Women Founders Who Scale Their Companies Demonstrate Pathways to Success

Learn from women in Endeavor’s network about the strategies for overcoming common challenges that female founders face.

Women entrepreneurs are building successful businesses in a range of sectors around the world. Endeavor Insight has published a new report on Women in Entrepreneurship with support from Google for Startups, which draws on a deep analysis of the women founders who have scaled their companies to better understand their pathways to success.

The story of Anabel Perez, the founder of NovoPayment, provides an example of how women founders who go on to scale their companies often gain early industry knowledge and build a strong professional network.

Perez had a prominent career before starting her own company. She rose to become Senior Vice President at Venezolano de Crédito, a prominent bank in Venezuela — a position in which she led a team of over 1,000 employees — and served as the only woman on the executive board. As a Senior Vice President, she developed a valuable network that later helped her as she launched her own company in 2004. The contacts and trust she developed at Venezolano de Crédito won her the support of the bank’s shareholders, who provided seed capital for the startup.

Through her experience with the bank she had identified a problem which needed a solution: many customers faced problems in handling cash transactions, so she came up with the concept of a payment technology company that replaced cash transactions with electronic alternatives. The company gained early success, prompting Perez to look to establish NovoPayment internationally, and she moved the company’s headquarters to Miami in 2007.

Perez had learned the value of drawing on networks when first setting up NovoPayment, and she says that networks were just as crucial when scaling the business in the United States. Perez joined professional associations and built strong relationships with local multinationals before being invited to join the Endeavor network in 2014 — a turning point for the company. Endeavor helped her build an advisory board made up of experienced entrepreneurs that have guided her through the company’s rapid growth and evolution to banking as a service (BaaS). She says that “being part of Endeavor has been one of the most positive acts that I have made in my professional career.”

The move to establish NovoPayment internationally enabled Perez to expand the company’s services beyond its initial payment solutions to offer an end-to-end digital banking platform for financial and payment services providers across the Americas. NovoPayment is now present in eight countries in the Americas, employing over 100 staff. It has more than 10,000 corporate platform users, serving more than 2.5 million end users.

Other women in Endeavor’s network are also finding success. Hande Cilingir co-founded Insider in 2012, a company that offers cloud-based tools for e-commerce sites to increase conversion rates and boost sales. Cruchbase rated Cilinger as one of the top three women CEOs outside the United States. Insider now employs over 500 people in offices in 26 cities around the world, and with over 50 percent of Insider’s executive being women, the company embodies a key finding of the study: women who go on to scale their own company often gain important industry knowledge and contacts by working at entrepreneurial companies early in their careers.

Another example comes from Courtney McColgan, who founded the Mexico-based Runa HR in 2017. She built her cloud-based payroll software firm for SMEs after gaining valuable experience as the global marketing director of Cabify, helping to scale the company across Latin America. Having overseen the development of the software for Runa, McColgan secured funding totalling US$9.5 million over two rounds to launch Runa in Mexico, and plans to expand further in Latin America. The company now has over 100 employees, and annual revenue estimated by Crunchbase of over US$1 million.

The experiences of Perez, Cilingir, and McColgan underscore some of the key findings of the report: the combination of early-career industry experience and subsequent access to networks and mentoring can be among the most important elements in being able to scale a company.

To access the full report, go to endeavor.org/women-in-entrepreneurship.