Meet the founders


After five years of celebrating female entrepreneurship through the Startup Awards, Marian Spier knew in 2020, it was time to change. Shockingly, only 1% of female entrepreneurs receive funding for their businesses, with global figures reaching a mere 3% over the past decade. Despite evidence showing that female entrepreneurs outperform their male counterparts, the funding gap remains a significant barrier.
That’s why amid the pandemic, Marian teamed up with Sandra van der Pal, Simone van Bijsterveldt, and Ellen Tacoma to establish FEM-START. The original plan was an incubator program designed to empower female entrepreneurs, but later on, the founding team discovered through research that education was vital in supporting female entrepreneurs globally.
FEM-START is now a thriving community for women entrepreneurs, offering education, mentorship, and support to build their businesses and bridge the funding gap. Join us and unleash the full potential of female entrepreneurship today!
Marian Spier

Marian Spier, Founder

As one of the leading female social entrepreneurs in the Netherlands,
Marian Spier is passionate about creating positive social change and seeing women excel in business. In 2018 she was awarded an EU Business Angel Award for her work with the TedxAmsterdamWomen StartUp Awards. The award is given to a woman who positively impacted the Early Stage Investment arena.
It’s awarded to women who are inspiring role models — who have pushed for inclusivity, female empowerment, innovation, and diversity. 

Marian seeks to continue her work and passion by launching FEM-START to build a sustainable environment for women-led startups in the Netherlands and throughout the world.


  • Webby Awards, 2012
  • Cannes Lion Awards, 2012
  • Lean In EU Women Business Angels: Best
  • Newcomer Award 2018
  • Nominee Black Achievement Awards, 2018
  • Inspiring Fifty: 50 Women in Tech NL, 2013, 2017 and 2019
Sandra van der Pal

Sandra van der Pal, Co-Founder

Sandra van der Pal has worked with Marian for years as a volunteer at the Startup Awards of TEDxAmsterdamWomen, where they found each other in their passion for female entrepreneurship. In her role as Innovation Acceleration Manager, she has years of experience in leading and training social startups throughout the world. She has contributed to setting up an accelerator program and hub in South Africa for social startups. 

At present, Sandra is active at The Next Web as a Senior Manager of Open Innovation.


Simone van Bijsterveldt, CFO & Co-Founder

Simone van Bijsterveldt is an experienced CFO and has helped countless companies with organising their financial structure and strategy. Ranging from experience with Dutch Charity Lotteries to Media Monks to the absolute beginning of start-ups, Simone has worked with people and organisations from all walks of life. Simone has a passion for finances, culture and people. She’s a member of the supervisory board of the Dutch Film Fund and TivoliVredenburg as well as the chair of the audit committee.

As a woman in the c-suite, Simone has always strived to be a strong team player that uplifts others. By joining FEM-START Simone combines her passion and expertise; creating change for others by utilizing her experience and knowledge.

Ellen Tacoma

Ellen Tacoma, Co-Founder

Ellen Tacoma has years of experience as both an entrepreneur and holding diverse management positions in the corporate field.

Ellen is the co-founder of Women on Wings, whose mission is to create one million jobs for women in India’s rural areas, with offices in both the Netherlands and India. As of now, a total of 284.000 jobs are realized in collaboration with Indian entrepreneurs.

She’s also built her expertise by being responsible for an international accelerator with hubs in the Netherlands, Uganda, Kenia, Nigeria, and South Africa.

Join experts from the fields of entrepreneurship and fundraising. We will help you demystify the world of funding!