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Susan Marshall: The time is now for female founders in the tech industry

August 17, 2018

viewpoint-marshall-susan.jpgWe’re all familiar with the stereotypes about what it’s like for women in the tech industry. Countless media stories and TV shows spotlight a workplace where female employees are scarce and the culture is still dominated by men. There is truth there; I saw it firsthand when I began my career in Silicon Valley. More often than not, I was the only woman at the table.

Now that I’ve launched my own tech company, I see this disparity again in the world of entrepreneurship. When it comes to getting funding for startups, the statistics are bleak: Female founders received just 2 percent of venture capital dollars in 2017.

Given this landscape, how did I have the resolve to launch my own startup? If I had thought about founding my company in terms of this framework in 2015, I might have never done it.

That’s why I feel compelled to step up and urge women in tech in Indianapolis to reframe the narrative about what they can achieve and reconsider the roadblocks that might stand in their way. The path to success truly is not as insurmountable as it might seem. The key? Work hard and get the right experience, come to the table with a compelling idea, and back that idea up with solid financials.

Get the right experience

More jobs are available to women in tech than ever before, especially in Indianapolis. Organizations such as Indy Women in Technology exist specifically to support and encourage women to take on roles in the tech industry. Importantly, when they do, the money is there. According to a study released last year, women in tech in Indianapolis actually make more than men do.

Have a compelling idea

If you have an idea you believe in, bring it to the table. When I worked for Salesforce, I traveled around the country meeting with marketers who told me they were struggling to keep up with the increasingly complex world of digital marketing. I saw the need for a company that could match resources to marketers’ real business needs.

So, I developed a business plan based on my idea, and fine-tuned it so that I felt comfortable presenting it to anyone who would listen. My idea turned into Torchlite, a software-as-a-service platform that helps marketers develop a plan and then connects them with the resources they need to get it done.

Solid financials matter

The truth is, I’ve never had a problem getting funding for my business. That’s because I’ve prioritized making a solid argument in my pitch about how I plan to hit revenue targets.

When you show how you’ll make money, your gender doesn’t matter. Demonstrate that your business is scaleable and will provide a healthy return, and venture capitalists will be interested.

To that end, it’s no longer true that you need to be on one of the coasts to get funding for your business. Organizations like Rise of the Rest are focusing on the Midwest, and an incredibly supportive and talented tech ecosystem grows in Indianapolis by the day.

Just ask my fellow founders at The Startup Ladies. There’s a truly unique opportunity here for female tech founders to thrive.•

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Marshall is co-founder and CEO of Torchlite.

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