Over five years ago, Fellow Funders decided to bet on equity crowdfunding for several reasons, for example, the democratization of access to funding. It is undeniable that there is still a gender gap in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Along our journey, we had the opportunity to meet brilliant women entrepreneurs who challenge the current paradigm every day.
To celebrate Women’s Day, we are pleased to give a voice to all of them. We thank Elena García Armada, CEO of Marsi Bionics and one of the Spanish scientists of the moment, for representing all women through a must-read interview in which we discussed her entrepreneurial activity and the role of women in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.
What inspired you to become an entrepreneur?
In our case, Marsi Bionics was born as a spin-off of the CSIC. We started a pioneering research project to apply robotics to gait problems in children. By the end of the project, we realized there was a need that technology could solve. Marsi Bionics was born to transfer all this knowledge to society and develop technology that could be useful for families in need.
According to the GEM report, women in Spain and Europe accounted for 19% of all entrepreneurs in 2020. However, the number of women entrepreneurs amounts to 27% outside Europe. What reasons do you think this may be?
There is a cultural issue. Entrepreneurship and the business world are one more sector in which inequality is palpable. For this reason, all of us women who lead business projects need to be visible and serve as a lever for this cultural change.
Unlike other funding sources, women are more likely to succeed than men using the crowdfunding method. Which do you think the reason is?
It may have to do with crowdfunding being the most democratic way to get funding. What matters is the project and the idea, not the gender. It is a fact that women-led companies receive less funding. However, even when male-led companies receive up to 34 times more investment, the recovery of that money, the investment profitability, is higher in those run by women. Therefore, it is clear that the situation does not derive from any empirical basis.
What would you recommend to entrepreneurial women who are about to present their projects to potential investors?
I advise them to have two virtues: self-confidence and resilience. Confidence in themselves, in their project, in their ability to lead it, and resilience not to give up when the doors close.
You have recently been awarded the Talgo Award for Professional Excellence for Women in Engineering and the Women to Follow Award. What do you think about these awards for women?
I am very grateful for every recognition I receive. These awards are always crucial to support our work, effort, and sacrifice. The awards that highlight female leadership or female research help give important visibility that hopefully will make the presence of women in scientific-technical or business fields less and less infrequent.
You were also chosen among the ten most brilliant Spanish scientists of 2016. In fact, you were the only woman to enter this list. Do you consider that your female colleagues’ work has the recognition it deserves?
I think recognition should be given to good scientific work. Many women in many fields are currently demonstrating that the content is what matters in science. In our case, however, the effort has to be doubled. It is harder for us to have our merits recognized. We have more burdens to overcome. We need to fight inequality to be equally recognized for the same effort. The glass ceiling is very present in the field of research. We encounter more obstacles to moving up the scientific ladder. The higher the ladder, the fewer women.
Next year, Marsi Bionics will be celebrating its first decade. What do you take away from all this time? What are your expectations for the future?
I choose my team of people, the heart and backbone of Marsi, who have trusted me as a leader and have believed in a disruptive project. People who have joined forces have the energy, and resilience to push it to what seemed like infinity. People who managed to transfer to society a worldwide unique device that improves the quality of life and life expectancy of children with pathologies that affect their gait. For the future, the goal is to achieve precisely that: the democratization of exoskeletons. Beyond all this, we want to advance further in our developments. We want Atlas 2030 to be much more than a rehabilitation device. We want it to be a walking aid that can be used in a domestic environment, where we can make a significant leap forward toward effectiveness. Children will be able to move around on their own.
Once again, Fellow Funders wants to thank Elena for taking the time to represent women in the field of science and entrepreneurship so successfully. Also, we would like to invite all potential female entrepreneurs to take the plunge! The glass ceilings and closed doors are still there. However, as long as there are open doors, there will be reasons to fight and start a business!