Female Founders: Why There Aren’t Enough & What We Can Do About It w/ Andrea Ippolito

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Statistics show that by the time most women gain enough experience, sufficiently develop their expertise or their networks, they tend to reach a family-planning milestone in their personal lives.

This, combined with the fact that women still carry most of the child-rearing responsibilities in traditional family settings around the globe, correlates with the low number of female founders in the business world.

Andrea Ippolito, CEO & Founder of SimpliFed, joins us today to look deeper into this and discuss:

- What other factors might be holding women back from starting their own companies

- Her next-level Crunchbase articles and advice on approaching parental leave for all founders

- The ups and downs of her unique journey as a female founder

- The solution-oriented approach she’s taking with Women Entrepreneurs Cornell

Check out these resources we mentioned during the podcast:

- Andrea’s first article on Crunchbase

- Andrea’s follow-up article

This discussion with Andrea Ippolito was taken from our show Startup Success. Reach out to Sarah on LinkedIn at https://www.linkedin.com/in/andreakippolito/ or visit https://simplified.us for more information.

If you want to hear more episodes like this one, check us out on Apple Podcasts.

If you don’t use Apple Podcasts, you can find every episode here.

Listening on a desktop & can’t see the links? Just search for Startup Success in your favorite podcast player.

Welcome to start up success, thepodcast for startup founders and investors here you'll find stories ofsuccess from others in the trenches as they work to scale some of the fastestgrowing startups in the world stories that will help you in your own journeystart up. Success starts now welcome to start up success. Today's guest, Andrea,a Polito, has generated a lot of buzz recently with her article on crunchbase about increasing female founders, but Andrea speaks from experiencebecause she's also the founder and CEO of simple fed, and I'm very excitedabout our conversation today, because it's so relevant and it resonates a lotwith me personally. So welcome. I'm very excited to have you here today.Well, thanks, so much for having me. Thank you thanks for making the time Iknow you're very busy, so you are a founder and CEO of simplifide. Is thatthat how you say it is that the correct pronunciation? You've, not it good goodand we'll get into that later on the PODCAST, because I'm excited about whatyou're doing there. But first I want to talk about your recent article, whichis a follow up to an earlier article, which really resonated with me and I'llget into why later. But let's talk about that because you clearly kind ofoutlined what you would like to see for more or what can you recommend for moreinspiring, more female founders in the startup ecosystem and it's generated alot of Baz. A lot of people have mentioned it to me. So if you couldjust kind of walk the listeners through it and how your experience played intoyour contribution on crunch base. Well, thank so much for the opportunity toshare what I wrote about, and so I'm a second time founder and with my firstcompany I was single and I didn't have any children and my second company. Ihave two kids and a three year old and...

...this point of five month old, and so Iam in the thick of it with having a new barn and, on my experience with myfirst company in my second company, couldn't be more different and a bigpart of that is, and just a trend that I noticed more broly is that by thetime in particular woman. But this applies to all parents, but inparticular with women by the time they knew gaff enough expertise andexperience a big enough network for better for worse, which is oftenrequired when you're developing a high growth company. You are in the baby,making stage or the family stage, and you when you don't have a family forbetter for worse. You just have a lot more free time. You can work those latenine hours. You can travel on a whim. You can, you know, be in the office allweekend, but when you have a family that just becomes more difficult and weknow after Covin nineteen that woman have disproportionately been affected,and we know from data that woman again for better for worse. Take a lot in thebrunt of child care responsibilities in this country, so you factor all of thistogether and then you look at why? There's not as many female founders andonly about two point, two percent of interfund ing going to Solo femalefounders. By the way it gets to be a little bit higher in the mid teens whenyou have a male and female pair, but nonetheless still mid teens,considering we're half the population, so it makes sense, unfortunately, thatwomen unfortunately have this. I don't want to say it to burden. I love mykids they're, not a burden, but but it all makes sense. Why often you don'tsee as many females as founders because founding a company's hard. It has somuch risk and uncertainty. Now, on the flip side, I would argue that it's agreat time to start a company because you're your own boss and you can workon problems that you care about, and we...

