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Aiming to create a gender-equitable startup landscape?

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When it comes to gender equality in the business world, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg hit the nail on the head: “Knowing that things could be worse should not stop us from trying to make them better.”

While access to opportunities, funding and support has improved for women in the startup space over the last couple of decades, there is still a long way to go. In fact, women early-stage entrepreneurs receive an average of $1 million less in funding than men do, despite performing better on average. Leaders across the board openly advocate for female-founded businesses receiving more venture capital and entrepreneurship support, but few are taking decisive actions to close this glaring gender gap.

The problem lies not in the fact that women don’t want to build million-dollar businesses, but in the disconnect between our dreams and the industry support we receive — or lack thereof. As the world embraces a new way of working and strategizes for a post-pandemic world, it’s vital to investigate new ways of supporting women’s entrepreneurship. Here are the key questions that we need to ask — and how we can go about resolving them.

What are the systemic difficulties that women face today?

Few business leaders will openly state that they have little interest in a more gender-equal world. However, the gap between intention and outcome illustrates that nowhere near enough decisive action has been taken to make this the case.

Women founders face obstacles across the board. Even in my industry of environmentally and socially conscious brands, women leaders are worse off than their male counterparts: This 2020 Vegan Women Summit founder survey found that 45% of respondents have faced bias while fundraising and 75% say they have dealt with gender bias specifically. Women have historically been asked different questions by VCs than their male counterparts, and, as a result, are seen as less ambitious and less focused on potential gains.

Even before decision-makers have met women job applicants, their subconscious bias is already coming into play. In this study, acceptance rates of women candidates rose from 18% to 30% by obscuring the gender in the application.

Women working in technology often face assumptions and questions about their family life, marital status and children, which leaders and VCs may consider to be obstacles to their progress within a company or a limit to their potential as a founder.

Combating these inequities requires a concerted effort from VCs and company leaders to invite more women into decision-making positions.

One way to do this would be to apply for B Corporation certification, making it essential for the company to work toward reducing inequality in its workforce. Another would be to introduce diversity quotas for women in leadership positions — an approach that has seen success since its legal implementation in California.

How can we better support women to grow their companies?

Women are consistently losing out when it comes to accelerator backing and VC support. In Chile, where I founded my company, 77% of women entrepreneurs use their own savings as financing, while only 14% have obtained co-financing from state or private programs.

In my experience, while many groups attempt to improve the inclusion and representation of women, the majority of them fail to move beyond conversation and superficial resolutions.

For example, a commonly cited solution for more women founders in tech is to encourage more women to study STEM subjects. This is a start, but it seems that the issue requires more than simply adding women to the funnel. Instead, we need to better understand what’s holding women back from growing their businesses to their full potential.

Women lose out time and time again when it comes to startup funding. We need to better support women through the entire startup lifecycle, from seed to IPO, especially when it comes to raising external capital.

One initiative that’s doing important work in this area is Start-Up Chile’s The S Factory, a pre-acceleration program specifically for female entrepreneurs that provides selected startups with mentoring, pitch training and workshops, along with a cash injection of $15,000. These types of initiatives should be expanded from seed to provide support for Series A, B and C rounds through IPO.

Given that women often lack access to the same networking and mentoring opportunities that men are privy to in the tech world, organizations like TheNextWomen, a global network of women-founded companies and female investors, are essential. TheNextWomen helps female founders benefit from a community of like-minded entrepreneurs and investors through knowledge-driven programs and inspirational events. Women Tech Founders also champions the value of female-only networks, aiming to connect, inspire and advance women in tech through events and online resources.

These communities can be fundamental for women entrepreneurs and other women tech leaders seeking to build a support system around them and gain the skills necessary to grow their businesses.

How do we fix funding?

The lack of diversity at VC funds is stark and remains an overwhelmingly contributing factor to the disproportionately low amount of VC funding that women receive — a number that is not improving. In fact, in the U.S., only 4.9% of VC partners are female, and in Europe, the picture isn’t much better: 83% of U.K. firms have no women on their investment committees. It’s no surprise then that 93% of tech investment in Europe goes to companies with no female founders.

To fix funding, we need investors with a gender-neutral lens, evidenced by metrics that measure their progress on diversity and inclusion. On average, startups founded or co-founded by women generate 10% more in cumulative revenue over five years — yet they receive less than half the average investment of men. These statistics will be key in demonstrating that investing in women is not taking a risk — in fact, it’s quite the opposite.

What’s more, female-focused investors are emerging as a way to lift women-founded companies and level the playing field. For example, the Female Founders Fund recently closed its third fund valued at $57 million, making it the biggest seed fund for women in the world.

