Posts by Kelly Vo

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Aug 14, 2017 by

Do Women Entrepreneurs Get Less VC Funding? Wharton and Columbia Researchers Find a Large Gender Gap

Female VC Funding Issue

Over the last few years, there has been a lot of talk about more women in business. From the promotion of organizations like the Forté Foundation—which seeks to enhance women in business—to CNBC claiming “the Golden Age for women entrepreneurs has finally begun,” enterprising women seem to be everywhere. Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean that the deck is stacked in their favor. In fact, researchers from Columbia Business School and The Wharton School found the opposite was true.

The Gender Gap in Startup Funding

In a paper published in the Academy of Management Journal titled, “We Ask Men to Win & Women Not to Lose: Closing the Gender Gap in Startup Funding,” researchers looked at how women fared compared to men when they were trying to get funding for their startups.

After reviewing footage from the TechCrunch Disrupt startup competition, the researchers found that women were asked entirely different types of questions about their companies compared to their male counterparts. Men received more questions about their project’s potential for growth, while women received questions on the opposite end, about their potential risks and losses. This difference in questioning had a measurable impact on the funding each startup received.

The research paper, written by Dana Kanze (a Columbia Business School Ph.D. student), Laura Huang (a Wharton School Professor), Mark A. Conley (a Columbia Psychology Ph.D.), and E. Tory Higgins (a Columbia Psychology Professor), sought to delve into the enormous gender gap revealed in venture capital funding. According to the paper, only 2 percent of VC funding goes to women entrepreneurs in spite of the fact that women own 38 percent of U.S. businesses and represent 7 percent of venture capital firms.

One of the keys to this drastic difference in funding was how VCs—both male and female—framed funding questions for women-created businesses. Kanze explained the thought process in a Forbes article.

“According to the psychological theory of regulatory focus, investors adopted what’s called a promotion orientation when quizzing male entrepreneurs, which means they focused on hopes, achievements, advancement, and ideals,” Kanze said. “Conversely, when questioning female entrepreneurs, they embraced a prevention orientation, which is concerned with safety, responsibility, security, and vigilance.”

Inside the Research

To study how this difference in questioning impacted women and men entrepreneurs, the research team reviewed the Q&A sessions of 189 startup entrepreneurs—12 percent of whom were women—held by 140 prominent venture capitalists—40 percent of whom were women. Using software to analyze each session, researchers discovered that 67 percent of questions posted to men were promotion-oriented while 66 percent of questions posted to women were prevention-oriented.

In the end, the study found that this difference in questioning led to a huge difference in VC funding. Among comparable companies, the research team found that businesses that were asked prevention-oriented questions raised (on average) $2.3 million in funds in 2017, while their promotion-focused counterparts raised $16.8 million—nearly seven times more.

“In fact, for every additional prevention question asked of an entrepreneur, the startup raised a staggering $3.8 million less, on average,” Kanze told Forbes. She continued, saying, “Controlling for factors that may influence funding outcomes—like measures of startups’ capital needs, quality, and age, as well as entrepreneurs’ past experience—we discovered that the prevalence of prevention questions completely explained the relationship between entrepreneur gender and startup funding.”

However, there was some good news. For female entrepreneurs who received prevention-focused questions but responded with promotion-type answers, they were able to raise $7.9 million, versus $563,000. This suggests that regardless of how VCs phrase their questions, entrepreneurs can recover much of their funding potential if they answer in the positive.

To test their findings, the research team conducted an experiment that recreated the TechCrunch Disrupt conditions with 194 VCs—30 percent of whom were women—and 106 entrepreneurs—47 percent of whom were women. After removing startup specific details, the team asked the VCs to allocate $400,000 to their chosen entrepreneur.

According to the Kanze in a Harvard Business Review article, the team found that: “Angel investors allocated an average of $81,113 to startups in the prevention question, promotion answer condition—1.6 times larger than the $52,369 average allocated to those in the prevention question, prevention answer condition. Similarly, ordinary investors gave an average of $96,321 to the prevention question, promotion answer condition—1.7 times larger than the $55,377 average given to the prevention question, prevention answer condition.”

