.5% from 1995 to 2005. My team also determined that in this period, Indians started 6.7% of the nation’s tech and engineering firms.  These are pretty astonishing numbers considering that according to the U.S. census, in 2000 less than 0.7% of the U.S. population and only 6% of the Silicon Valley high-tech workforce was born in India.

So whether people tell you that you have entrepreneurial characteristics or not, if you want to do something and make a difference…JUST DO IT!  You may make it, you may not but you’ll never know if you don’t try.

Author: | Filed under: entrepreneurship | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments »

The Entrepreneurial Ledge
Nov 20 2008

I had to talk myself off the entrepreneurial ledge yesterday.  Of course there is the often publicized glamour of entrepreneurship and then there is the unsung story of the not so glamorous side.  I think most entrepreneurs are a little bit neurotic, myself included, so when I heard that the first company I was founding CEO of officially shut down recently, I entered a state of…well I still haven’t figured out what state that is.  

The company was alive for 11 years.  For 11 years it provided experience, salaries, products and services to employees and customers.  I left in 2001 and my husband, Erin, who was the CTO left in 2003, and we have had nothing to do with the day to day operations since.  But the profound affect it has had on me cannot be reduced to mere words.  In many ways, it was like my first child (without the diaper changing).  It was a difficult parting of ways for me both personally and professionally.  

I knew a few good people who were still there and through the years they have reached out to me to help them find another job or share their experiences about working there.  Good people came and went.  Some bad ones came and went and some bad ones stayed, but overwhelmingly greatness was among us.  I heard about the company shutting down a few weeks ago but just mentioned it to a group of college friends on an email group I’ve been a part of since 1995 (pre-social networking sites for people who love mushrooms, pre-blogging, pre-twitter).  I had convinced one of the guy’s in the group to join us for the journey and he replied by saying this: 

Aruni – I know I’ve poked at you and Isochron since I left but I have to say it was the best business class I could have taken. This piece of Oil Field Trash was polished quite a bit while in Austin. I do want to thank you and Erin for giving me the opportunity to be a part of it. From that trial I learned sooooo much. I’m not sure I ever put it together sufficiently for you guys to know what the experience meant for me. Thanks! You and Erin were a rock I could depend on during my time in Austin as well. It meant a lot.

When I read his note on my phone before going in to an invitation only IBM Women Entrepreneur’s Webcast event held at IBM, the flood gates cracked a little.  I was sitting in my car in the parking lot so I had to pull myself together and go in.  The rest of the day I was on edge and I still am. 

I had to walk into my day job after the IBM Webcast and deal with bureaucracy, with people wanting 5 approvals to get something done, with collections, with employee allocations, and with being extremely underpaid because I’m doing much more than I was hired to do.  I had to suspend reality to make it through the day.   I repeated to myself “floodgates don’t open at work” over and over.  If I was a man and punched the wall, it would be more acceptable.  I had a “What am I doing with my life?” moment.  I had a “I’m working for ‘the man,’ I have two kids, I’ve been married for 7 years, we have a house and car payment, I have to keep our insurance benefits, our savings have sunk due to the crazy economic situation, and I feel trapped” moment. 

I had already committed to guest lecture at an executive MBA class yesterday evening so I went in not knowing what would come out of my mouth.  I shared the ups and downs of entrepreneurship and received several questions about Babble Soft and my day job.  I was surprised at how calm I felt giving my talk given the emotional roller coaster I had been riding all day.  One of the students took my card and said he wanted to see if he could help me get introduced to someone for a possible opportunity for Babble Soft.

I also happened to receive an email through facebook from one of my former students (I taught entrepreneurship at The University of Texas at Austin) who happens to be expecting a baby.  He sent me a link to a new book by Randy Komisar who wrote The Monk and the Riddle: The Art of Creating a Life While Making a Living (a book I made required reading in my class) called This I Believe.  Komisar writes about the Deferred Life Plan and how we make excuses about not doing what we want to do and putting off things until the time is right.