In Asia, many investors are also seeing the value in backing women-led companies — and reaping the rewards. Over 90% of SoGal Ventures’ portfolio companies have female co-founders, and the fund has generated an internal rate of return of over 80% over the last four years. Initiatives like these can help level the playing field for women and provide them with the opportunities to fulfill their potential.

When it comes to fixing the gender divide in the startup world, there’s no silver bullet. Closing the gap requires a concerted effort from all sides of the industry, from founders to investors.

Only by leaving behind inclusivity lip service and taking decisive actions to bring women into funds and encourage them as founders will we start to achieve gender equity in the startup world.

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Source: https://techcrunch.com/2021/09/24/aiming-to-create-a-gender-equitable-startup-landscape/

Aerospace

TrustPoint raises $2 million for GPS alternative

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SAN FRANCISCO – TrustPoint Inc., a startup developing a global navigation satellite system (GNSS), has raised $2 million in seed funding from venture capital firm DCVC.

With the funding announced Oct. 18, TrustPoint plans to expand its engineering team, continue developing core technologies, including satellite payload testing, and extend key partnerships.

Heavy global reliance on GPS, Europe’s Galileo, Russia’s Glonass and China’s Beidou for everything from communications and transaction timing to maritime and aircraft navigation is prompting companies and government agencies to look for backups and alternatives.

TrustPoint founders Patrick Shannon, a former Astro Digital vice president, and Chris DeMay, former Hawkeye 360 founder and chief technology officer, said GPS alternatives are necessary because the current system is inaccurate, slow, unencrypted, and susceptible to jamming and spoofing. What’s more, GNSS systems alone are not precise enough for many of the emerging commercial applications like drone delivery, self-driving cars, urban air transportation and augmented reality, Shannon and DeMay said.

TrustPoint’s GNSS alternative is intended to provide government and commercial customers with improved service, security and reliability. Promised improvements “include better accuracy, quicker time to first fix, and anti-spoof and anti-jam capabilities,” according to the news release.

“NewSpace startups have been successfully revolutionizing a host of space applications, like launch, earth observation and communications for the past decade,” Patrick Shannon, TrustPoint co-founder and CEO, said in a statement. “Our effort to develop a fully commercial GNSS service is the logical next step to this trend, a much-needed layer of security for today’s GPS users, and an enabler for nascent applications in the autonomous navigation sector.”

DCVC Partner Chris Boshuizen, who led the firm’s investment in TrustPoint, said in a statement, “It’s easy to imagine TrustPoint’s innovative and fast-evolving commercial service alongside government GNSS, or even as the primary solution.”

Boshuizen, the former Planet CTO and co-founder who was one of the passengers on the recent Blue Origin New Shepard flight, will join the board of directors for TrustPoint, a firm based in Silicon Valley and Northern Virginia.

DCVC also has invested in radar satellite operator Capella Space and launch vehicle provider Rocket Lab.


PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
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Source: https://spacenews.com/trustpoint-seed-round/

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Startups

Customer Acquisition: 5 Cost Effective Ways to Reach Customers Online

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Returning customers will spend 57% more money than new customers. However, this doesn’t mean that you must focus all your resources on keeping current customers.

You don’t have to spend a lot of money to reach new customers. The presence of online marketing platforms provides cheap marketing alternatives. Small businesses can now convert new leads without investing in an expensive marketing campaign.

So, how can you reach new customers? Here are five effective strategies for new customer acquisition.

  1. Use Social Proof

You’ve told your customers that your services and products are of the best quality. Yet, most people will believe your claims if another person praises your products or services. These individuals shouldn’t be associated with your company.

The majority of customers buy products recommended by their relatives or friends. It’s important that you request your current customers to provide their honest reviews of your products. You’ll then post positive customer testimonials on your website and social media platforms.

Social proof will increase your brand’s positive reputation and attract new customers.

  1. Use Chatbots

Interacting and answering customer questions is a time-consuming process for any busy marketer. However, you should get chatbot software to converse with and attract customers. The chatbot can answer common customer questions and introduce them to your business.

Unlike human agents, chatbots have a 24/7 online presence. They’ll be doing the job of your sales and marketing team members. You can also use AI to improve the chatbot’s responses to customer queries.

  1. Design Gated Content

If you’re creating good content, you can create restrictions around it. A person will only be able to read that content after they’ve filled a form. This is a smart method since customers will be providing their information in exchange for free content.

Your gated content can include reports, guides, and white papers. The content should be well-researched and present current information.

  1. Create an Optimized Website

Your websites should be popular and easily accessible if you want to attract more customers. You can create a marketing funnel on your website to categorize potential customers into segments. Targeted ads can then be shown to each segment of customers.

The websites should have visible calls-to-actions on every page. This call to action can appear at the bottom of your pages or as pop-ups.

