#004 - The art of fitting in while standing out

For female founders it's always a double-edged sword

BFFs is a bi-weekly email for Asia’s female founders around resources on growing a business, cultivating friendships, and funding opportunities. Brought to you by Chief Best Friends, a podcast helping women succeed in work and business through meaningful friendships.

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For women, we know all too well the double-edged sword that we’re dealt with. As professionals, entrepreneurs and founders, this becomes even more apparent in the workplace.

Some will mistake our niceness as a weakness. Our assertiveness as being bossy. Our having children as a liability to engage at work.

Heck, even a ring on a finger can elicit so many assumptions. Here are some examples but it’s worth reading the whole thread here.

Of course, as women, we learn to adapt. We learn to quiet our voice, to not rock the boat, to lean in and to play small. It’s our way of fitting in.

As much as we want to believe that our gender has no bearing on the type of challenges a founder encounters, it’ll be remiss to think that those challenges don’t manifest differently.

There’s a lot to unpack here, for sure. But I want to leave this here because it’s worth thinking about and mulling over. We’ll discuss this a bit more in the next issue.

For now, enjoy the resources below.

~ Niki


Business

  • How to build bigger things. Managing a team is hard and this gets even harder when you’re building your own company. It’s easy to fall into the trap of wanting to do everything yourself or getting everyone to run things by you. But as your business scales, you need to be able to scale yourself, your knowledge and your time. I always come back to this article about giving away our legos as a reminder that “giving away responsibility — giving away the part of the Lego tower you started building — is the only way to move on to building bigger and better things.” Extra credit: Read the 5 levels of delegation. Ideally, you should be delegating to at least Level 3 and above.

  • How to better manage a team. Now that you’ve given your legos, one of the common pitfalls that founders fall into when managing a team is coming to the rescue when they call for help. This is counter-productive and can only hurt you and your business. When you’re the one thinking through all the problems, you’re teaching your team members to not think for themselves.

  • How to hire top talent. Even if you’re in the early stages of your company, it’s always good to know how to hire great talent. The hiring process can be long and time-consuming so need to be on the lookout, regardless. The Twitter thread below is chock full of advice and a great place to start.

Friendship

  • Want to know if we can be friends? There’s a quiz for that. This Compatibility Assessment from Kat Vellos is a great place to suss out a potential friendship but I think it’s also a great place to find out if a person is a great person to work with. I always believed that we should work with people we like, and most often than not, they make good friends too.

  • Is that friend bringing you down? One of the upsides of moving to a new city and leaving all my friends behind is that I realise which ones are the keepers. There are some relationships that we inherit over time and not realise that it’s no longer working for us. If we’re lucky, we can call it growing apart, sometimes it’s more toxic than that. Here’s how to know the difference.

  • The friendships within Southeast Asia’s VCs. This is a little off-the-cuff for this section but I thought it’s quite interesting to see the hidden alliances in the VCs for our region. Why is this important? Say, a startup raising money from a seed investor would have a better chance of raising follow-on money from like-minded funds and vice-versa.

Funds

  • How many female VCs are there in Southeast Asia? Not a lot. This report by DealStreetAsia shows that of the 218 VCs, only 17% are female. To understand how we can support more female founders, then we need to follow the money, and unfortunately, a lot of that money is with VCs whose gatekeepers and check signers are majority men.

  • How many female founders got funding in Southeast Asia? There’s no official report so I’ve started capturing the data and adding a gender lens to it. Right now, I’m working my way backwards and have an interim snapshot of the deals and funding rounds announced from June to August 2020. You can see the data below and I’m hoping to have a larger dataset by the time I send out the next issue.

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