Women fight for funding in man’s world of tech startups

Women fight for funding in man’s world of tech startups
Black entrepreneur Fonta Gilliam worked overseas with financial institutions for the US State Department before creating social banking startup Invest Sou Sou. (AFP)
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Updated 28 February 2021

Women fight for funding in man’s world of tech startups

Women fight for funding in man’s world of tech startups
  • Women-led startups tend to be on the outside of the “pipeline” that unofficially funnels entrepreneurs to venture capitalists

SAN FRANCISCO: Lauren Foundos has excelled at just about everything she has put her mind to, from college sports and Wall Street trading to her Forte startup that takes workouts online.
Being a woman in the overwhelmingly male world of venture capital was still a barrier — but, like many other female entrepreneurs, she only worked harder to succeed.
“In some cases, before I even spoke, they were asking me if I would step down as chief executive,” Foundos said of encounters with venture capitalists.
“This was a whole new level.”
Men would speak past her in meetings, discussing whether she could emotionally handle the job as if she wasn’t there, or wondering out loud who would take care of the books.
“When that happens, I tell them I am right here,” Foundos said. “I am the finance guy; I worked at big banks for more than 10 years. I’ve been the best at everything I have ever gone into.”
Startups can only get by so long relying on friends, family or savings before eventually needing to find investors willing to put money into young companies in exchange for a stake in the business.
Money invested in startups in their earliest days, perhaps when they are no more than ideas or prototypes, is called “seed” funding.
When it comes to getting backing for a startup it is about trust, and that seems to be lacking when it comes to women entrepreneurs, according to Foundos and others interviewed by AFP.
“I don’t think women need to be given things,” Foundos said of venture capital backing. “But I think they are not seeing the same amount of deals.”
Forte has grown quickly as the pandemic has gyms and fitness centers scrambling to provide online sessions for members.
Foundos brought on a “right-hand man,” a male partner with a British accent, to provide a more traditional face to potential investors and increase the odds of getting funding.
She has taken to asking venture capitalists she meets if they have invested in women-led companies before, and the answer has always been “no.”
A paltry few percent of venture capital money goes to female-led startups in the United States, according to Allyson Kapin, General Partner at the W Fund and founder of Women Who Tech (WWT).
Being sexually propositioned in return for funding, or even an introduction to venture capitalists, is common for women founders of startups, according to a recent WWT survey.
Some 44 percent of female founders surveyed told of harassment such as sexual slurs or unwanted physical contact while seeking funding.
And while last year set a record for venture capital funding, backing for women-led startups plunged despite data that such companies actually deliver better return-on-investment, according to Kapin.
“This isn’t about altruism or charity, this is about making a (load) of money,” Kapin said of backing women-led startups.
Prospects for funding get even more dismal for women of color.
Black entrepreneur Fonta Gilliam worked overseas with financial institutions for the US State Department before creating social banking startup Invest Sou Sou.
Gilliam took the idea of village savings circles she had seen thrive in places such as Africa and built it into a free mobile app, adding artificial intelligence and partnering with financial institutions.
She created a Sou Sou prototype and started bringing in revenue to show it could make money, but still found it tougher to get funding than male peers.
“We always have to over-perform and overcompensate,” Gilliam said. “Where startups run by men would get believed, we’d have to prove it 10 times over.”
Gilliam got insultingly low valuations for her startup, some so predatory that she walked away.
“We are still lean and mean bootstrapping, but I think it is going to pay off in the end,” Gilliam said.
“One thing about women-owned, black-owned startups: because there is such a high bar to get support our businesses tend to be scrappier, stronger and more resilient.”
Women-led startups tend to be on the outside of the “pipeline” that unofficially funnels entrepreneurs to venture capitalists, according to Kapin and others.
In Silicon Valley, that channel is open to male, white tech entrepreneurs from select universities such as Stanford.
“The pipeline becomes filled with people from the same universities; from similar backgrounds,” Kapin said.
“It is not representative of the world, which is problematic because you are trying to solve the world’s problems through the lens of very few people — mostly white men.”
Investors competing for gems in the frothy tech startup scrum are missing out on a wealth of returns, and stability, to be had by investing in neglected women founders, according to Caroline Lewis, a managing partner in Rogue Women’s Fund, which does just that.
“At the end of the day, it is the right thing to do and it is a good thing to do,” Lewis said.