So despite all of that, I talked myself off the entrepreneurial ledge because I live in the real world.  The real world is where I have two beautiful children who smile and laugh.  A world where I tell my son after he ate a big dinner tonight that he was a ‘hungry hippo’ and he immediately replies and says in a comedian (trying to make his voice sound deep) tone “There’s a Hungry Hippo in the House!”  My daughter laughs, and I look at him with a smile on my face and know instantly he got his sense of humor from me. 8)

[Hippo photo by my friend Sandy Blanchard]

So I take solace from some words my day job boss told me the other day.  When I asked him why he wanted to hire me he said ‘because he heard I was a natural entrepreneur and he wanted one on staff.’  When I thought about those words later in the day, my soul said ‘thank you grandpa’ because he is who I gained my natural entrepreneurial tendencies from…I just happen to be a woman girl.

I hope both my children will be able to express themselves throughout their lives in ways I was never able to in the past but aspire to in the future.

Author: | Filed under: blogging, entrepreneur, entrepreneurship, social networks, working mother | Tags: , , , , , , , | 18 Comments »

Women 2.0 Conference – The Rest Of The Story
May 16 2008

So here’s the rest of my Women 2.0 Conference story.  If you want to see tons of pictures (which sadly I and my deep pink Banana Republic shirt don’t appear) please check out the official Women 2.0 Conference Wrap Up post.  You can also see Sophia Perl’s (another semi-finalist) post on it here.

Friday – May 9, 2008
I took my rented yellow car and drove around the Palo Alto/Menlo Park area to meet some people.  I met Jeff Nolan, who was one of the venture investors in my first company, for lunch at a place called Buck’s.  We only just got to know each other while at my last company before I left, but he seemed to be one of the good guys.  I mentioned him in a post I did about angels and venture capitalists a while back.  We might get to work together again and this time in hopefully a more creative and collaborative way.

I tried to meet up with Guy Kawasaki later that afternoon but he had something mildly important to do like make some sort of silly book submission deadline, so we traded tweets and emails instead.  Then I went to the Stanford mall.  I’m not a big shopper, but since I had a few hours to kill, and my husband wanted me to get him a Stanford t-shirt (It’s one of his alma-maters) I wandered around a bit and read The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle, but was not feeling in the “now” at the time so didn’t make much progress.  So I got some hot chocolate, my rings cleaned, and happened to find a couple of light-weight jackets at really good sale prices to protect me from the Bay Area cool evenings!

Later I had the pleasure of meeting up with Maryam Scoble for wine and fabulous brie with a flakey crust. Yum! Maryam and I met through our blogs.  I initially heard about her and her husband Robert Scoble from our very own Austin based Connie Reece.  Robert even did a Qik video of me at SXSW but I don’t think that many pregnant moms or parents with newborn babies, preemies or twins are watching those videos.  Go figure!

Saturday – May 10, 2008 (conference day)

You can see the agenda for the conference here.  It was an interesting day in a tent near the Stanford golf course.  Walking in grass was a challenge for many of us who were wearing heels.  Those wearing pointed heels especially suffered by sinking into the grass/dirt, but since I would trip and fall on my face in pointed heels, I wear more flat ones.

The most interesting sound bites, in my opinion, came from the Power Panel: “Igniting the spark through strategies taught and lessons learned”

Terri Ghio, Unique Solutions and TBS Connect said: Make sure you have an audience, a secret sauce, strategic alliances, and ability to build the blocks and barriers for success.

Amy Love, Protégé Performance Group said: Build an inner circle, share your dream, think big, and have the confidence & energy to move forward.

Dr. Jwala Karnik, JwalaCo said: Be open to inspiration, tell people what you want to do, and just take the first step!

Dr. Maggie Haertsch, VOICEMAP said: Have passion and be totally committed, focused, and fearless!

Pat McEntee, AuxoGlobal said: Women entrepreneurs are different and that’s OK.  Women look at things they want to spend their time on differently.  Women build different companies. The fact that many retail companies are currently dominated by men is not going to last long, but women should build companies that men feel comfortable in.  By the way, Pat is a guy!

I mentioned the winners of the napkin business plan challenge in my yellow car post, so I won’t mention it here again, but I did want to mention one company and founder who was on one of the panels: Erica Estrada of d.light design.  She is impressive and her company is very cool!  They make affordable, small, solar power lighting units for people in third world countries who have no access to electricity.  So the kids in who live in shacks can study/read after dark and parents can cook or work after dark without having to use a kerosene lamp that not only stinks and has to be bad for your lungs, but also doesn’t last very long.  I really do wish her and her company great luck, good partners, fabulous investors and perfect timing!

