As the second of the series ‘Where are the female web heroes?’ I describe the situation in the UK, where as of 2003, a rise in female-owned net ventures have been seen. The government’s newly formed Women’s Enterprise Task Force seeks to encourage female enterprise across the nation to help close the gap in female entrepreneurship between the US and UK. Because, although the number of women-owned businesses has recently topped one million, the rate of female start-ups in the US is much higher. Also, with girls outperforming boys at school some predict that by 2020 the majority of UK millionaires will be female.
The UK female entrepreneur is in her early 30s, tech savvy, well connected and thrives on risk, according to a survey by Aurora, the UK’s largest business women’s network. This network is owned by Glenda Stone, who herself won the Blackberry Best Women in Technology. One of the women who fits this profile is Martha-Lane Fox, co-founder of Lastminute.com. As the time she stepped down at 31 years, the share price had recovered from the dotcom crash valuing Lastminute at £667m. In 2005 she sold the company to travelocity.com, of which Michelle Peluso is the CEO. In those days also Julie Pankhurst of Friends Reunited sold her company, to ITV.
For most Internet female entrepreneurs in the UK, entrepreneurship appears to be a mid-life choice. Between the ages of 35 and 50, women leave successful careers to start their businesses. They are driven by innovation, a strong commitment to entrepreneurial ideals and autonomy in their work lives. Examples thereof are Sian Sutherland, founder of Mama Mio, skincare for super mamas, and Marcelle Speller founder of holidayrentals.co.uk, which has in the meantime been sold to Homeaway.Inc.
Female Internet entrepreneurs are mainly clustered in electronic retail and electronic community ventures. Examples of the latter are: Sarah McVittie CEO and co-founder of Texperts, an online Q&Q site, Karen Darby founder of Simplyswitch.com, an online comparison site and Ann-Marie Slavin, the Irish managing director of Opt2 Vote, an online voting system. Examples of online retail successes are: Glenys Bird, founder of lovethoseshoes.com, Bec Asthley Clarke founder of asthleyclarke.com, online expensive jewellery and Natalie Massanet of the highly successful net-a-porter.com.
Some women are serial entrepreneurs, like Karen Hanton the founder and CEO of toptable.co.uk, an online restaurant booking service expanding to Europe. I also include Xoici Birch, founder of Birthday alarm, an e-card business with 47 mio users, founder of Ringo.com and most known as the co-founder of UK’s Bebo, which was just sold to Time Warner/AOL for an amazing amount, but she is actually American.
Women in the UK make up just three percent of business angels for Internet start-ups. However, there are a growing number of high net worth women and female investors, such as the power woman Julie Meyer, co-founder of First Tuesday (sold to Yazam) and now founder and CEO of Ariadne Capital, which invested in an early stage in Skype, eBay and Zopa.