You must also ensure that your website is mobile-friendly. Visitors to your website will only become customers if they get a good experience while browsing your website.

Learn more about these strategies by consulting a reputable SEO company.

  1. Create Attractive Social Media Profiles

Your social media followers should be the first people to know about your latest offerings. Therefore, there should be regular product highlights on your social media profiles. Images and videos must accompany these social media posts.

It’s also a good idea to connect your social media profiles to your website. For example, each social media post can have a link or call to action button to your website.

Use Customer Acquisition Strategies to Boost Sales

Customer acquisition is one of the most important things that any business can do. New customers will buy more products and services, and this will increase your overall sales. You can use affordable and straightforward strategies to attract new customers.

For more practical Tech and digital marketing tips, please read our other blogs.

 

Source: Plato Data Intelligence

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Biotechnology

Volta Labs: Improving workflows for genetic applications

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The cost of DNA sequencing has plummeted at a rate faster than Moore’s Law, opening large markets in the sequencing space. Genomics for cancer care alone is predicted to hit $23 billion by 2025, but sample preparation costs for sequencing have stagnated, causing a significant bottleneck in the space.

Conventional sample preparation, converting DNA from a saliva sample, for example, into something that can be fed to a sequencing machine, relies on a liquid-handling robot. It is essentially a mechanical arm equipped with pipette tips that moves liquid samples to plastic plates and other instruments placed on the deck. These systems involve multiple fluidic transfers that lead to poor utilization of reagents and samples, which means less DNA sequenced. Moreover, they are systems of separate data silos that lack integration and rely on expensive consumables.

Unlike traditional liquid-handling automation, the suite of solutions developed by MIT Media Lab spinoff Volta Labs provides end-to-end integration for a wide variety of workflows. It’s a sleek alternative to costly liquid handling machines and manual pipetting. “Our technology is a small-scale, benchtop device that is low-cost and has minimal consumable usage, enabling rapid and flexible composition of new biological workflows,” says Volta Labs co-founder and Head of Engineering Will Langford SM ’14, PhD ’19.

The Volta platform is based on digital microfluidic technology developed at MIT by Langford’s co-founder, Volta Labs CEO Udayan Umapathi SM ’17. The core principle behind the innovation is called electrowetting. It allows its users to manipulate droplets around a printed circuit board to perform biological reactions, automating from raw sample to prepared library that can be run on a sequencing machine.

Umapathi arrived at the Media Lab with what he describes as “a fascination for building automation from the ground up.” Though trained as an engineer, Umapathi has applied his skills to a variety of fields. In 2015, he founded a startup that created web and physical tools to enable content creation for digital manufacturing. However, it was while working for a synthetic biology company, engineering liquid-handling systems for genome engineering solutions, that he identified the scaling up of automation as a pain point for the field.

Meanwhile, Langford spent his MIT days at the Center for Bits and Atoms, a proudly interdisciplinary program that explores the boundary between computer science and physical science. His research centered on the idea that engineering could learn from biology. Put another way, all of life is assembled from 20 amino acids, so, thought Langford, why not attempt something similar with engineering?

In practice, this meant he built integrated robots from a small set of millimeter-scale parts. “Ultimately, I was trying to make engineering more like biology,” he reflects. “I see Volta as an opportunity to flip that on its head and use automation to treat biology more like engineering. We want to give biologists tools to manipulate liquids and biological reactions at a finer granularity and with more digital flexibility.”

While Volta’s automation platform simplifies sample prep by integrating complicated workflows, it also drives down costs in the space with a new consumable construction. Between the circuit board and the sample board is a consumable layer, which is removed and replaced after each run. Conventional consumables are expensive, conductively coded plastics or large microfluidic structures. Volta, however, uses a simple plastic film to reduce the cost of consumables, which opens the door for the widespread adoption of gene sequencing.

All of this points to a more efficient and inclusionary model in the gene sequencing space. Thanks to Volta, soon, it won’t be just large biotechnology companies with the ability to invest in automation. Academic labs, core facilities, and small-to-medium biotech companies won’t need to worry about whether they can afford an expensive mechanical robot. “The thing that excites me is that we’re providing early-stage and mid-to-low-throughput biotech companies with powerful tools that will allow them to compete with bigger players, which is good for the industry as a whole,” says Umapathi.

And the fact is that traditional automation machines used in the biotechnology space come with their own set of problems. They’re error-prone and you can’t scale them. Consider Illumina’s NovaSeq sequencer. It’s capable of sequencing 48 whole human genomes in under two days — that’s 20 billion unique reads — but there is currently no automation to feed those machines at scale. “To run those machines day in and day out, the cost simply doesn’t make sense, which is why we have to tackle the cost of sequencing and sample prep,” says Umapathi.

