Michelle Fischman and Anais Cisneros, both Peruvians who have worked in the world of startups, VCs, and tech, couldn’t believe what they read in a 2020 news article: of the more than US$4 billion invested in funding for Latin America that year, zero had gone to startups created by women.
“We were alarmed. We said, why is this happening,” explains Fischman, who has lived in Mexico for four years. “And we started to do more research.”
The duo detected several factors. There are structural ones, such as the fact that only 20 percent of startups in the world have at least one female founder, so a gap affects financing. Also, those that exist have little visibility and a lack of support networks. And there are more particular problems: “There was also a characteristic that came from the women themselves: they are more risk averse. Men go out to raise two million dollars in rounds, Female Founders ask for less capital”, explains Fischman.
Is Latin America lagging in terms of the number of women in the industry?
“It depends on what you compare it against; with the U.S., we are certainly below. But compared to Europe, we are a few points higher.”
In what types of companies do you see more women entrepreneurs in LatAm? Do they have more to do with gender-related niches?
“As Amela’s community is distributed, the highest number is in e-commerce, and then the highest percentage is fintech. Many women are getting into education, healthcare, and SaaS. Everything is closely related to the LatAm ecosystem, where fintech has boomed. In Latin America, 35 percent of fintech have a female founder, five times more than the global ratio.”
Amela was born with this diagnosis more than a year ago. It is a community that seeks to create more female founders in the region and help them along the way. A digital community where participants join through Slack and can connect with other female entrepreneurs from different countries.
Amela, says its co-founder, currently has 45% of its community in Mexico, 16% in Colombia, 13% in Argentina, 12% in Peru, and 9% in Chile. They also have remote monthly events with relevant speakers -women who work in unicorns or with outstanding careers- on topics that interest the founders. “Although they are talks where expertise is shared, they also tell the B side of the story. There is information that you don’t usually hear. It’s an intimate space, and you get a lot out of it. We also have ‘Fuck up nights’, and the entrepreneurs share their teachings,” says Fischman.
Amela helps entrepreneurs find financing with a funding map and mentoring by women investors. Fischman says: “This was born because they asked me for it; we have many male mentors, but few women. The conversation with women tends to be more transparent. They help them polish the pitch. Then we match them with funds and angel investors. We have a network of about 60 funds in the region, and we recently launched the angel network.
Is there a particular interest from VCs or investors in investing in women? Is this interest more about quotas than about changing the ecosystem?
“There is certainly an interest on the part of funds to invest in women. And not only because of gender politics. I don’t support that: I work in a fund, and I say that if we are going to invest in a female founder, it is because she is really good. There are many statistics: for every dollar invested in a female founder or cofounder, she generates 2.5 more revenue than a man. And when there are two genders present, it’s even better; the idea is that it’s not just men or just women. Women complement men’s visions. Our brains see things differently. It’s necessary to complement.”
Born in pandemic, Amela’s beginning was digital. Still, they have also been expanding to face-to-face, with meetings that have already been organized in Mexico, Colombia, and Peru, which have a format specially designed for the needs of women in tech.
“We want to have spaces to connect with themselves and among entrepreneurs. We do workshops on mental health, leadership, and productivity, and we bring in a therapist to do meditation or sound healing so that they can take away tools and leave recharged. So they can take a breath,” explains Fischman.
Amela can already highlight success stories among its participants. Such as Andrea Baba of Fitco, a startup from Peru that helps in the management of fitness centers, which Fischman highlights “has been very resilient during the pandemic, had to cut team, adjust its model, and some time later closed its series A.”
Another case is Regina Athie, founder of Cuéntame, an emotional wellness platform, who has just closed a US$1 million pre-seed round. “Seeing how these women, despite the economic context, manage to raise these rounds of capital is a symbol of progress,” says Amela’s co-creator.
Looking to the future, Michelle Fischman explains that Amela could contribute not only with help in finding financing and support for women entrepreneurs as it does today but also go a step further: “Not just target female founders. Help women already in the industry, such as project managers, growth managers, or consultants, who are interested in the tech world and don’t know how to make the leap. Not only help those who already are but also attracts those who could be. In this way, we can solve a more fundamental problem.”
Main image: Anais Cisneros and Michelle Fischman (Foto: Amela)
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