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Start-ups Dressed in Purple: The Female Founder Series

Start-ups Dressed in Purple: The Female Founder Series | IE

Students learn from the journey of female entrepreneurs.

According to the European Innovation Council, only 15% of start-up ventures are women-lead initiatives. However, funding for female-founded companies has increased eightfold since 2010 to up to $26 billion in the United States. As the women entrepreneurial landscape continues to gain traction, the Women in Business Club organized the Female Founder Series.

Over the course of a month, the series featured four female entrepreneurs working in the fields of technology, consumer goods, social impact and nutrition. The series, which coincided with Women’s History Month in March, concluded with a roundtable that reunited three female professionals from HBO, Paramount and Netflix to discuss the importance of the role of women in the film industry.

The club offered a space for students to interact and learn first-hand from women who started their own companies.

Paula Mora, as former Founding Member and Chief Strategy and Operations Officer and Master in Management alumna, answered questions about her experience in setting up her tech start-up and encouraged students to leverage the opportunities and the support that incubator programs can offer.

“There are so many established incubator start-up programs that are there to support no matter the stage you are in. You should leverage these programs since they help you develop everything, from creating your business plan to your marketing strategy, getting funding and setting up the right team,” said Mora. “These programs are equipping you with all the tools in your belt to have all these checklists checked off.”

Mora emphasized the importance that continuous learning has when developing a new venture.

"When you do a startup you focus so much on getting the marketing right, the sales strategy, the social media and all of these things that are, of course, necessary for the company. But just as you are spending all this time in developing a company, you should spend time in developing yourself as an individual, as a leader and as an expert."

Paula Mora

Former Founding Member and Chief Strategy and Operations Officer

She also said the learning curve is constant.

“Even if you think you already know all there is to know about your field, there are always new technologies, problems and solutions that you need to learn about.”

SYMBA is a tech startup that helps organizations streamline their internship programs through a platform that allows them to engage with their interns and measure their performance. Symba is a social impact tech startup breaking barriers in the workforce with remote career development programs. It was crowned the Global Winner of the South Summit in 2021.

IMBA alumna, Uliana Torkunova founder and CEO of Let Me Park offered advice to find the right collaborators.

“Build your team wisely, no rush. A team can help you to grow your company but can also kill your company,” said Torkunova. “You can build a good team with friends or with a professional, however, the people you work with should be on the same wavelength and share the same values.”

She reminded the audience to make the best of the situation when facing rejection.

"In the beginning, there are a lot of noes. I was afraid to go somewhere else and get more noes because getting that no is the worst,” said Torkunova. “However, at the same time getting used to hearing no is so important. I realised that noes are part of the game and that they are something that will take me where I want to be and help me reach the big leagues. Don’t be afraid of noes."

Uliana Torkunova

Founder and CEO of Let Me Park

Let Me Park is a voice-powered virtual parking assistant. It connects users with a network of parkings and guides them to the most convenient location. Let me Park is the parking assistant with the biggest network of parkings in Spain. In 2018, it was recognized amongst the top 4 Spanish Smart City Start-ups and as Best Newcomer.

Another female founder guest was Inês Góis, a Master in Management alumna founder of Detox in a Box. Her start-up was developed in the IE Venture Lab.

She said it was crucial to listen to your clients’ needs, but to maintain a balance.

“Understanding what your clients are looking for is the best way to evolve your business. However, you can’t listen to them too much,” Góis said. “In the beginning, when I wanted to grow I was adapting a lot for each client. But, If you do that you can lose your focus and waste time to grow your main product.”

Moreover, Góis urged students to not let themselves be absorbed by work.

"Remember to have fun and keep enjoying what you are doing. Sometimes you are under a lot of pressure and want to do a lot of things and it becomes too connected to who you are and what you do in your everyday life. It is important to enjoy the freedom to decide what you want to do,” said Góis. “Also, focus on doing more things on the side. Your Start-up does not have to be the only thing you have. Commit to creating your routines outside work."

Inês Góis

Founder of Detox in a Box

Detox in a Box is a food-tech startup focused on making healthy food accessible in the workplace. They also have options for various healthy corporate events, subscriptions and nutrition workshops.

Sophie Trelles-Tvede, founder of the international brand Invisibobble. In 2019, Invisibobble reported sales of €20m and nowadays it is sold across more than 100,000 locations including in chains like CVS, Walgreens and Sephora.

Tvede stressed the importance of the first customers to develop and grow a company.

“In the beginning, we worked with the feedback of hairdressers. They were our first customers since they were the only ones who wanted to listen to us. You can’t just walk into El Corte Inglés and ask them to try your products. But if you go to a hairdresser, you are more likely to reach the decision-makers,” said Tvede. “We spent that whole first year perfecting the product and making it ready with the help of hairdressers in Germany and the UK. They became the leading force that helped us build what we wanted with the brand and the product.”

She encouraged anyone who wants to be an entrepreneur to truly believe in their idea.

"I know it sounds like the most redundant thing in the world, but for people to believe in your company and in what you are doing, the first person that needs to believe is you. As humans we understand emotions. Whether you are trying to get a new partner, hire someone, or whatever you are trying to do for your business, people can sense if you don’t believe in it. If you don’t, then fix it immediately. Change your idea or do a course correction but always believe in it."

Sophie Trelles-Tvede

Founder of Invisibobble

Start-ups Dressed in Purple: The Female Founder Series | IE

Montserrat Gil, vice-president and general manager of Paramount Spain; Julie Lefevre, head of market intelligence at HBO and Nora Murphy, with experience in publicity in Netflix and HBO concluded the Female Founder Series talking about the changes and the role of women and the need for diversity in the industry.

"There are more and more women moving from the acting entry point to directing and producing, however there is still a long way to go. 10 years ago, I was the first woman head of a Hollywood studio and I still am. We have to support women going up to the top of the ladder and be where the decisions are made. Women have great stories to tell and they have to speak clearly and loudly."

Montserrat Gil

Vice-president and General Manager of Paramount Spain

Watch highlights from the panel here: