Apr 12, 2017

Reporting on Female Startup Founders in Berlin

By Lindsay Gellman

U.S. journalist and Fulbright grantee Lindsay Gellman

My focus as a 2016-17 journalism grantee in Germany is better understanding the challenges women face as they navigate Berlin’s tech-startup scene, and telling their stories.

Over the past decade, Berlin has emerged as a notable breeding ground for successful high-growth technology firms such as SoundCloud, Rocket Internet and FoodPanda. The city, affectionately nicknamed “Silicon Allee” in a nod to the California technology capital, is home to between 1,800 and 3,000 technology startups and counting.

Yet despite the proliferation of new technology firms here, economic data suggest Berlin remains a startup hub on the brink of realizing its full potential. Berlin trails American hotspots like Silicon Valley and New York, in addition to Eurasian cities such as Tel Aviv and London, in categories such as performance, venture-capital funding and market research, according to the Global Startup Ecosystem Ranking.

Berlin trails competitor cities, too, in terms of its proportion of women technology startup founders. Just 9% of Berlin technology startups were founded by women, less than the share of women-founded technology companies in Europe overall (17%), as well as in United States hubs such as Silicon Valley (24%) and New York (16%).

It’s difficult to pinpoint precisely why. As a journalist, I aim to dig beyond the numbers, juxtaposing them with the real-life experiences of women at the helm of tech companies here. Time and again, my conversations over the past few months with local female founders pointed to the challenges of raising venture capital, especially when the product in question was designed for women. Investors—the majority of whom are men—were reluctant to bet on women-centered products with which they didn’t have firsthand experience.

Clue, a Berlin-based app that helps women track their menstrual cycle, is a prime example. Founder Ida Tin told me that male investors were largely squeamish about the idea, stunting the young firm’s ability to raise capital. Some three years and five million users later, though, Ms. Tin found some takers.

You can read my full article on Clue, published online at The New Yorker, here: http://www.newyorker.com/business/currency/ida-tins-battle-to-build-clue-a-period-tracking-app



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