Evergrow signs $400m loan to restructure debts

Evergrow signs $400m loan to restructure debts
Updated 53 min 21 sec ago

Evergrow signs $400m loan to restructure debts

Evergrow signs $400m loan to restructure debts
  • $74 million of loan will finance construction of fertilizer plant in Sadat City
  • Mashreq Bank and National Bank of Egypt led 12-bank syndicate

RIYADH: Egyptian fertilizer company Evergrow has signed a $400 million loan agreement with a syndicate of 12 banks led by Mashreq Bank and the National Bank of Egypt (NBE), who acted as the facility arrangers, Asharq reported citing a joint statement on Wednesday.

The plan consists of $326 million that will be used to restructure previous debts Evergrow owes to the same banks, while the remaining $74 million will finance the construction of the third phase of the company’s fertilizer plant in Sadat City, slated for completion within nine months.

The financing is one of the largest dollar loans granted by banks to private sector companies in the Egyptian market in the field of potassium fertilizers during the past 10 years.

The deal is part of Evergrow’s financial reform program sponsored by the Central Bank of Egypt.

The new funds will help raise the annual production capacity of all the company’s products from 817,000 tons currently to 1.15 million tons annually, said Evergrow Chairman Mohamed El Kheshen.

Egypt’s Minister of Trade and Industry Neveen Gamea in March said that Egypt aims to increase its exports — especially to EU, African and Arab markets — to $100 billion, through the implementation of a strategic plan.


Turkish crypto founder flees with reported $2bn

Turkish crypto founder flees with reported $2bn
Updated 22 April 2021

Turkish crypto founder flees with reported $2bn

Turkish crypto founder flees with reported $2bn
  • Launched aggressive campaigns to lure investors
  • Founder reported to have flown to either Albania or Thailand
ISTANBUL: Turkish prosecutors on Thursday opened an investigation after the Istanbul-based founder of a cryptocurrency exchange shut down his site and fled the country with a reported $2 billion in investors’ assets.
The Thodex website went dark after posting a mysterious message saying it was suspending trading for five days on Wednesday because of an unspecified outside investment.
Turkish security officials then released a photo of Thodex founder Faruk Fatih Ozer going through passport control at Istanbul airport on his way to an unspecified location.
Local media reports said Ozer — reported to be either 27 or 28 years old — had flown either to Albania or Thailand.
HaberTurk and other media said Thodex shut down after running a promotional campaign that sold Dogecoins at a big rebate — but did not allow investors to sell.
Reports said the website and the entire exchange had shut down while holding at least $2 billion from 391,000 investors.
“The victims are panicked,” investors’ lawyer Oguz Evren Kilic was quoted as saying by HaberTurk.
“They are lodging complaints at prosecutors’ offices in the cities they reside.”
Prosecutors launched an investigation into the businessman on charges of “aggravated fraud and founding a criminal organization,” the private DHA news agency said.
Thodex has launched aggressive campaigns to lure investors.
It had first pledged to distribute luxury cars through a flashy advertising campaign featuring famous Turkish models.
The platform then launched its Dogecoin drive.
The cryptocurrency is getting particularly popular among Turks who are looking to preserve their saving in the middle of a sharp decline in the value of the local lira.
The Turkish crypto market remains unregulated despite growing skepticism from President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government about the safety and use of digital currencies.
The Turkish central bank has decided to ban the use of crypto currencies in payments for goods and services starting from April 30.
It warned that cryptos “entail significant risks” because the market is volatile and lacks oversight.
“Wallets can be stolen or used unlawfully without the authorization of their holders,” the central banks warned last week.

