On women entrepreneurs, creativity, and #metoo

Alice Loy at Denver Startup Week 2017

Look around and you’ll see startups everywhere. Or, at least startups that are all grown up.

Facebook, Google, Uber, and The Weinstein Company, all started out as ideas and then were shaped, by their founders, into the mega companies they are today. Today’s startups are tomorrow’s behemoths. And, we reap what we sow, so…let’s come back to that observation in a minute.

The current tidal wave of voices sharing their #metoo experiences on social media highlight the epidemic of sexual harassment and assault faced in our workplaces, schools, and yes, startups.

That chorus is calling out the imbalance of power that shapes our institutions, shutting doors for some while opening opportunities for a few select others.

Every time a woman is harassed the unspoken whisper she hears is: “You aren’t here for your talent, your drive, your valuable contributions.”  

And when that's what you're faced with, you can either choose to turn away from the opportunity you're aiming for and dreaming of, or remain in an environment where degradation and depravity are the norm, and you risk retaliation for daring to speak up.

Big corporations are not the only culprits; these trends are mirrored in the data and experiences around startups, venture capital, and accelerators. Fortune reports that women are receiving less venture funding than ever, stories of sexism in startups are rampant, and high profile cases of discrimination in Silicon Valley have captured headlines.

For far too long women have been brushed off, overlooked, pushed out or otherwise excluded from the startup landscape.

Which brings us back to the observation - and the well worn truism - that we reap what we sow. The worst actors among today’s corporate behemoths are greedily lining executives’ pockets, hoarding their trillions in cash, abusing women, ignoring social and environmental ills, and more.

If we want to disrupt the status quo and deal a death blow to these norms we cannot continue to support these companies as young startups. It is incumbent upon us to give a cold shoulder to arrogant, abusive, and greedy entrepreneurs, and instead embrace founders whose companies are imbued with equality and compassion from Day 1.  

At Creative Startups, we are driven to discover and invest in the best creative entrepreneurs, the founders building the creative giants of tomorrow.

We keep in mind that with each accelerator we deliver, we are putting into orbit startups that might grow into behemoths. So we go the extra mile to make sure the entrepreneurs we accelerate represent a diverse swath of lifestyles, backgrounds, and communities.

We work to find and further entrepreneurs who disrupt the status quo, shift the balance of power, and build companies where the norms are respect and dignity, compassion and creativity.

Drowning in this tidal wave of #metoo has sparked us to ask, what else can we be doing to combat the forces of racism, sexism, and otherism that limit creativity and innovation?

From this point forward Creative Startups will tackle these issues of exclusion and discrimination head on:

  • We will engage each startup that goes through our accelerators in planning to build and lead diverse teams to positively affect their bottom line;
  • We will provide guidance and training in strategically marketing to and recruiting wildly talented and often excluded creative entrepreneurs as mentors, applicants, and champions;
  • We will speak out more readily when we see exclusion, discrimination, or abuse taking place in our creative community.

To all who question, who push back, stand out, stand up, disrupt, disturb, and demand new ways of thinking, understanding, expressing, and being human, we are with you.  

- Alice, Tom, Amy, Vatsal, Julia, Ginny, Joe, and Ernie


Photo courtesy of Leslie Van Stelten Photography at Denver Startup Week

About the author

Alice Loy

Author Alice Loy is a Co-founder of Creative Startups, and has researched the creative industries for 15+ years. She has lived and worked in Europe, Mexico, and Central America, designed and taught university level courses ranging from Social Entrepreneurship to Environmental Ethics, and holds an MBA and PhD in Strategic Communication and Entrepreneurship.