Female entrepreneurs the new trend for e-commerce startups

Long gone are the days when women were relegated to being secretaries. Increasingly female entrepreneurs are playing key roles at e-commerce companies, especially in industries such as food and fashion, in which the female point of view is regarded as particularly crucial, reported Bloomberg.

Gilt Groupe co-founders Alexis Maybank and Alexandra Wilson are on the cutting edge of this trend, with their shopping website worth around $2.4 billion – the highest value ever reached by a female-founded startup, according to SharesPost Inc.

This new trend of high-level female employees at startups has been driven by the growth of daily-deal sites and other niche shopping sites, which have allowed ample room for women to make their mark. More women today are in the sectors of retail and fashion than at Silicon Valley startups, as companies begin to acknowledge that women make up the majority of Internet shoppers. And who better than another woman to predict what these female Web surfers want?

“Women are driving most of the consumer activity on the Web today,” Aileen Lee, a venture capitalist at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, who invests a great deal of her portfolio in startups created by females, said to Bloomberg. “They’re the majority of users on Facebook, on Twitter, on Zynga. That gives websites that figure out how to harness social media early on an advantage because they can grow more quickly.”

The figures are proving again and again the importance of the female Internet market. Women account for 56 percent of the U.S. surfers who visited social-networking sites or blogs last month, and 57 percent of shoppers at retail websites such as, and, said Nielsen Co.

Companies who do not gear their products toward women are missing the boat. Women are estimated to have controlled $12 trillion out of the total $18.4 trillion that consumers spent during 2009, Boston Consulting Group said.

Nevertheless, the industry is still unfortunately mostly ruled by men. Women make up 25 percent of technology jobs and a mere 8 percent of new technology companies are started by females, according to White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett.

Some women are taking the lead, however, with females founding niche e-commerce sites such as One Kings Lane, a seller of designer décor; Plum District, a daily- deal service geared toward moms; and Rent the Runway Inc., which rents high-fashion dresses for 90 percent off.

Amy Millman, president of Springboard Enterprises Inc., predicts the number of women entering the technology sector in the next five years will be greater than the figure for the past decade, and these females will by and large be a younger crowd, often recently emerged from incubator programs.

Due to technological advances, startups today are easier to scale, and women are taking full advantage of the opportunities to start their own companies even without wealthy financers backing them. More than ever, these new companies can generate income quickly and in a more cost-efficient manner.

At the end of the day, being feminine does not have to be a disadvantage.

“Often when you think of women in positions of power, they’ve got to be bulldogs,” Maybank said. “I don’t try to appear less feminine. I allow that to be something that helps me and marks who I am, not something that’s a liability.”

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