Brianna White

Staff member
Jul 30, 2019
Investors frequently say they want to diversify their portfolios. But they could be missing out on the next big femtech company because of the biased questions they ask entrepreneurs.
VCs question startups led by women and men differently — even when the ventures are otherwise comparable, according to a study from Columbia University and Harvard Business School that analyzed transcripts and video recordings from startup funding competitions with almost 200 companies from 2010 to 2016.
The different lines of questioning tend to put women on the defensive – a funding turnoff — while giving men opportunities to discuss their startup vision, which attracts more funding.
Ultimately, this hurts investors because they could be missing out on great ideas in rapidly growing industries such as femtech.
Female founders are the driving forces behind startups that address maternal health, menstrual health, fertility, menopause and contraception, according to a McKinsey & Company report. On many metrics, women-led ventures outperform others led by men, Forbes reported.
The number of female-led ventures has increased drastically in just a few years. In 2021, women led 49% of newly created ventures — up from 28% in 2019, a Gusto study shows.
Researchers found that when women pitch new ventures, VCs tend to express concerns that they might fail, with questions like, “What safeguards do you have against that?” or “Are customers coming back?” But when men are pitching, VCs seem more interested in how they will grow and succeed, asking, for example, “Where do you want to get to if everything is fine?” or “How do you want to acquire customers?”
In other words, VCs’ questions typically put women in a position to defend their ventures – a stance that is generally unappealing to funders – but ask men to display vision and optimism, which attracts investments.
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