"Imagine men had to step into a store to be measured each time they bought a condom."
So began entrepreneur Orit Hashay's pitch at a NY tech event. Her slides display a weathered man wielding a measuring tape.
The thing is, Orit didn't reinvent condoms or design some high tech condom substitute. In fact, her startup has nothing to do with condoms, or the men who wear them. Rather, her business, an online crowd sourced bra shop called Brayola, makes customized lingerie recommendations for women.
So why did she spend so much time discussing condoms?
Simply put, she was talking to an audience of male investors. Who presumably have no idea how difficult it is for a woman to find the right bra among a sea of styles, colors and brands, all of which size differently. Or that finding an innovative way to address that problem could actually be a viable business.
While accessing funding is a challenge for any entrepreneur, in a field where nearly 90% of investors are men, funding this kind of venture might seem a long shot. Orit's strategy, then, was to identify a "pain point" for women in a way that men could not only understand, but could actually relate.
A driven businesswoman with background in software development and venture capital, not to mention a flourishing startup already under her belt, Orit's creative approach has payed off with investors.
But what are the chances for other aspiring women entrepreneurs, whether in tech or other fields? In fact, access to capital is a prime challenge for women, who globally receive less than 12% of all venture capital invested.
The point here is not just that venture capital is an overwhelmingly male-dominated field; it's that men naturally tend to fund the kinds of businesses they can relate to. How many ideas, then, that could be relevant -- even revolutionary -- to half the world's population are being stymied because women can't access the resources to grow and scale their startups?
And how can we increase the number of female investors who "get it"?
Some of the answers may be found in boot camps like the Pipeline Fellowship, which train women Angel investors, as well as Astia and Golden Seeds, investment firms funding high-growth, high-potential women led startups.
Other strategies may be found in crowd sourced platforms like OurCrowd, which enable less seasoned investors to spend relatively small amounts, pooling their money alongside experienced investors. Says OurCrowd Founder and CEO Jon Medved, "the democratization of this funding model has the potential to attract more women investors."
Another promising sign for women founders is the number of tech luminaries getting on board to support them.
Google recently issued a funded challenge to accelerators, incubators, and others to increase women's participation by 25% in 2014. Y Combinator, Forbes named top startup incubator, recently held a female founders conference. And another Silicon Valley based incubator, 500 Startups, announced their intention to pump $1M into 10 companies with women founders already in their portfolio.
All of this makes financial sense: Research by Illuminate Ventures shows organizations with women in top management achieve 35% higher return on investment and 34% better total return to shareholders.
And if the product is aimed towards women, even better: In the US alone, women control two thirds of consumer spending and make the bulk of purchasing decisions. In a world where social media is increasingly used to sell, advertise, and cultivate brand loyalties, women are also huge players, outpacing men in the use of every major platform other than LinkedIn.
As women lead start-ups become more main stream, chances are investors--both male and female--will support them by following the money.
Jenny Drezin is a writer and co-founder of WEGO, a crowd-sourced network for urban safety.