Guest Blog – By Mark Voermans, Microsoft Netherlands

At the many start-up events I attend (usually focused on tech), there are typically very few female entrepreneurs presenting or pitching.

Whatever the reasons behind that (are fewer women pursuing career in ICT, or starting their own businesses?) there are an increasing number of organisations worldwide focusing either on female entrepreneurship, or women in technology, or both.

One example is BizSpark Network Partner Astia.

Founded in 1999 in Silicon Valley, Astia is a global not-for-profit organization that propels women's full participation as entrepreneurs and leaders in high-growth businesses. This sums it up:

“Astia is dedicated to the success of women-led, high growth ventures and to the eradication of the need for the organization in the next decade.”

In other words, in the modern world, we shouldn’t need special groups like this.

Finding Great Women-Led Startups

But while they are still needed, what can we do?

One example is The Next Women Pitching & Networking Evening held on November 29th, sponsored by Microsoft and organised in collaboration with Astia and Next Women Business Magazine. The format was what we’ve all come to expect –advice from mentors (including me!), pitching to an investor-led panel, insightful keynotes and networking.

But the difference was that the whole event really focused on the needs and specific challenges facing women in business. And what also stood out was the wide variety of innovative ideas – from VirtueCue’s ‘virtual queuing’ (goodbye standing in line) to Jazz Vocal’s city breaks for music fans, to joint winner Social Viper with its ‘everywhere sales and promotion’ platform.

Not surprisingly, I’m delighted that BizSpark member Autitouch was the other joint winner.

Based in the Netherlands, Autitouch supports diagnostics and treatment for children with autism and related disorders worldwide, through applications developed on Microsoft Surface touch technology and Windows 7.

Like many of the best ideas, it’s brilliantly simple and addresses a very specific market gap. I’ve been working with CEO Freena since Autitouch’s early days and it’s great to see how this start-up has evolved, particularly – as myself and my fellow judges agreed – the high calibre of Freena’s ‘investor ready’ presentation.

And in this highly competitive world, whether you are male or female, that can make all the difference to getting funded.

Congratulations @autitouch and @socialviper and to everyone who took part – here’s to the next event!

Mark Voermans

Further reading: The Next Women, Astia, Kauffman Paper: “Untapped Potential