Riyadh property prices rise 2% in Q1 even as rents fall

Riyadh property prices rise 2% in Q1 even as rents fall
Updated 22 April 2021

Riyadh property prices rise 2% in Q1 even as rents fall

Riyadh property prices rise 2% in Q1 even as rents fall
  • Mortgages rise, underpinning demand
  • Office sector remains under pandemic pressure

RIYADH: Property prices in the Saudi capital edged higher in the first quarter even as rental rates eased, JLL said.
Riyadh’s residential sale prices registered an annual increase of 2 percent for apartments and villas. By contrast, rental rates reported yearly declines of 1 percent for apartments and villas, it said. Some 7,700 homes were handed over during the period, the broker said.
“Looking ahead, the government initiatives that are pushing Riyadh to be the business hub of the region are expected to spur local and international demand,” JLL said in the report.
It said that strong government support helped to boost demand for residential property in the first three months of the year.
New mortgage loans for individuals jumped by 33,000 contracts in January 2021, it said.
The total value of mortgages increased to SR16.4 billion, according to the Saudi Arabia Monetary Agency (SAMA).
The Riyadh office market remains under pressure with average lease rates across a basket of Grade A & B office spaces in the city falling by 2 percent over the quarter compared to a year earlier.


IATA predicts Middle East airline losses of $4.2 billion in 2021

IATA predicts Middle East airline losses of $4.2 billion in 2021
Updated 22 April 2021

IATA predicts Middle East airline losses of $4.2 billion in 2021

IATA predicts Middle East airline losses of $4.2 billion in 2021
  • Airlines will burn through $81 billion of cash this year
  • Industry crisis much longer and deeper than expected

RIYADH: Middle Eastern airlines will endure losses of $4.2 billion in 2021, down from $7.9 billion in 2020, as pandemic travel restrictions remain in place in much of the world, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
Losses will be equal to 13.8 percent of revenues in 2021, an improvement from 28.9 percent in 2020, but still an historically bad number. Demand will be 67.6 percent lower than 2019 levels, while capacity will shrink 58.9 percent, IATA said.
While the region’s carriers will benefit from some of the highest vaccination rates globally, their relatively small home markets mean airlines like Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways will remain heavily exposed to international travel restrictions.
Globally, airline industry losses will narrow to $47.7 billion in 2021 from $126.4 billion in 2020, IATA said.
Airlines will burn through $81 billion of cash this year, following $149 billion in 2020, while the industry has taken on a further $220 billion of debt for a burden of $651 billion, IATA said.
“This crisis is longer and deeper than anyone could have expected,” said IATA Director General Willie Walsh. “Losses will be reduced from 2020, but the pain of the crisis increases. Government imposed travel restrictions continue to dampen the strong underlying demand for international travel.”


L&T Construction to build oil and gas supply base in King Salman Energy Park

L&T Construction to build oil and gas supply base in King Salman Energy Park
Updated 22 April 2021

L&T Construction to build oil and gas supply base in King Salman Energy Park

L&T Construction to build oil and gas supply base in King Salman Energy Park
  • The contract is valued at between $133m and $332m

RIYADH: Indian contractor Larsen & Toubro has been appointed by Oilfields Supply Company Saudi to design and build what it describes as one of the world’s largest oil and gas supply bases, in King Salman Energy Park in Dammam.

The project, valued at between INR1,000 crore ($133.3 million) and INR2,500 crore, involves the construction of industrial facilities, an administration building, ancillary buildings, associated infrastructure and storage yards, and is scheduled for completion in 30 months, L&T said in an emailed statement.

“This project will act as a business incubator to support the oil and gas industry in the Kingdom and help accelerate industrial growth in the energy sector,” said M. V. Satish, senior executive vice president (Buildings), L&T.