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MIT Technology Review

Y Combinator’s Cofounder Talks about the Challenges of Being a Female Entrepreneur

Jessica Livingston has worked to encourage more female-led startups to join the incubator’s ranks, but she says it’s still tough for women to get funding.

April 5, 2016

Jessica Livingston, cofounder of the venerated startup incubator Y Combinator, gave an interesting interview this week on some of the problems female founders continue to face in the tech world and how this is changing.

Speaking with Fortune, Livingston said that the biggest issue female founders are encountering is fund-raising, as most venture capital investors continue to be men (in another recent piece, Fortune reported that women make up less than 6 percent of people making investment decisions at venture firms in the U.S.). Lots of female founders say they’re being ignored while investors pay attention to their male cofounders, she said. Perhaps this is starting to change a bit, though, because as she also pointed out, in Y Combinator’s last two classes, startups with female founders had the two biggest Series A funding rounds.

Livingston said that 25 percent of Y Combinator’s most recent class of startups had one or more female founders on their teams (up from 4 percent in 2011); her goal, not surprisingly, is to increase this figure to 50 percent. One way she’s working on this is by holding the Female Founders Conference, which began in 2014 and gives advice to women interested in starting their own tech companies.

As for specific women she’s rooting for, Livingston mentioned Tracy Young, the CEO and a cofounder of a startup called PlanGrid, which makes cloud-based software for viewing construction plans, saying that company has the biggest valuation of any Y Combinator graduating company that is headed up by a woman.

(Read more: Fortune, “Female Coders Are ‘More Competent’ Than Males, According to a New Study”)