...know that women tend to found companiessurrounding challenges their facing, and so the that thesis of the articleis how might we support female founders? That also happen to be parents, and ifwe can do that as an ecosystem will increase the rate of female foundersand will be able to create more impact and tackle really hard societalproblems that are often impacting other women, but also we're facing all theseother large societal issues like climate tech and climate change and orin the middle of the global pandemic. So if we can get half of our populationin Ivatan, then frankly, we can tackle these crises. A lot quicker. That's sotrue, and I thought it played off perfectly with your earlier article,which I want to talk about next, because that delved intoa more aroundyou know parental Lee, which goes hand in hand with that, because femalefounders are typically at that stage where they're starting families- and Ithink before Ovid. None of this was being talked about, because I rememberI was pregnant interviewing with a founder for a remote position, whichwas very unusual at the time. But going to the interview hiding, I was pregnant,never telling him I was pregnant. Had My baby was nursing, you know textingfrom the hospital room and I pulled it off. I never told him when my son wastwo. I told him he's like wow. I had no idea, I said yes, we can do it if we'reallowed to do it and we're given the flexibility, and if it's you know thestigma isn't attached to it. You can pull off great things so, and youtouched in that you know with this article that you reference and theearlier ones. So, let's delve into that too, because you outline kind of forrecommendations around parental leave,...

...which was so fantastic, and I think nowpeople are seeing with Ovid with remote work. It's the flexibility. You canstill produce. Oh it's so true, and so you know in the article I provide thesefour recommendations and no one of them is lets. Normalized paid parentally forall founders, not just women, and the data shows that if women continue to bethe only ones taking parental leave, then by the way we'll continue to beleft behind and that's not okay and it's okay. We should create thestructures for it to be a personal choice, whether you want to take twoweeks off or six months off for three months off and figuring out the wayfinancially to make that work for a company by the way is a big part ofthat and it's one of the main drivers why a lot of companies haven'timplemented it, but at the very least, what I think we can all agree on isthat we should be normalizing paid parentally for all founders, not justwomen, because studies show that unless everyone takes paper and to leave, thenwoman will continue to be left behind. So that's one of the recommendations Ihad and by the way, that's a tall order. So, let's all as an into system talkabout ways to do that, and it's it's harder in starts by the way where Iknow what kind of funding a second recommendation is: No, let's normalize,not working a hundred hour work weeks when you have a company now. The goodnews is is that there are infrastructure now things like slackand zoom that make it a lot more flexible and I'll talk about that in asecond. But there are so many articles and there was a recent article outthere and I won't name the author in which one start up co details how theyspent every minute about thing, a fifteen minute increments of theirninety hour plus work weeks- and you know here I am- I have a five month old.I have a three year old and by the way...

I have a ton of support. I have a tonof privilege and I think it's really hard and if I think it's hard with allmy privilege can imagine what that you know unfortunately looks like forothers, and that's that's not okay in my book and normalizing, the fact thatyou have to work ninety hour work weeks. I'm sorry, that's just not feasible.For me, my daughter woke up at one am last night and then she was up again atfive, a M, and so it's just that that kind of work week is just not feasiblefor new parents in particular new MOMS, and so, if we continue to have this, bethe narrative will continue to drive mom's away from joining the entrepenship community, and so we have to be a lot more intentional how we communicate,but we also need to be a whole lot more accommodating of the needs of workingparents, and I know a lot of people will say well if you were committed,you would work ninety hours a week and whenever someone says that to me, Ioverhear it happening and conversations in the media. What have you I say? Well,that's exactly the type of mentality that has kept women and, in particular,underrepresented minorities, out of the game. So if we truly care aboutdiversity and by the way we should care about diversity, because investing indiverse individuals isn't philanthropy it's good business sense. Companiesthat are more diverse are more profitable, they're, quicker to exitand they're more innovative and study after study have proven this out, andso, if we truly care about equity and diversity, we should, and we should,because it's the most profitable thing to do. Then we need to be morethoughtful about how we communicate a third recommendation is allow for amote work in your start up. I can't tell you how many similar femalefounders or other small business owners I speak with that maybe have a digitalmarketing, company or PR group, or maybe their engineer or a fractionalCFO, whatever that looks like- and...

