Lets talk about female lead or female founded SaaS companies. Last year, Forbes released its list of the 100 Most Innovative Leaders, ranging from Jeff Bezos to Marc Benioff. A list of incredibly innovative men. That’s correct, there were exactly 99 men on that list and one, single, woman, Barbara Rentler, CEO of Ross coming in at number 75. Yup, Forbes had a whoopsies – that they quickly acknowledged with a follow-up article:
If this isn’t an example of a systematic problem, then I don’t know what is. Now Forbes explained that they used a mathematical methodology to come up with that list. So let’s use some data and maths here to highlight why the example above is simply a poignant illustrative example of a much broader systematic problem.
Looking at the data, to no surprise the leaders of some of America’s oldest corporations like McDonald’s or Nike made the list. However, the large percentage of those innovative leaders were founders of the new generation of corporate America – the big tech companies . From Netflix, to Microsoft and Facebook – they were all listed. They’re the “unicorns” tech companies, the ones that made it beyond a $1B valuation and according to statistics, an accomplishment that only 1.07% of startups can proudly claim – it’s really, really hard.
So the next question is, well, tech companies are “modern” and “progressive” in their cultures compared to more traditional corporate america, right? Why aren’t we seeing more representation and diversity there? Do women and other minorities not start unicorn companies?
Nope. It’s a question of opportunity.
Why is it a question of Opportunity? Let’s take a look.
The road to unicorn for most involves a 5-10 year long challenging process which includes building a world-problem-solving technology from scratch, assembling a world-class team, iterating 1 million times on your messaging until you get it right and creating as much brand awareness as possible to find a repeatable way of selling to customers who love your company and your product to reach $50-100M in recurring revenue. But more importantly, it almost always requires financial backing from the start.
In fact, almost every Unicorn on that list was backed by large Venture Capital firms that took a financial bet on them early on while they were still operating at a loss funding expensive research and development hoping to make a gazillion dollars down the road. Unfortunately, women receive less than 2% of venture funding.
Assuming equal probability of Unicorn status in men or women-led companies, at a 1.07% probability rate it takes 100 women-led companies to guarantee ONE unicorn. Meanwhile, given their current monetary slice of the funding pie, 4900 other male-led companies would have had their shot at it in the process too.
In fact, there weren’t even enough funded companies in 2019, only 2904 companies to be exact, to statistically guarantee that a women-led company makes it to unicorn status in the next 5-10 years from that batch.
That’s maths folks. That’s the systematic issue here.
Unfortunately, similar to the broader racism issue being highlighted across America right now, I can’t explain it. It’s definitely not a question of performance, since companies with diverse leadership have 10% higher EBIT Margin than those with below-average diversity in their leadership. It also can’t be because women-led startups, in a study of 350 startups, delivered higher revenue—more than 2 times as much per dollar invested that those founded by men.
So why might it be? I still don’t have an answer. But I do believe that it is our responsibility, as leaders and future leaders, to start taking proactive steps within our organizations and beyond to increase the odds of seeing maybe one more woman or on that list in the coming years.
Female Founded SaaS Companies and Enterprise Comapnies
To support that effort, we’ve compiled a list below of women-led enterprise software companies in SaaS. That way, next time you’re evaluating two technology options with equal benefits, consider adding a checkbox to your RFP to check for diverse leadership. Of course, that should not be THE criteria to determine your selection, but adding a point for it is bringing awareness and encouraging your leaders and everyone in your organization to proactively remember the importance of this.
CATEGORY: Learning & Development
Founders: Melanie Fellay and Zari Zahra
Spekit is the leading in-app digital enablement and learning platform that helps employees learn their tools and navigate process changes by accessing answers and enablement resources in real-time, everywhere they work. Located in Denver, CO, the company was founded in 2018 by Melanie Fellay and Zari Zahra.
