Female founders in tech are not completely uncommon, but men are certainly better represented. Whatever the reasons, not many women choose to start a tech business. Time for us to spotlight five female founders from four different startups. What kind of startup do they run? And how do they feel in a sector dominated by men?
Test Tool Factory – Marielle Winarto
Marielle Winarto is co-founder of Test Tool Factory, which recently finished UtrechtInc’s Pressure Cooker. Test Tool Factory offers software that enables companies to test their software applications faster and better.
Winarto explains: “Not so long ago, an application under development was tested approximately twice a year. Nowadays, with the current speed in software development, there’s a need for testing once a week or even once a day. Manual testing is in most cases too laborious to achieve this testing frequency.”
“Our software can make the test execution phase five to ten times faster. But the testers don’t have to twiddle their thumbs, because some of the work still requires human action. We offer training for in-house testers, so they will learn how to automate their tests. Our training goes beyond just learning the software, we take the whole testing process into account and spend a lot of time on setting and achieving realistic business goals, cooperation within the team, etc. This makes us different from most other companies in this field, because it is more common to send an external specialist than to train in-house testers.”
Sinzer – Marlon van Dijk
Sinzer is a software platform for measuring societal impact and was founded by Marlon van Dijk. It offers templates, databases and data-entry options, which will help organizations to assess societal impact.
Van Dijk: “Take the example of ‘care farms’, which are farms where people who are having difficulties participating in society, for example because of psychiatric illness or dementia, can spend the day. If an elderly person with dementia goes to such a farm, this has an impact on the person him- or herself: he or she probably feels less lonely. But it also has an impact on society, because this person might be able to keep living in his or her own house longer. This reduces costs, so health insurance companies and the municipality benefit from it.”
“If a care farm would like to assess societal impact, it is important to look at the impact on all of the stakeholders, in this case the client, family, municipality, general practitioner, health insurance company etc. Using our software platform, people from a care farm can enter and collect these data and assess the overall impact themselves. This helps them improve their impact and be accountable.”
Printr – Cecile van der Waal
Cecile van der Waal is co-founder and COO of Printr, which offers an operating system for 3D printers comparable to Windows for desktops. Last week on Friday, it was announced that Printr has won The Next Women pitch competition audience award, after the initial winner Swipe & Shop had withdrawn because of not meeting the criteria.
“3D printers are very user-unfriendly, which is a problem because more and more people buy a desktop printer for their own use. You need to install and learn several software programs before you can use it”, Van der Waal explains.
“Our operating system simplifies usage by reducing the required actions to just a few. The only things you need to enter are the material used and the quality wanted. We sell our product to manufacturers of 3D printers, so the customer can buy a complete package of printer and operating system.”
Cashwijzer – Marieke Spaan and Nina Meiling
Marieke Spaan and Nina Meiling are the women behind Cashwijzer, which offers services to people who dislike finding out which contracts, whether for internet, energy or insurances, are best for them. Spaan: “Many people don’t really understand their contracts. They stick to their current provider, even though there are better options available. Most of them think it takes too much time or effort to change.”
“We help these people by checking all of their current contracts and finding out whether there are better deals for them. In my opinion, comparison sites on the internet are not suitable for this, because some companies pay to get higher in the list. We built our own database and we’ve just appointed a developer so we can automate most of the current processes. By creating a web application which shows an overview of a person’s contracts we make it possible to switch to new contracts in no time.”
Experiences from female founders
How do these five female founders feel about being surrounded by a lot of men? The answer from all of them: very positively. Winarto: “I love working with people who have positive energy and a practical attitude. That’s why I like the business world, and whether I work with men or women doesn’t matter much to me.”
“In a strong team a good mix of skills and knowledge is present. Since men and women have different qualities, I think a combination of men and women often works well,” says Van der Waal.
Some of the female founders prefer to do business with men over women. Van Dijk: “If I do business with a woman, I often notice there’s an element of competition. I don’t have this feeling if I work with men.”
Is being a woman an asset or downside? Spaan: “Our company is in a field which really is a men’s world: business, tech ánd finance. But I don’t think this is a disadvantage, among people from startups I feel like ‘one of the guys’. To the outside world, or if we meet people from large financial institutions, I sometimes do have the feeling that we have to prove ourselves more than others. On the other hand, grey men in chalk stripe suits don’t have a good reputation these days. Being more or less the opposite – young and feminine – might thus even be an advantage.”