...there led my moms, especially MOMS withyoung kids and the reason for that is because they have this flexibility andthey can work remotely. I'm fully breastfeeding right now and I can'ttell you how being able to work remotely helps with pumping and feedingmy baby and just having that flexibility is just oh, so important,and so allowing for mote work and your start up and accelerated programs.Accelerated programs traditionally have to be in house and new during Covin.Nineteen you've seen a shift in it, but as we return to normal, hopefully thinkabout innovative models where maybe you have in person in residencies, thefirst middle and last week, so that way it's more accommodating for parents,and then you know the last annot least recommendation is think about flexiblework structures. So, on our team we called the Guinea pig. One of our teammembers are Co. She has four boys and one of her boys had to do apresentation on a Guinea pig and it was in the middle of the day, and you knowwides on the middle of the day. It is what it is, but it's in the middle ofthe day and she's like I really want to be there. I was like yeah, you got tobe there. He are important moments and they no for there forever and socreating accommodating flexible work structures, but you don't feel like youhave to need to sneak away but you're celebrating that and also creating theinfrastructure and the operating rhythms with your team to support that.And so those are for recommendations, and I definitely don't have all theanswers. Some are way easier said than others, and I put those out there tosay you know, let's all team up together to figure this out, becauseit's not just the right thing to do for society, but it's by the way, the bestbusiness decision you can do by bringing more diverse individuals tothe fold her. It's so true, I mean companies that have diverse makeup.They make better decisions right because you have different opinions.You have better conversations, and I...

...think your recommendations are spot onand I think we're all really listening right now like this is a good timebecause of covied and what the pandemic kind of forced, remote work and peopletaking leave, and you know flexibility because your child didn't have schoolto go to and your nanny was exposed to coved and it forced those things, andso people saw okay. This can work. So I want to get into your experiencebecause it's fabulous and it really lends itself to we these articles andhow you came up with these recommendations. Before we get intowhat you're doing now, I thought I read and you just reference this. You had ascheduling like start up correct that a health plan bought out is. Am I correcton this? Was that your first venture? Okay tell us a little about thatbecause that's I mean that's a success and everybody loves a good successstory, yeah. So the first company I cofounded- and it was led by my amazing,Co, founder Chris Moses, who is the CO or cel rather so that was a predictive scheduling out of algren.That predicted no shows to medical practices and the idea behind it wasone and five patients now show to their medical appointments. This is causinghuge access issues and what ends up happening in medical practices is thatthey double or triple book. These appointments lots blindly because theyneed to ensure they have access to care for their patients and so the as welike to call them the scheduling Ninjas would they would double and triple bookto be able to still have access at their clinic. But then what ends uphappening because they're doing it blindly without inform data. Then oftenall the patients with job at once and then you'd be sitting in the waitingroom for a while, and then the providers get really burned out andthat's not good for anyone, and so what we did as we had a predictive algorithmthat was able to identify patients that...