Founder(s): Sandi Lin and Jason Stewart
Skilljar is an LMS company that provides tools and resources for companies to onboard and retain customers. Located in Seattle, WA, the company was founded in 2013 by Sandi Lin and Jason Stewart.
Founder(s): Lisa Skeete Tatum
Landit is a digital platform that is designed to enable and engage women in the workplace. Located in New York, NY, the company was founded in 2014 by Lisa Skeete Tatum.
Founder(s): Therese Tucker
BlackLine is an enterprise financial software company that provides a solution for the entire financial close process. Located in Woodland Hills, CA, BlackLine was founded in 2001 by Therese Tucker who heads up the company as the current CEO.
Hearsay Systems allows financial advisors to connect compliantly through email, text, social media, web, etc with clients. Located in San Francisco, CA, the company was founded in 2009 by current CEO Clara Shih
Founder(s): Cristina Vila
Cledara allows businesses to manage all of the subscriptions they have in one place. Located in London, the company was founded in 2018 by Cristina Vila.
Founder(s): Laure Fisher and Todd Fisher
Call Tracking Metrics is a SaaS company that allows businesses to track their tools and analytics across platforms. Located in Severna Park, MD, the company was founded in 2011 by Laure and Todd Fisher.
Founder(s): Kristine Steuart and Katherine Berry
Allocadia is a marketing solution that helps marketing professionals focus their budget and time to maximise their efforts and impacts for their organizations. Located in Vancouver, BC, the company was founded in 2010 by twin sisters Kristine Steuart and Katherine Berry.
Founder(s): Mada Seghete
Branch bridges the gap between web and applications and allows developers to build links between the two. It provides marketers better insight into campaign analytics and metrics. Located in Redwood, CA, the company was founded in 2014 by Mada Seghete.
Founder(s): Milena Berry and Katharine Zaleski
Power to fly places women in tech in remote positions. It allows businesses to find incredible remote talent to add to their team. Located in New York, NY, the company was founded in 2014 by Milena Berry and Katharine Zaleski.
Founder(s): Stephanie Lampkin
Blendoor was created to help companies find, recruit and hire diverse talent. Located in San Francisco, CA, the company was founded in 2015 by Stephanie Lampkin.
CATEGORY: EVENT MANAGEMENT
Founder(s): Julia Hartz, Renaud Visage and Kevin Hartz
Eventbrite is an event organization platform that easily allows businesses and organizations to coordinate events on their online platform. Located in San Francisco, CA, the company was founded in 2006 by Julia Hartz, Renaud Visage and Kevin Hartz. Julia Hartz is the current CEO.
Founder(s): Mathilde Collin and Laurent Perrin
Front allows businesses to streamline their communication both internally and externally and avoid the problems that often pop up on other messaging and communication platforms. Located in San Francisco and Paris, the company was founded in 2013 by Mathilde Collin and Laurent Perrin.
Founder(s): Melanie Perkins, Clifford Obrecht and Cameron Adams
Canva is an online platform that allows users to easily create graphic design level graphics, images, etc. Located in Sydney Australia, the company was founded in 2012 by Melanie Perkins, Clifford Obrecht and Cameron Adams.
Founder(s): Emma Rees and Kayleigh Kuptz
Deployed is a digital scoping tool that provides guidance through the SoW (statement of work) process. Located in London, the company was founded in 2018 by Emma Rees and Kayleigh Kuptz.
CEO: Jayshree Ullal
Arista is a computer networking company specializing in cognitive cloud networking. It’s platform is an “extensible operating system” that provides networking solutions for large data driven corporations or data centers. Located in Santa Clara, CA, the company was founded in 2004 and is currently led by current CEO Jayshree Ullal.
CEO: Jennifer Tejada
PagerDuty is a SaaS incident response platform that helps companies provide an uninterrupted experience for their customers and end users. Located in San Francisco, CA, the company was founded in 2009 and is currently led by CEO Jennifer Tejada.