I ended the day by eating sushi with the friends I was staying with.  They even took a picture of me (see below) drinking this huge cup of sake! The waitress finished the bottle on me, so the sake overflowed into its holding bowl.  I was glad I wasn’t the one driving us home in my rented yellow car. :-D

Coming soon I’ll post an update on my SEO experiences, so you might want to subscribe to read more about the birth pains of a web business.  It’s not pretty.

 

Author: | Filed under: competition, conferences, diversity, entrepreneurship, silicon valley, venture capital | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Why Aren’t There More Rich Women Entrepreneurs?
Apr 24 2008

That’s the headline of a Wall Street Journal blog post that came out yesterday: Why Aren’t There More Rich Women Entrepreneurs?  It starts with:

Recent studies show that there are more wealthy women than ever before. While a growing number are making it by climbing the corporate ladder, most of today’s wealthy women are still making their money through inheritance or divorce. A scarce few are making their fortunes by launching big companies – the most common source of big riches for today’s men.

and concludes with:

There are two explanations for the female shortfall, according to the USA Today story. First, starting a business usually requires capital, and men have easier access to the clubby world of bankers, venture capitalists and private-equity. Second, the article says, women are more devoted to their family and have less time than men to start businesses.

The blog post is interesting but the comments just blow me away because it’s like I was reading comments from people back from the dark ages.  Most of the comments were well thought out but several posted by people not choosing to put their name down were really shallow.  I mean do people really think like this:

There is this little thing called a brain. Most women are severely lacking in this department, and as such have been relegated to house duties for most of history. Now that women are clamoring for equality, we see that they really aren’t equal at all.

Talk about issues! Other thoughts from the commenters:

Seems to me that women are better at following rules than men, hence they do better in structured institutions (schools, large companies, institutions) whereas men are more intrinsically rule breakers and therefore on average do less well, but sometimes succeed spectacularly.  – Bill

While I agree that risk aversion plays a part, one also has to look at Analysis Paralysis. As ‘not trying to offend’ points out, men often “execute and follow through based purely on logic”. Women (and I am one, early 30s, well-employed, trying to start my own company at the same time) tend to need full answers before they act. – More than just risk aversion

Despite advances for working women, I think it is certainly the case that they are not supported by husbands. I am about to be married and my fiancee is asking me to quit my job to raise a family – despite making twice as much as him.  – so true

To be an entrepeneur one has to be completely comfortable with business risk. In my experience, women as a group
are far less willing to risk everything they have for a business idea. This may be a gender specific biological trait related to the female’s reproductive functions. – Orrin Schwab

Many of the paths to entrepreneurial success are only open to people who have college degrees in science or engineering. Most women don’t have them and it certainly limits their opportunities. – Kevin

I think women also tend to have their eye on the “big picture,” and define success much more broadly than in dollars and cents. This can lead to decisions like cutting back on work hours or taking less challenging jobs in order to have more time to spend on family or other personal pursuits. At the end of the day, this may lead to less money – but greater happiness.  – e c

Sometimes I can’t believe we are still having discussions and comments like this.  Why can’t we just get along and let women choose to do what they want to do without analyzing every thing about it? If a woman wants to stay at home with the kids full time and be CEO of the house, great! If she wants to work from home, great! If she wants to work outside of the home, great! If she wants to work part time, great! If she wants to work full time, great!  If she doesn’t want kids, great! If she wants to try to be Bill Gates, fine. If she wants to be the CEO of PepsiCo, awesome! If she wants to be head of the PTA, cool!

We are all (hopefully) doing the best we can. Us women were given the gift of being able to incubate and give birth to the future generation of humans, honestly that in and of itself is success! Sadly that ability is often sort of brushed aside as not being as valuable as being a billionaire entrepreneur/CEO.  Honestly, I can think of several former billionaire CEOs who would have traded their fate to be a woman/mom. :-)

Author: | Filed under: diversity, entrepreneur, entrepreneurship, mother, random stuff, working mother | Tags: , , , , | 16 Comments »