...were likely to no show as an example.Twenty four year old, males on Tuesdays that were booking fall, appointmentswere likely to know show and so that in followed appointments in general,people are likely to know show because they, you know, think they're betteroften they're not, but they think they're better. And so we were able topredict these no shows and then the the intervention is not just double bookingthem. But then surging extra support to them, whether that's more appointment,reminders and then after three or four appointment reminders and text andcalls. If no one is responding. Then we what we would say you intelligentlydouble book and that way, you're still allowing for that appointment slide andusually it's for a sick patient that needs to be seen urgently. Okay, and sothat was the the pites behind smart scheduling, which we later renamedarsenal health, and that was then acquired. Many many moons after that bya then a health which is a health it company, and so that was such a funjourney and I highly recommend folks, with their startup journeys to just toto get going and moving in Groun. But before that I was the first employee inanother company that was founded by my former boss at Boston, scientific andhe had me come in and help support him as his first employe, and that was myfirst true entrepreneurship experience and so any time I'm talking withstudents or folks early in their careers. I say just get in there andget involved because you'll learn a lot both actively and passively, and sothat first experience and the company was called to paramedic Al was when Igot to see what started off life was like a d, an impact it can create. Itsounds like both Itsen gave you so much information and insight on. You knowfounding a company and what not so tell...

...us about what you're doing now, and youknow how it's the journey's been, because not only do you have littlekids, you've had ovid and and walk us through that, because it's been a veryinteresting time for startup founders. It has well so my current company thatI found it is called simply fed and simply fed. Our goal is to increasesupport to new parents surrounding baby feeding and the reason founded. Thiswas based on my own personal experience with my first daughter May may was bornearly. She was born under weight and I had tremendous tremendous difficultiesbreastfeeding and I wasn't producing enough, and I wanted access to moresupport and and my background before this is, I actually did research at Mitas part of a team for the chair and the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the theresearch I was doing. There was on Telaba oral health systems of care forservice members faced with post traumatic stress, and so this wasalmost a decade ago was doing research on how to use, tell health systems toincrease access to care and so fast forward. When I had my first daughterand needed access support, I live in a more rural area and as a new parentyou're terrified to leave your house. This was by the way before Covinnineteen and just saw this match of the same pain points that I was observingin the military, with meeting access to care and surging tellement AL healthcare, support to service members, space with post, dramatic stress and bettertaking advantage of providers that were are saying urban settings and surgingthat support to rural settings or off hours. Whatever that looks like sotaking that same mindset and approach and bringing that to increasing accessto baby feeling support in particular, breastfeeding support and so launchsimply fed, which I've got to tell you now that I'm a user of it and now I'mexperiencing this pain. Point again, my...

...breastfeeding duration is just oh, somuch better. This time and you know who knows it's not a proper controlledexperiment, but by getting more ongoing access to support through our tellanplatform and just lactation support in general. I know that it built myconfidence, but help me trouble shoot, and so this simply fed model is that welove to start working with pregnant parents, educating them on their babyfeeding options, whether that's pressmen, Combo, feeding or formulafeeding more judgment free used formula with both of my kids and right now, I'mfully breast meaning, but I had to supplement the beginning and what welike to do during predacity, educate parents on their options and you makingsure you order that pump it's by the way covered by insurance and then afterbabies born we search support via tellaheens. We like to start workingwith parents within forty eight to seventy two hours of when babies bornand and we surge that support during these critical moments that matter,such as those first two weeks, helping trouble shoot while before your supplycomes in because it takes three to five days as issues arise like mastitis ormilk lubs and all the fun that comes along with those. During thattransition back to work, we know is a big moment that matters and then,lastly, during weening, and so we provide this ongoing support to helpincrease both breastfeeding initiation and duration. But we do so judgmentfree and whatever option you decide to choose and the fun back here is thatthis is a covered benefit according to the affordable characte. So it's thelaw of the land to get this covered by health planes, but not many people. Iknow that and be there are sometimes a lot of barriers that are put in placeto prevent a mom's, in particular, from getting access to breastfeeding andchess meeting support, and so we work to short circuit that and surge thatsupport and really support, MOMS and...

