CrowdFunding helps even playing field for women


With venture capital still elusive, female entrepreneurs try online platforms.

BY EILEEN ZIMMERMAN, When Stacy Rauen and Amber Wilcox were pregnant, neither could stomach prenatal vitamins, which nauseated them, so they created Bump Water, an all-natural flavored water that contains many of the same vitamins as prenatal pills and all of the folic acid.





To turn the product into a business, the pair raised $150,000, mostly from family members, but also through traditional crowdfunding, in which backers donate to a project without getting equity. Both women have young children (and Ms. Rauen also works full-time), so traveling to pitch the business to outside investors wasn’t practical. They also didn’t fit the entrepreneurial stereotype of a young man peddling a tech startup.

That may be why female entrepreneurs are increasingly looking to crowdfunding first—or as a replacement for—venture funding, said Ethan Mollick, an assistant professor at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business who studies gender and equality in entrepreneurship.

“Women have a very difficult time with venture capital,” said Mr. Mollick. But his research also shows that women do as well as men on the Kickstarter crowdfunding site. Mr. Mollick said female founders account for between 16% and 20% of the technology projects on the platform. “For a given project, if it is led by a woman, it will do at least well—if not better—than a similar project proposed by a man,” said Mr. Mollick. In total, men raise more money, but only because there are more men raising money.

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