Speaking with Professor Laura Huang

To gain additional insight into the results of the research paper, we spoke with Professor Laura Huang at the Wharton School. Here’s what she has to say.

  • What was the most surprising result that came out of your study?

“It was surprising that both men and women investors were equally as likely to ask prevention-focused questions to women, as opposed to promotion-focused. It wasn’t that men were the only ones biased, but that both genders were equally as likely to be biased.”

  • Do you have any advice for female entrepreneurs looking to raise venture capital?

“Stop it in its tracks. When you see something like this happening, stop it immediately and redirect the response so that you’re making yourself on equal footing. Don’t allow that train of thought to go through where you’re getting asked prevention-focused questions and investors are focused on the risk. Answer the question that’s asked but redirect your response toward possibilities and success.”

  • How do you think VC funding can change for the future to close the gender gap?

“Part of it is an awareness on the investors’ side. It’s also up to the entrepreneurs to redirect each question toward the right focus. A lot of this gap is implicit. Investors don’t realize they’re asking prevention-focused questions of women; they just automatically ask certain questions to each gender. Awareness around the tendency toward prevention-focused questions for women entrepreneurs and a focus on redirection toward promotion is key.”

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Aug 14, 2017 by

3 Leadership Lessons from Ivey’s MBA Leadership Day

Ivey Business MBA Leadership Day

At Western University Canada’s Ivey Business School, leadership is a regular part of the curriculum. In fact, part of Ivey’s mission is to equip its MBA students to become global leaders. In the context of this mandate, each year the Ian O. Ihnatowycz Institute for Leadership hosts an MBA Leadership Day. This year, the class of 2018 heard from four, senior Canadian leadership in a conference setting. The event also included a panel discussion, a LIVE case, and a keynote presentation.

The Speakers

  • Barbara Stymiest: former Executive Vice-President & Chief Financial Officer at BMO Nesbitt Burns, Chief Executive Officer at the TSX Group and current board member of several public companies including Blackberry Ltd., George Weston Limited, and Sun Life Financial Inc.
  • Michael Rolland: Chief Investment Officer at OMERS Private Equity
  • Jon Hantho: Chairman of the Board at Life Labs, former Chief Executive Officer at Maxxam
  • Linda Hasenfratz: Chief Executive Officer at Linamar

Beckie Thain-Blonk, an ’18 MBA candidate at Ivey, was one of the students in attendance at the event. In a recent blog post, she shared her three key leadership takeaways: humility, listening, and selflessness.


Through the case discussion, attendees learned about how important it is to be endeared to your team. No matter if you have good intentions or not, if you don’t take the time to build relationships up front and listen to your team’s feedback, you’ll lose sight of the real goal.

“Building relationships requires active listening and a healthy dose of humility,” Thain-Blonk noted. “The lesson was very clear: remember that relationship skills and humility are important in both the highs and lows of your career.”


The second lesson for Thain-Blonk came during the panel discussion when Barbara Stymiest talked about being a manager and earning her first board chair position at Ernst & Young. Drawing on examples from her career, Stymiest told attendees that the first leadership lesson she learned was to “listen first.”

“Stymiest emphasized the importance of a leader speaking last,” Thain-Blonk wrote. “She highlighted that, as a leader, if she spoke first, the room would orient around the direction she initially provided.”


The final lesson was learned throughout the entire event as each speaker agreed that “leaders focus on others.” They categorically stated that an individual only becomes a leader when they stop focusing inward and start focusing on others.

“A leader is not born when they become a CEO or are appointed to lead a team,” Thain-Blonk added. “Instead, a leader is defined by an ‘others orientation,’ and that can start today, regardless of who the individual is or what position they hold.”