...babies together. This is fantastic andyour perfect example of why we need female founders, because this is such ahuge need. I had premature twins went through all these struggles. Can't tellI mean I think every friend called female colleague I know has storiessomething that people don't understand. Is You don't want to lose your leave?Your House, like even take ovid out of it, because I this was way before Ovidyou just you're, just not in that mindset. You have a new born at home,and so I just remember, you've just struggling all alone and so to havethis and then it's covered. I mean this is fantastic. I this is, I mean, I'mexcited about this and plan on doing some relatives. Just on that alone, Imean this is great. This is such a need. So how has the so you mentioned? Youlive in a rural area, so that's one of the things that we're seeing across theboard with every VC founder conversation. We have it doesn't matterwhere you live anymore. You know you're getting funding you're getting interestin investment through what has your founder journey even like the past year,because I know you guys. Congratulations just closed somefunding, so you've had success there. I think that would be interesting to hearabout yeah. Well think so much and you know we're in the middle of a tragedyright now with Covin nineteen, but there is some silver linings ofpractices that have been catalyzed here that I hope say around, and one ofthose is I just, as you mentioned, close our precede round and being ableto raise our entire precede round without one in person meeting as I waspregnant for a big chunk of it and then the other trunk of it. I had a new bornlove been having a three year old, and...

...so the idea of like circumnavigatingthe country is that a word or I feel like I'm yeah. No, no, the ability toto not have to travel and not to mention to what you said earlier. Theability to raise be a zoom and not have to frankly disclose that I was superpregnant or that fact that I was you know pumping in the middle of many perno shout out to spectre to which has a super quiet motor so to do zoom callswith it just made a huge difference and so being able to do that remotely wasjust. I mean I can't express enough how much easier that made my fund raisingjourney. Was it still hard heck yeah? I mean I think I must have pitched ahundred investors and I got about a yes is and and by the way, I'm supergrateful for those investors. So like shout out all of you and the ability todo it remotely made a huge difference, and so I hope that that's here to day I get itwhen a bigger check is being written, then in person is great, and but thereis so much that can be done remotely and I'm hoping these practices are HersDay. And you know, as you said, I'm in a I live in Itica York, which is aamazing place to live and- and I love living here and that just made it awhole lot easier and I didn't feel like I needed to live in one of the coastsand there's, unfortunately, some bias from people that aren't in the coast,and I think that's unfortunate, because people are not taking advantage of thefull population and the diversity and not just gender or racial or ethnically.But in socioeconomic, but also in geographic diversity, as well in thepain points that can come out of that. So true, and I'm glad that you know youwent through the experience with the zoom pitches and it was successful.We've heard we've heard stories from...

...vcs on the other side. You know thatthey've been cliches and it's been difficult so, but they still want toembrace it. So I hope, like you mentioned, it continues and I'm glad itwent well what's kind of on the horizon for your company, like what are youfocused on for the rest of the year and next year, yeah. So what we're focusedon a first and foremost, is continuing to implement and scale our platform sothat yone's interested come and check us out at simply fed. That's SI m P. L,I fed dot US come check out our platform sign up for an appointment,we're also highly focused on partnering with Health Plans, because this is acover benefit, and so we like to work with them as much as possible and, inmy background, is in health care. It and health care ecosystems, and sofurther imbedding ourselves into health care, ecosystems, and so we're veryfocused on implementing and scaling ouur platform and gearing up for thenext Rey. Soon. That's so exciting, that's great, and before I let you go,I did want to touch on one last thing, because I know you work with in a womanentrepreneur group through Cornell. Is that correct? Can you just briefly talkabout that because I think, for you know the younger listeners he we foundout. We have a lot of people that listen to the you know, start upfounders, kind of the aspirational and what you're working on there. I thinkit would be really interesting to hear yeah well, thank so much for theopportunity so before simply fed- and I still teach a class is, I'm a also afaculty member at Cornell University and the College of Engineering and inone of the things yeah, Oh Gosh, I love teaching, and one of the things that Ihad noticed- and this is part of founding simply fed- is that at cornalparticular we actually have pretty good gender diversity and a lot of our Angepreneurs IP programs. But what I had noticed is that there wasn't as manystem women in particular that were...

