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XX chromosome a factor in success?

A boom in female entrepreneurs: More and more women are making the move to independence – even in male-dominated industries like IT. They’re demonstrating that the "risky start-up" is worth it, and showing what it takes to run a successful new business.

19 Nov. 2015

A full 13 percent of those starting up companies in 2015 were women, as reported by Deutsche Start-up-Monitor , a 2.3 percent increase over the previous year. The question of why this percentage is so low nonetheless remains. In an egalitarian society such as ours, shouldn’t the proportions be closer to 50:50?

A look at the most successful German start-ups over the past few years shows that women can do at least as well at it as men. Claudia Helming’s story can serve as an example in this regard. Back in 2006 she started DaWanda , an online platform for homemade products – and today Helming is seen as an early role model, and not just for women who start up companies. DaWanda’s 2013 sales are estimated at just shy of €20 million . Helming notes a trend on today’s start-up scene: "More and more highly qualified young women are interested in the start-up world and are shaking things up in the industry right now – and that’s good. Because there are definitely too few women here at the moment," says the Berlin resident about the disproportionately low share of women starting companies in Germany. She regards it as the responsibility of successful female start-up founders to act as role models: "Then, before too long, the Internet business can be gender-neutral too."


In 2012, Lea-Sophie Cramer, along with co-founder Sebastian Pollok, also achieved a coup with Amorelie , an online shop for erotic lifestyle articles. The business managed to increase its sales eightfold between 2013 and 2014, before being taken over at the start of the year by ProSiebenSat1 Media.

The secret behind Amorelie’s success was the notion of bringing sex toys out into the open and selling them as high-end products – which is what Cramer and her partner succeeded in doing . Cramer is convinced : "Women are wonderful entrepreneurs! The role models have been lacking until now, and many women are still somewhat more cautious and less bold than men." Furthermore, there often were no networks with connections to other entrepreneurs, incubators and venture capital providers.

That aside, she notes a change in the current start-up scene: "I think that in coming years, we’ll see a strong upward trend in the percentage of women," says Cramer, whose degree is in business administration . "The current imbalance ensures that women focus more on helping each other out, and I include myself in this."

Jess Erickson is another of these women. She is a co-founder of Geekette , a women’s network that campaigns for more women in IT . "eCommerce is in the absolute forefront when it comes to innovation," she says. "Women should not miss the chance of being a part of it." Co-founder Denise Philipp explains that there was long a huge gap between women and men in the tech industry. "For women, working in this field was not as obvious a choice as it was for men." Like Helming and Cramer, she sees a reason for this divide in the fact that there were no female role models – "and there are still too few."

Start-ups like IT security company Secomba or tech firm Webdata Solutions prove it: In seemingly male-dominated areas like eCommerce, women are successful too – it’s just that they’ve been underrepresented until now. Behind Secomba, for example, lies the software "Boxcryptor," which can be used to encrypt data in the cloud with a few clicks. This start-up of co-founder Andrea Pfundmeier was awarded the German Founders’ Prize in September of last year.

Webdata Solutions was likewise founded by three women: Carina Roellig, Hanna Koepcke and Sabine Massmann turned the results of their research study at the University of Leipzig into their own company . The startup has specialized in data analysis, developing a tool that can be used to observe, compare and dynamically calculate prices on the Internet. Today, Webdata has around 40 salaried employees. Just a few months ago, the team was awarded some four million euros to further develop its business model: On the agenda is expansion to England and the U.S .

The new generation of female start-up founders will also be making its mark at CeBIT 2016. "SCALE11," the breakfast for female entrepreneurs created by Brigitte Zypries, State Secretary for Economic Affairs and Energy, is a perfect platform for women who have started their own companies, and those who wish to do so. Here, participants will get an opportunity to compare notes, along with stimulating ideas and answers to their most important questions. And once motivated and well-informed, they need only begin! On March 14, at CeBIT, in Hall 1.

Delve into the world of Startups at CeBIT’s SCALE11 : fresh ideas, new business models, fascinating contacts, and much, much more.