Creating a Women Founders Forum for Cambridge Entrepreneurs
Choral Hub CEO and co-founder Xann Schwinn has launched a new forum for female founders which has been enthusiastically received by top female entrepreneurs in Cambridge.
Xann says that often the difference between success and failure is having someone by your side.
“What we were looking to do was create new spaces for founders,” she said shortly before a networking event at The Eagle. “Places where women hang out, which has been harder than you might imagine.
“Everyone is always very welcoming at Cambridge, but often people don’t get the support they need or think they should have had it sooner. It’s about celebrating neurodiversity. The future of evolution is like this: creating new spaces.
“Cambridge is a comfortable space if you’re successful in the system. I think as a founder the stats speak for themselves – a recent article says there are only 30 female angel investors in the UK.
“Female angel investors need to step in because women are not getting support. Or expectations must change: gender equality is what we want.
Creating the band has been a cathartic experience for Xann, whose company is currently testing the Choral Hub app, which encourages people to sing well in a fun way. The company has successfully completed the Accelerate Cambridge program and is now in “Accelerate Plus” mode.
“If anything, the article really started a fire under me,” she says of the article published in the Cambridge Independent in June, which offered a women-centric view of 10 female founders among a new cohort of 13 start-ups joining the Accelerate Cambridge programme.
“I started the Accelerate Cambridge Female Founders group. It’s a What’sApp group and once a month we have a Zoom. We talk about fundraising and what we’re trying to work on.
“It’s the same problem with all the other intersectional groups. People of color probably face a lot more opposition than female founders. If no one realizes I’m a woman I can get money but if I say I’m different and I’m not ashamed of it…other people who might have a hard time getting started their business or having trouble getting help can connect to the group. Only by working together can we create social change.
“I’m fortunate to be able to speak out on this subject, so I consider it my mission to come in and ask, ‘What are you doing to contribute to this change?’
“We need more people to step up and say, ‘I’m proud to be a woman who helps other people run a business.’ It’s also a language issue, so my mother’s generation said “we raised you to be color blind”, but that’s part of the problem. I say ‘I recognize your differences and I celebrate them and I help others celebrate them’.
“We have around 35 people in the chat group which is just in Cambridge. We are all female founders of Accelerate Cambridge. Accelerate Cambridge has around 250 founders in total.
“Things are changing. I think that’s my superpower – creating new spaces for people whose voices aren’t usually heard, especially those who don’t usually come forward.
Xann’s own backer is Andrew Hatcher, the Cambridge-based investor and entrepreneur who is also managing director of The Applied Knowledge Network.
“I asked Andrew to be my coach because people were saying my idea had no hope,” says Xann, adding: “I recently raised £500,000 and that’s what Andrew has done for me. I attribute my success to Andrew, for what he has done for me.
“It all boils down to the same thing: creating spaces for those who don’t feel supported. All we’re trying to do is show the truth – ultimately, representation matters.