By Paola Hasbun and Azaina Shaikh
Taryn is a successful entrepreneur and businesswoman with more than 10 years of finance and venture capital experience. Passionate about gender equality and initiatives to support women, Taryn is the co-founder and CEO of Impulse4Women, a Global NPO that connects female-led techpreneurs and social impact projects funders and investors.
What is your story, and how did you end up founding Impulse 4 Women?
I worked in private banking for 14 years, and in 2013 I decided to become an entrepreneur. I did a master’s at the IESE business school, and they pushed us to become entrepreneurs; that’s how I started. In the beginning, I was in charge of digital marketing in a company. As I didn’t know much about technology, I went to boot camps as a mentor. I started to love technology, and in one of these boot camps, I networked and joined TH Capital, which was fundraising the Fund II in Barcelona. In 2017 I was offered to be a General Partner (GP). And to my surprise, I found that there were only four female GPs in Spain!
What was your initial reaction to this finding?
I couldn’t believe it! My friends and I wondered where all the amazing women with start-ups and businesses were and why they were not coming forth. Something had to be done. After some brainstorming, we decided to start a non-profit organization focused on women in their interest.
And that’s how Impulse 4 Women started…
Yes. In the beginning, we were supposed to be a matching platform. However, today we are at a market connection phase, as we offer many services, like mentoring sessions and pitching sessions. We also host webinars. At Impulse 4 Women, we provide comprehensive services that cover everything from the initial stage of a startup to helping it grow to a fully “grown” startup; we support startups at any stage. Furthermore, connecting startups with correct investors is a major aspect of Impulse 4 Women. So little by little, we started scouting for startups in Spain, and there weren’t more than 250-300, out of which very few were co-founded by women or had women CEOs. We then started to search for the European market. There’s no cost for women to be part of Impulse 4 Women. Within the time, we started receiving applications from women from Pakistan, Lebanon, South Africa, and worldwide.
It became global.
It did. In the beginning, we did not know any investors in those countries. We had two options: either they could not participate in the program or close agreements with public and private international organizations to get to these countries. We didn’t have access to female entrepreneurs and investors, and that’s what we did. In 2017 we realized that it was difficult to write to investors when it came to social impact projects and apply for the funds. This led us to set an ambassador in different countries of the world who recruits and coordinates a group of female business angels and advises them on how to invest in female-led tech startups. In this way, we have more funding for the startups in the program.
Which industries do you primarily focus on?
Technology. Our investors are focused on technology; it is a niche. With COVID-19, the technology industry is growing massively. We are doing what we were supposed to be doing 10 years from now regarding lifestyle habits regarding technology. Often women are underrepresented in the tech industry. What is your view on this? I would say that since 2017 more women are coming into the tech market and becoming entrepreneurs. Some women have certain biases, such as, if they did not study engineering or IT, they could not build a tech startup. This is not correct because as long as you solve a problem in the market and there is a need for your product or solution, you can have good profits and a good team; you will have an investment.
What do you focus on to evaluate a startup?
It is useful to know what investors look for in startups before investing. Normally, most of us ask: what is your business model? Since you are solving a problem or a need in the market, we will ask you for your business model, financial statements, and planning to profit from it. However, we first focus on the team. Most of the problems we have in our portfolio as a VC is because the partners or founders of a startup are not going along together, not because of their business model.
What are the characteristics of a successful team?
I think there are a lot of important characteristics, and we have metrics set to measure them. One is to have a clear agreement between partners and have it in writing, which clearly states how much equity they will have, who will be CEO, who will make the strategy, investment decisions, etc. Another important aspect is to have a diverse team with different mindsets. For example, a team of three engineers might need a marketing and sales specialist before going to the market.
Do you see a difference in the performance of a team depending on their gender composition?
A mixed team is much more effective; I think it is the best option. If I see a male-only team, I always
advise them to add a woman to it. She will see things they don’t, more details and long term goals
than maybe they are overseeing. Men can also complement a female-only team by pushing and making
some things happen faster.
Women, in general, receive less funding than men. Why do you think this is the case?
I think sometimes women don’t show themselves enough, or as much as men. I also think women sometimes have difficulties selling. Maybe the way women talk to investors is different. Additionally, Venture Capitalists always want to make a profit regardless of gender. One of the reasons women get less funding is related to the sector of their building; women tend to focus more on social impact. We have over 3,400 startups in our community; 70% are focused on creating social impact. Women tend to be more focused on building a community, how to improve the ecosystem and decrease climate change, which can create less profit or have longer returns.
How has COVID-19 impacted women entrepreneurs?
Of course, women working in the tourist or hospitality sector have been struck by the crisis. Still, all the women and startups focusing on data analytics, big data, tech have a great opportunity. Moreover, now it is a good opportunity to network: as everything is online, you have easier access to people and attend virtual events than before COVID-19 times. It is now easier to scale up and make companies global; we have to stay positive!