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Women Leading the Way: Insights from Vienna’s Thriving Tech Scene

A female founder talking on the phone in Vienna
Image credit: © Vienna Business Agency_Karin Hackl
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ViennaUP’23, the largest community-driven startup festival in Central and Eastern Europe, is fast approaching. From May 30 to June 7, 2023, the event will showcase the vibrant and diverse tech community in Vienna. The festival’s international orientation is evident in its tremendous success last year, with over 10,000 participants from 67 countries attending 60 events around Vienna. This year, the nine-day experience is powered by the collaboration of 30+ program partners, offering 50+ opportunities to network, pitch, invest, and build. While all events promise to be very interesting, today we will explore the festival’s special focus on female-led businesses and closing the gender gap in tech. 

We’ll look at Vienna’s women in tech success stories and share insights from some of the most influential women in the industry, starting with Daniela Haunstein, Managing Director at Austrian Angel Investor Association, and Nina Woss, co-founder at Female Founders and managing partner at Fund F.

Why Vienna is a great destination for female founders

Vienna’s thriving tech scene and startup ecosystem make it a perfect destination for women in tech. During this year’s ViennaUP event, all participating partners are devoted to championing diversity and equal representation in both the lineup and the audience. This dedication is in line with the City of Vienna’s enduring commitment to empowering women in entrepreneurship, resulting in its acknowledgment as a top location for female founders by the Startup Heatmap in 2019.

While there’s more ground to cover, remarkable advancements have been made, as women now head about 40% of Austrian companies, and over 35% of startups include female team members in their founding groups. Successful women-led startups, such as Biome Diagnostics, Revo Foods, and Robo Wunderkind, demonstrate Vienna’s inclusive and innovative atmosphere.

Daniela Haunstein discovered her passion for angel investing at a female investors lunch: “I was immediately infected by the positive spirit. I enjoyed being surrounded by innovative, trailblazing, inspiring people and with an investment you can decide which problem you want help to solve, whom you want to support and work with and thus contribute a little bit to shaping a future we want to live in.” 

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daniela haustein
Daniela Haunstein, Managing Director at Austrian Angel Investor Association

Vienna is ranked as the city with the highest quality of life by Mercer Consulting and the most livable city by Economist Intelligence Unit’s Global Liveability Index. The city also uses a gender lens when planning new developments to create spaces and infrastructure catered to the needs of women. With over 60 projects completed with this female-centered approach, Vienna provides an environment that supports women in tech.

The impressive growth and success of new ventures in Vienna can be attributed to more than just access to capital. The local ecosystem is robust, providing everything a new business needs to thrive. With over 65 co-working spaces, numerous startup incubators, accelerators, and access to supportive services, Vienna creates an ideal environment for startups.

Journey to success as women in tech

Daniela shares her most significant lesson: “When it comes to people, trust your gut but concerning the business do your own research, check the figures and take the advice of experienced angels. For me it was very important to have good networks, people with various skills, backgrounds and experiences who you can trust and rely on.”

Building connections, acquiring business skills, participating in workshops, attending conferences, and gaining visibility are all essential components of launching a new venture and bringing your ideas to life. Local events provide the perfect opportunity to accomplish these goals. Vienna leads the way among European cities in hosting the highest number of entrepreneurial events specifically designed for women. 

Some highlights of this year’s ViennaUP are events like the “Women Startup Competition Global Alumni Get Together,” which unites female power from 17 countries and has already birthed 620+ mentored women entrepreneurs throughout its nine years of existence. Because companies with diverse leadership perform better, there will also be an opportunity to “Find your Female Co-Founder” where startups and leaders can pitch. Gender equality is a fundamental approach in all events.

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Challenges and solutions for closing the gender gap in VC

Despite progress, the gender gap in venture capital remains a challenge.  “I think we must start by breaking down stereotypes in society.  Women should take more control of their finances and not, as in most cases, hand it over to their husbands. That requires financial literacy. Entrepreneurship and investing should get a better status in our society in general and especially showcased as an option for girls,” Daniela shares.

Female-led initiatives like Female Founders and Fund F are just a few examples of how Vienna is actively supporting gender diversity in the tech ecosystem.

Co-founder Nina Wöss shared what inspired her and her co-founder Lisa to start Female Founders and then Fund F: “Female Founders was founded in 2016 out of a need for a community that connected like-minded women in tech. We were unable to find one that met our requirements at the time, so we decided to create one.” 

Their primary focus is on gender-diverse founding teams and women who wish to build a career in the tech industry, and they achieve this by providing programs, events, and consulting services.

However, In their work with women-led early-stage startups, they noticed a significant gender funding gap. “It is clear that money is one of the most critical resources for addressing this gap. As gender diversity is integral to our mission, and both my co-founder Lisa and I have backgrounds in the investment community, we decided to launch a fund. Fund F was launched in October 2022, with a focus on investing in early-stage companies that are addressing the most significant challenges of the 21st century,” says Nina.

According to her, to create a genuinely inclusive tech community, it is essential to empower underrepresented groups such as women with access to role models, knowledge, funding, and visibility. Role models who have faced similar obstacles and achieved success in the industry can serve as inspirational figures and provide valuable guidance. Furthermore, access to knowledge and resources, including training, mentorship, and networking opportunities, can help bridge gaps and level the playing field for those facing additional challenges.

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Nina Woss and Lisa-Marie Fassl, Managing Partners at Fund F
Nina Woss (on the right) and Lisa-Marie Fassl (on the left), Managing Partners at Fund F

In addition, access to funding is crucial for startups, especially for underrepresented groups who may encounter more obstacles when securing capital. Ensuring that diverse founders have access to financial support can help close the funding gap and promote diversity in the tech industry. 

Last but not least, “increasing visibility by providing platforms for underrepresented groups to showcase their work and share their experiences can raise awareness and emphasize their contributions. Addressing these aspects will foster a more inclusive and equitable tech community where everyone has the chance to succeed and contribute,” she affirms.

Besides fostering an entrepreneurial mindset in women, Nina advises aspiring female entrepreneurs to build a strong network, attend industry events, and join entrepreneurial communities. She highlights the importance of attending events like ViennaUP’23 to connect with investors, potential customers, and fellow entrepreneurs who can provide valuable insights, support, and guidance.

For this year’s ViennaUP’23, both her team and herself are excited to connect with entrepreneurs and investors from around the region. They are eager to engage with founders and prioritize meeting startups in the early stages of their journey, providing valuable support and guidance to help these ventures thrive.

Conclusion

Vienna’s thriving tech scene, combined with the city’s dedication to promoting gender equality and diversity, offers the perfect environment for women in tech to succeed. As ViennaUP’23 approaches, the local ecosystem eagerly awaits the opportunity to connect, learn, and grow, further solidifying Vienna’s position as a global hub for innovation and inclusivity.

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