...pursuing entrepreneurship and eventaking out the Sawman in talking with a lot of students, both Undergrad andGrad. Is They, you know, had an idea and they wanted to work on it a littlebit more. It wasn't quite ready for prime time or to be sharing it publiclyand they wanted to do some more work before they shared it out there, and itnow goes back to the the data that people highlight is that no woman willonly apply for a job when they're a hundred percent qualified, when menwill tend to apply when they meet. You know sixty four ish percent of thequalifications, and so I just kept hearing this time and time again bystudents that or a woman in our in our classes and so wanted to create on rentprogram to help increase exposure to entrepreneurship, but also give thisface for a woman to try on their ideas for size, iterate on them test theirhypotheses, but also arm them with some of the fundamental building box ofstarting a company. Knowing that you need always need tailored mentorship,especially when you're founding your first company, and so we created thisprogram called we cornell or woman, entrepris cornel and we've heard of acouple. Other universities do playing similar models and what it is is an onRam Tur, other entrepreneur program. So we're not trying to cannibalize the thewoman in our existing programs but increase exposure, introducing them torole models. We know representation matters and so being able to see womenthat were in your shoes or near peer matters, and what we do is go throughtwo phases: we introduce them to role models. We have ideation work crops, wetalk about entreprenant and different types of companies and Orazai NS,whether that's a for profit, whether that's non profit in what all thedifferent iterations between and face to the program. We have them testhypotheses running their business model and go talk to customers and do thatearly stage. Customer Discovery. We...

...talk about intellectual property andindeed mystify that we talk about fundraising, basics. I mean I'll, bethe first one to say that you know I was over confused about. What's thedifference between a safe and a convertible note, and why is it calleda note and risit converting? And you know what are all these like mishmashof terms men and so what we try to do is demystify the fundraising process.As an example, we introduce them to a mentor. We coach them on pitching andin this way it gives them access and exposure and allows them to try anentrepreneurship for size and not that you have to go and start a company, butyou, but you can or you can use these entrepreneurial mine sets and practicesand working in large companies, and I have a very rurally torly backgroundwhere I'm by medical engineer. But I was a scientist at a medical devicecompany and then I found it comaunded my first company and then I went towork in government and then I worked in. You know all academia as a fatty. So Iworked in a whole variety of settings, and so you can use entrepreneurmindsets in all those settings and just demystify ing that as well, that youcan start internal projects using the same start at mindset, and so this issomething that I believe in very strongly that we need to increaseexposure. I'm an engineer because my mom's an engineer and my dad's anengineer, and you know they're the famous quote out there by by that, butthat's out there. You know you can't be what you can't see and and I'mforgetting the author right now, so I ought to put it now, but we we yes, yes, that's a perfect number, the scenarioyes yeah and so increasing exposure matters, and and that's our our realgoal with the wee cornel program. It's so true exposure and learning in a safeenvironment, because I feel like a lot of times as a woman, I've been afraidto ask the question: You know in a room full of Mene and so to learn in a safeenvironment and then also to have...

...access to mentors and role models. Sokey. When I look back at success in life, there were mentors around me.That's I love that you're doing that one more time. Where can listen? Howcan listeners reach you and then one left, the URL again for your companywebsite, I just want to remind listeners, is covered. What anincredible benefit. I'm going to tell a few cousins. I know with the young kidsthat are stride struggling right now with breast feeding. So if you couldleave us with that, this is so great. Yeah, well thanks so much for theopportunity to share our mission, missable fed and come check us out atsimply fed dot us. So that's S. I M P L, I F E D, Dot us or feel free to DM meon twitter and at Andrea K. I bellido ippolito got a lot of bowels and sofeel free to dem on twitter, or I come check us out on our website, because wewould love to support you awesome. Thank you so much thanks for being heretoday. I help to talk to you again down the road. I can tell you have a longline of success in front of you thanks. Everybody for being here by you've, been listening to start upsuccess to make sure you don't miss out on future episodes subscribe to theshow in your favorite podcast player. Like would you hear tap the number ofstars? You think the show deserves an apple podcast for more tools andresources for your own start up. Success check out berkely associates.Thank you so much for listening till next time.

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