Women in tech: Funding for women's startups still lags

TechRepublic's Karen Roby spoke with Jennifer Fried, CEO and co-founder of ExplORer Surgical, a company with a unique platform that helps to streamline things in the OR in hospitals, about the challenges of being a woman entrepreneur in tech. The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

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Karen Roby: Jennifer, I think your story is unique in that you started in the venture capital space and had this great idea. You partnered with a physician to bring this to life, ExplORer Surgical to life. I think it's important as a female entrepreneur in the tech space just to talk with you about how you got to this place and maybe some advice that you have for others that may have a unique idea, but are a little concerned or skittish about just taking that leap.

Jennifer Fried: I think raising capital is probably the hardest burden to overcome, and that's where you see huge gaps in funding between male and female entrepreneurs. My advice is when you're raising your first round of funding, I think there are going to be two sources of capital. One are going to be people that invest in you, that would invest in you really no matter what you're doing. If you started a lemonade stand or you started a new kind of glue, these people would invest in you. The other types of investors are going to be people that really deeply understand the problems that you're solving.

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That's how we got off the ground, leaned on friends and family and my business school professors and people that knew me and believed in me, but also found surgeons who had experienced this problem for themselves, that said, "This has been such a problem for me in my career that I want to invest in a solution that can solve it."

Karen Roby: When we talk about entrepreneurs and we're talking specifically with women, but just in general, when it comes to taking this leap and trying to raise capital and put an idea into motion, where are some of the biggest mistakes or roadblocks that people face?

Jennifer Fried: Healthcare, as I mentioned, is notoriously slow to change and to adapt to new things. I think when you're thinking about specific milestones that you want to hit, it's always harder. It takes longer and it takes more money than you originally thought. My advice would be to give yourself as much of a cushion, in terms of time and funding, as you possibly can to hit those next milestones.

Karen Roby: Is there a strong community, do you do feel like, of female entrepreneurs that are helping each other?

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Jennifer Fried: Yeah, I wish there were more women that were in tech and in particular running venture-backed tech companies. It's a small group, it is growing, but I find that the other women that are in tech, there's a bond and it's like a sisterhood. You can absolutely rely on those people that are there. I think it's so important for women in tech to talk about what they're doing and create examples so that the next generation of tech entrepreneurs or people that are on the fence are able to see people that look like them that are out there doing their dream job. The more that can be done to create that example, I think the more innovation that we're going to see sparks in the ecosystem.

Karen Roby: Jennifer Fried with ExplORer Surgical, thank you so much for being with us and congratulations on your success. It's great to know that women like you are looking to help others that want to take the same steps that you did and to be an entrepreneur, especially in the tech space. Thanks for being with us.

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