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Aug 11, 2017 by

Oxford MBA Receives Emmy Nomination for Amanda Knox Documentary

Amanda Knox Producer

Learning about the business side of filmmaking isn’t one of the more common reasons to pursue an MBA, but it’s exactly why Stephen Robert Morse attended Saïd Business School at the University of Oxford. It was through this experience that Morse went on to produce the 2016 Netflix documentary Amanda Knox, which explores the 2007 murder of British student Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy, as well as Knox’s resulting imprisonment, retrials, and eventual acquittal. For his work, the film has been nominated for an Emmy award in the category of Best Documentary or Nonfiction Special. Continue reading…

Posted in: Alumni Spotlight, Featured Home, Featured Region | 0 comments

Aug 10, 2017 by

Cass Executive MBA Talks Israel-Palestine Elective

Cass Executive MBA

Core courses are essential to any MBA program. However, it’s the electives that can truly shape a program for the individual. For Harold Okwa, a Modular Executive MBA at Cass Business School City University London, one elective course that stood out was Innovation & Technology in Israel and Palestine.

In a blog post titled “When Innovation is your Only Option,” Okwa explains his choice, saying, “In my opinion, the Israel-Palestine elective was most thought provoking, and it discredited everything I ever knew about the region; Israel using its ‘obsession’ for security to secure itself from its Arab neighbor nations, to Palestine coming to terms with their current realities, both resolving their issues by use of innovation and entrepreneurship to better their future.”

One unique aspect of the elective is that the class took place on the ground in Tel-Aviv and Palestine for a week. For the first three days, Okwa and his classmates visited various companies and organizations throughout Tel-Aviv including the Peres Centre for Peace, the Bridge (Coca-Cola’s accelerator program) and 83 North (a venture capital firm).

“Another exciting part was the panel discussions, where we met a group of female entrepreneurs, angel investors, and different co-founders who were are at various stages of their start-up journey,” Okwa wrote. “These were very enlightening and educational experiences.”

Then, the class traded their Israeli tour guide for an Arab Palestinian guide and they left the West Bank border of Israel to visit Ramallah. For Okwa, it was a stark change. In Ramallah there was no 3G mobile Internet and thanks to subtle changes in roof tops and car number plates, he felt like he had “gone back in time.”

Still, the class met with numerous stakeholders in the technology and innovation ecosystem including co-working accelerator spaces, financial institutions such as the Bank of Palestine, entrepreneurs, and even politicians.

“The highlight of Palestine was visiting Rawabi city, and meeting with the man behind the vision, Bashar Masri, who didn’t hesitate to give us his thoughts on how Ramallah is doing business, his quest to bring development to the people of Palestine, and his thoughts on Israel,” Okwa said.

At the end of the trip, Okwa came back with a unique perspective. He was impressed by how both Israelis and the Palestinians used innovation and technology in an attempt to better their own lives. And, he even got some advice on how to utilize “waste” in his real estate business Vestates as well as how to improve his mobile application for his startup, Jetseta, a luxury transportation app. How a commercial luxury app helps ameliorate one of the world’s most pronounced conflicts involving an often-accused apartheid state remains to be seen, but Okwa’s optimism is strong.

“One of the main takeaways from the elective, is how optimism and innovation have acted as catalyst to the development of both Israel and Palestine (especially in the case of Rawabi city),” Okwa said. “In the words of the late President Peres ‘Optimists and Pessimists die the same way, but live differently.’”

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Aug 7, 2017 by

MIT Sloan Hosts 6 Women’s Week Events for Female MBA Candidates

MIT Sloan Women’s Week

At MIT Sloan School of Management, advancing women in leadership is a core commitment. For starters, the student-led group MIT Sloan Women in Management offers female MBA students a range of opportunities to help propel their careers. Sloan also puts on an annual Women’s Week to showcase for prospective female applicants what the Sloan MBA student experience is like and the many paths its accomplished alumnae pursue. Continue reading…

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Aug 7, 2017 by

The Best Accelerated MBA Programs Available in Seattle

Seattle Accelerated MBA

When you need to earn your MBA in less than two years, some schools offer the opportunity to take an accelerated MBA path. These programs typically require full-time attendance but have been designed to be completed in twelve to eighteen months. Over the past few years, accelerated MBA programs have grown in popularity, offering MBA students who already have a background in business a chance to deepen their knowledge and skills in a relatively fast manner.

For MBA candidates living in Seattle, there are two primary accelerated MBA options. Continue reading…

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