Entrepreneurs share ideas with Women 2.0

March 26, 2008 8:15:32 AM PDT
There are an increasing number of female entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley. They've got the start-up ideas and all they need now is the connections to launch their own companies. That's where women Women 2.0 comes in.

Pokein Young was working for a cosmetics company when an idea hit her - the internet needed a travel website for the independent traveler who wants to avoid bundled up travel packages. But of course having an idea is one thing, getting it out of your head and into the world is something else.

"It's quite different when you actually talk to someone and they say 'ok well in order to look for funding you need to have these sorts of proof points,'" said Pokein Yeung, co-founder, Geckogo.

And how do you just find that someone who will tell you what to do?

Enter Shaherose Charania, she heard some good ideas from her friends, but realized they didn't know what to do with those ideas. She also looked around her in Silicon Valley and saw that she was surrounded by men.

"It is more of a male dominated environment in this technology world. And it's not to say it's harder or more difficult, but it certainly can be intimidating for some women - who want to start a company and have to go before an all male panel of VCs," said Shaherose Charania, Women 2.0 founder.

So she created a competition where women can come and pitch their business ideas to a panel of judges.

"We said well, a business plan challenge makes sense. You get in front of investors, you get in front of other entrepreneurs and you have the opportunity to get feedback about your idea and whether or not it's worth pursuing," said Shaherose Charania.

Since the best ideas tend to come from doodling, women submit their business idea on a paper napkin. Pokein Young's plan has moved from the napkin to the screen. As a runner up in last year's competition, she won a meeting with an investor who gave her the feedback she needed. Four months later, Geckogo received its first round of angel funding.

"Having never done this before, you know it seemed like something we wanted to do, but talking to people who have actually been through it, I got a lot more motivated and I felt like it was more accessible going through that," Pokein Yeung.

This year's winner will get a face to face meeting with Esther Dyson, an investor who is known for nurturing new companies like Flickr, which was sold to Yahoo. She says women definitely have unique traits that Silicon Valley needs, it's just getting started that can be tricky.

"Most women if they want to go out and be an entrepreneur, their role model is Bill Gates or Sergei Brin and they need more role models that they would consider relevant," Esther Dyson, investor.

The competition is called Women 2.0 and the deadline for entries is April 15th. Last year's inaugural contest was expected to draw about 30 entries, instead they received about 75.

"I feel good about it because I think more women starting companies will make the world a better place," said Shaherose Charania.

It will certainly change the landscape where, up till now, women led companies have received only two percent of the investments from all the venture capitalists out there.