Volta’s system is built on solid-state electronics, and the Boston-based startup is looking to leverage the scalability of the semiconductor fabrication industry and the PCB manufacturing industry. “The goal,” explains Langford, “is to enable biologists to create an experiment and modify it quickly, iterate on it, and generate the data necessary to see biology at scale.”

Beyond the sample prep bottleneck, eventually, the work of Umapathi and Langfordwork will impact a variety of applications in the synthetic biology industry and the biopharma industry. Diagnostics will be transformed, according to Umapathi. “We can help the biology industry by cutting down on the use of pipette tips by 20 or 50 times. In specific workflows, we can almost entirely eliminate this bottleneck in the supply chain,” he says.

To accomplish all of this, to truly innovate in a field as complex as biology, Umapathi and Langford insist that a multidisciplinary systems perspective is essential. It’s what informs the Volta approach to genomic sequencing in particular, and biology as a whole. “Volta is a new type of biotechnology company,” says Umapathi. “It’s inevitable that more engineers and systems thinkers and those who want to build tools to engineer biology better will join companies like ours or start their own.”

Turning biology into an engineering principle is no small feat, but according to Umapathi and Langford, it’s a necessity.

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Source: https://news.mit.edu/2021/volta-labs-improving-workflows-genetic-applications-1014

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AI

Look Beyond Big Tech Investments

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Last Monday, Facebook experienced an outage that lasted for about six hours. Users couldn’t access Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, Whatsapp or OculusVR. 

The effects were felt across the world. Suddenly, everyone who relied on Facebook or WhatsApp for communication was left in a lurch. Even Facebook’s own employees had to rely on Outlook emails and Twitter (ouch!) to communicate. 

The outage came a day before whistleblower Frances Haugen testified before Congress about her experiences at Facebook.

When she took the stand, Haugen called on Congress to change the business incentives that encourage Facebook to highlight harmful content for its users. And to push the company to be more transparent. 

“It is unaccountable until the incentives change,” Haugen said. “Facebook will not change.”

Haugen also urged lawmakers to reform Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which shields internet companies from legal liability for its users’ content. She said the rules need to be changed to make Facebook responsible for its algorithms, which are used to rank content. 

Senator Ed Markey (D-MA) answered Haugen’s call: 

Here’s my message for Mark Zuckerberg: Your time of invading our privacy, promoting toxic content, and preying on children and teens is over. Congress will be taking action. You can work with us or not work with us, but we will not allow your company to harm our children and our families and our democracies any longer. Thank you, Ms. Haugen. We will act.

Looking Forward

Haugen’s testimony is only adding more fuel to Congress’s fire. Regulators have been coming after big tech for months. Over the summer, lawmakers have proposed six different bills aimed at reining in big tech companies, including Facebook, Google, Amazon, Apple and Microsoft. 

Whether the bills will pass in the Senate this year is questionable. But eventually, regulators will clamp down on big tech.

So what does this mean for investors?

Big tech companies won’t stop being profitable anytime soon. But as with any tech investment, investors should still look toward the future, however distant it may seem. And they should consider not just the technology itself, but the technology that surrounds it.

Cybersecurity is a major example. Remote work — which also isn’t going away anytime soon — often requires employees to access sensitive information. Crypto exchanges handle billions of dollars in transactions on a daily basis. Social media companies handle billions of users’ data at any given moment. All of this requires top-notch cybersecurity and encryption technology to keep information safe. 

Artificial intelligence is another space worth watching. As scientists and engineers discover more ways to leverage AI capabilities, its potential applications continue to expand. The healthcare industry is a particularly exciting use case. As telehealth services continue to grow rapidly thanks to COVID-19, companies are using AI to collect patient data, analyze it and even provide health recommendations to patients. Some companies are leveraging AI to treat conditions directly.

And finally, investors should also keep an eye on social media. While Facebook is a dominant force today, a growing number of people are seeking alternative social networks. Many of them — like many of my own friends — have grown disillusioned with Facebook’s data mining and lack of privacy. And as regulators continue to crack down on the company, Facebook’s power may diminish. Discord, for example, grew from 56 million monthly users to 100 million monthly users in 2020 alone. It now has 150 million active monthly users. And growing privacy concerns are only creating more opportunities for new social media startups to reinvent the world that Facebook pioneered.

These are just a few examples of tech sectors that have enormous potential. Agile startups run by smart founders have the ability to disrupt and revolutionize dozens of industries. 

And startups have at least one advantage over big tech. While big tech companies may have the revenue to dominate their markets, public opinion is turning on them. And it’s only a matter of time before the government tightens the leash.

When it does, startups will be there. And they’ll change everything.


PlatoAi. Web3 Reimagined. Data Intelligence Amplified.
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Source: https://earlyinvesting.com/look-beyond-big-tech-investments/

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