Why I refuse to promote women's entrepreneurship

Tomorrow I am judging a start-up competition in Delhi that awards its winner up to Rs. 5 lakhs to start their business. Since the contest is only for women, I have received several messages thanking and congratulating me for promoting women’s entrepreneurship. Unfortunately, I am not a big believer in “women’s” entrepreneurship.

I believe that word entrepreneurship is asexual and to treat someone, mainly because they are a female founder (or entrepreneur), with a different mindset is simply not right. Why should we denigrate a founder, just because she is a woman? Does her X chromosome make her business any less valuable, profitable, or exciting?

Therefore, it irks me that there are events, panels, discussions, specially curated to promote women’s entrepreneurship or female founders, exclusively. Most female founders and executives that I have interacted with see it the same way. We all know that anyone discriminating against a business run by a woman leader or refusing to fund a female founder hurts the person holding the bias much more than it hurts the woman – not only in terms of mindset but also on return on investment. 

When I look at my portfolio, I see amazing founders. It is just an afterthought that over 50% of them have women co-founders like Prerna at Daalchini, Kanika at Jadooz and Dhanya at KabaddiAdda. Even within my family office portfolio, several of our most successful investments are powered by female founders like Shivani at Tala, Avneet at CarveNiche, Mahima at Coutloot, Naiyya at BabyChakra and many more. They have made us several x’s on our investment (and no I do not keep nor intend to keep a separate portfolio performance based on sex), and some of them will turn into unicorns in the future – one of them very soon! 

However, none, nada and zilch, of these founders or their start-ups are in our portfolio because they were women. They earned every bit of the success they have achieved, and I respect them for their blood, sweat, and sacrifice – as an individual. In my interactions with them, I see them as entrepreneurs NOT as women founders, and I hope that they know and feel that they are equals.

Therefore, I do not see any good reason to promote female founders or entrepreneurs, because I have experienced excellent returns on my investments by treating each founder as an individual and backing their businesses based on merit. The moment that I start treating a founder differently because they are women, it means that I do not see them as equals. I will skew my thoughts to cater to my bias, and it will hurt them as much as it will hurt my bank balance.

So I am going to continue to be supportive, critical, effusive, disappointed and elated by my founders without discriminating on them because of their race, age, color, sex, national origin, religion, and physical disability. I believe this approach is the best way to promote any founder.

Tala closes the Loop by Reentering India

News broke out yesterday that Tala raised $65 million in a round led by Steve Case’s Revolution Fund. Most of the news headlines are stating that Tala raised this money to enter the Indian market making this is one of those interesting anomalies because Tala started its business under the name InVenture in India. As a DSA for MFIs, the regulatory environment in 2012 didn’t permit the sustainability of InVenture’s business model.
As a tough entrepreneur, Shivani decided not to quit just yet but move her business to a place where digital money was ingrained in the daily habits of people i.e. Kenya. There, her model transformed from a credit assessment platform to a lending app and now it is out there creating history! She used the capital raised from IVP, Data Collective, Lowercase Capital, Ribbit Capital, and Female Founders Fund (who have all participated in this round) to expand Tala’s reach to the Philippines, Mexico, and Tanzania.
Now she is returning to the nest where it all began, with a war chest and model that has much more relevance in transforming the digital payment space in India. In my opinion, there could not have been a better time for her return.
This morning the Artha India Ventures team and I spoke to  Zach, the head of Tala’s Indian expansion team and he shared a laundry list of people that he is looking to hire. Once I have those JD’s, I will share them in a separate post. I can safely vouch for the fact that you will be working for a company and leader (Shivani) that I deeply respect, and one that I believe will make a huge impact in India and in the world.
Best of luck to Shivani and her Tala team. The Artha team is by your side every step of the way!