AOB: 06 March 2020

Russell Simmons
Russell Simmons
Discover content team
3 min read
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A healthy outlook for female focused e-commerce startups, but poor news on funding.  This week's special edition of AOB celebrates the power of women in business.

Women founded 53% of the leading DTC start-ups…

Only 20% of start-ups are founded by women1. But when it comes to direct-to-consumer (DTC) start-ups, things look markedly different. More than half of DTC firms were founded or co-founded by women2. The findings come from the Interactive Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) list of the 250 most disruptive direct-to-consumer brands.

As we all know, direct-to-consumer is where it’s at when it comes to e-commerce. It’s good news that at least one area of business is showing signs of gender parity.

…but only 2.2% of funding goes to female-led start-ups

It’s not all good news. With so much hope and progress in the air, it’s a gut-punch to learn that only a tiny fraction of capital investment is funneled towards female-led companies.

Craig Newmark (of Craigslist fame)3 has a message for any investor looking for a solid ROI: “This means that a lot more than 2.2% of investor money needs to go to women-led startups, and we have an opportunity and an obligation to start setting the record straight, considering how studies show that tech companies led by women have a 35% ROI.”

Changing logistics methods are helping India's female workforce

India has historically been a challenging place for women in the workplace; while attitudes are changing fast, sexism is still pervasive. Entrenched attitudes mean opportunities for women to work can be limited.  But delivery start-ups like Hey Deedee and Swiggy are change things for the better4. As India’s first all-women last-mile delivery service, it lets women use the gig economy to their advantage and take on delivery jobs that suit them. The gig economy approach is helping part-time workers and full-time parents (especially mothers) find new ways of forging careers that accommodate their other commitments.


A third of the UK’s top companies have female execs

Ask anyone about women’s representation in business and you’ll get the same response: it’s too low and more needs to be done. The Hampton-Alexander Review has found that UK’s top 100 companies, as listed on the FTSE100 stock exchange, have 349 women in boardroom roles. That’s one in three of all board roles occupied by a woman. Good news, but still a long way from 50-50.

Speaking to the BBC5, the head of The Hampton-Alexander Review, Denise Wilson, said that more needs to be done. "I think 33% is a very good start, but as we can see, we have a lot further to go before we see a good gender balance in the leadership of British business."

Can we end period poverty?

Periods are still a taboo topic, but all agree that has to change. With average yearly costs for sanitary products running up USD$4-500 per person, the controversy surrounding the so-called 'tampon tax' (unlike most medical items, sanitary products have VAT applied) and the reluctance to talk frankly about the situation is leading to ‘period poverty’  – when people can’t afford to buy or gain access to sanitary products. We might think we’re talking about periods, but consider this: 57% of women aged 14-21 have experienced negative comments about their period - a shocking statistic in an era when people who have periods should be able to live their lives without fear of stigma or shame. There’s a long way to go yet, and it's not just a problem confined to the developing world - period poverty is a global issue.

Established in Edinburgh, Scotland by Celia Hodson and her daughters Becky and Kate, Hey Girls6 is one company offering a ‘buy one, give one’ approach to sanitary products, donating over 7 million products in the last two years. Where large corporations are often accused of failing in their social responsibility, smaller startups are well placed to create truly effective business models that are not just ethically responsible, but also profitable.  Consider this approach if you're developing your business now.

Superfoods you put on your skin

Indian skincare brand Cosmic Nutracos have recently launched an innovative range of skincare products called Skinella7. Created using superfoods and fruit extracts such as pistachio, seaweed, kiwi and lime, Founder Dolly Kumar realized that existing brands were not catering to one target group – girls between the age of 15 and 25. These digital natives, according to Dolly, are looking for more complex and complete skincare options. The bonus of using plant-based skincare is, of course, that the products are free from harmful chemicals and also tap into the rising trend amongst the young for vegan-based products. Dolly’s timing is perfect; according to a Redseer report, the beauty and cosmetics industry is currently growing at a CAGR of 25%.