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How BOM Brabant Ventures is supporting the province’s female founders

10 min read

As a member of #Fundright you’ve shown you’re ready and willing to help build a more inclusive Dutch startup ecosystem. But creating change, especially on a massive scale, can sometimes seem daunting. According to Techleap.nl’s 2019 report on Gender Diversity in the Netherlands, mixed gender and female founded startups only received 5.7% of funding since 2008.

“I was really shocked to see the numbers. For me as a business developer, I thought, how can there be such a huge inequality? What can we do? What can we change?” said Antoine Miltenburg, business developer at BOM Brabant Ventures.

BOM, a regional development fund for the province Brabant, is on a mission to secure the province’s position as an innovative tech hub on a global scale. This means working with Brabant’s best entrepreneurial talent to help them create groundbreaking products and solutions. They were one of the first to sign #Fundright’s Diversity Statement and are leading the change with the highest number of gender diverse startups in their portfolio of any other VC in the Netherlands. But, as Miltenburg explained, with only five gender diverse startups, they felt this wasn’t enough. We spoke with him about BOM’s action plan to support and champion the female founders of Brabant.

Taking the first step: Actively looking for female founders in your community

With such a massive challenge facing us, what we often hear from new members is that they simply don’t know where to start. But, as Miltenburg explained, it can be simpler than you think. “The first step we took was to actively search for female founders in Brabant so we could hear from them.” They started out with a simple excel sheet. #Fundright’s Bidbook was a big help, allowing them to easily create a list of Brabant based startups. “That saved us a lot of work,” he said. They also contacted networks for female founders and put the word out. “We now have an active group of 15 female founders but there are still many more in Brabant, so it’s just a start.”

“For my part, I’ve learned to look differently at things and, if we take the time to listen and understand, that’s the first step to bringing down inequality.” Antoine Miltenburg


The next step: Listening and understanding

A simple search on the internet will provide a lot of very general research about the challenges female founders face. But Miltenburg believes that the best way to truly understand how you can support your local female founders is to listen.

After connecting with this group, his team started hosting a monthly peer to peer session where they could get together to share and discuss different topics. During one session, a founder shared how her company grew from zero to 100 employees in the space of three years, all while maintaining a strong company culture. Their last session was a discussion about what it’s like to present your company in front of all male investment committees and juries.

“When I look at other VC firms and startup competitions they’re mostly made up of white males. That’s why we wanted to ask these female founders about their experience. They’re operating in a world that’s still male dominated,” Miltenburg said.

As he pointed out, while outright instances of discrimination still exist, it’s the more common and nuanced instances that this awareness can help to uncover. For example, the difference in perceiving ambitious growth calculations as ‘careless’ when coming from a woman and ‘opportunistic’ when coming from a man.

That’s why misguided programs that attempt to “teach female founders how to ‘present like a guy’” fall flat.

“For my part, I’ve learned to look differently at things and, if we take the time to listen and understand, that’s the first step to bringing down inequality.”

It’s not over.

Real change is hard work. It takes time and effort, but, in Miltenburg’s view, it’s completely worth it.

“When I heard about #Fundright, my first thought was that it’s a big and complicated challenge to tackle but, if you ask me, it’s an important challenge.”

His team at BOM is now hoping to continue growing this network and identify new opportunities to support their region’s female founders.

“It still feels like a very small step, but you have to start somewhere.”

In our opinion, this is a huge step. Getting started is the hardest part and we applaud BOM for the amazing progress they’ve made and will continue to make in the future!

Check out the #Fundright blog for more great tips and best practices from our growing community of dedicated VCs.