This article is part of the GenderNet Campaign, supported by the Changemakers Project: Youth, Technology and Innovation to End Violence Against Women and Girls in Asia and the Pacific (2021-2023) with the generous fund from the Government of the Republic of Korea, through the Ministry of Gender Equality and Family.
Empowered women empower women: A story of a female tech founder
Author: Dea Amira, 30 for 2030 Network Member
There's no denying the realities of starting a business are challenging especially when you are running a technology company. You've got rapidly evolving innovation to keep up with, fearless competition, and an insane working schedule, not to mention the overall uncertainty that always comes with founding a tech business: "Will my idea even succeed?” or “Will I be the next Whitney Herd [Bumble founder]?” These are the questions I asked myself at 24 years old back in 2018, the year before I started my own company.
At that time I was working for a venture capital firm based in South-East Asia and was meeting with countless tech start-up founders from a range of industries: logistics, e-commerce, beauty, fintech, real estate, and more. And they came from very rigorous backgrounds and excellent experiences. Back then, as a venture capitalist, my most rewarding experience was talking to founders. Great founders are true gems, highly passionate individuals, and problem solvers willing to do whatever it takes to make their objectives come true. By doing so they are also creating an impact on the environment and the community they serve.
"I was blown away by the working environment she had created, a room full of young women driven to help small businesses thrive.”
— Dea Amira, 30 for 2030 Network Member
One highlight of my experiences was talking to a Chinese female founder in 2018, who had created a fintech service that provides small loans for businesses in South-East Asia. In less than three years her company had grown to more than 500 employees, and millions of small businesses in the region were using her service. When she invited me to her office I was blown away by the working environment she had created, a room full of young women driven to help small businesses thrive. In fact, 90 per cent of her employees were female, with even the C-level positions filled by females. It was a very rare situation, I’d never seen anything quite like that in a tech space back then. Through her, I’ve learned that women in tech are thriving and able to lead a successful company.
In 2019, I decided to resign from my job and embarked on a new journey as a start-up founder. I created a tech company called Rentique an Indonesia-based mobile app for fashion rental services. The idea was very simple, giving women access to almost unlimited items via a “closet in the cloud”. Our mission is to empower women to feel confident about themselves by wearing beautiful clothes so then they can lead the amazing life that they deserve. Every day I wake up with gratitude, knowing that I have a beautiful mission to carry on to improve women’s self esteem. We are the pioneer of mobile app-based fashion rental services in Indonesia. Our technology enables users to rent from 38 provinces in the country and get the item in one day, leading us to win Indonesia’s “Google Play Best Hidden Gem in 2020”.
But being a founder is not all glory: Running a start-up as a female founder is a wild ride: equal parts exciting, terrifying, rewarding, and disappointing. I’ve to teach myself how to code, deal with app crashes, analyze the data, and find solutions. I always joke to my co-founder: Kathy, that having a start-up is like having a baby who never grows up. Every day you will face different challenges.
Once in 2020, the company received a strident complaint from a user due to delayed delivery. She was in distressed and urgently needed the dress for her engagement the next day. It was 11 pm and I was hospitalized, on a drip. I had to call each division of the shipping company. Thirty phone calls later I had solved the problems from my hospital bed. I know you might think this is nuts, and I would also not recommend you to do the extra mile as I did back then. But I just want to show you that running a tech business is not all rainbows, you have to go all in, and it’s an incredibly tough grind. But in the end, it was all worth it, the next morning our user gave beautiful reviews on Rentique socials, and was very thankful for the service. She sent us amazing engagement photos and said that Rentique saved her life. Knowing that my business has impacted someone’s life really brings tears to my eyes. Indeed breaking the mould might not be easy, but being a female-preneur is incredibly rewarding.
"Our mission is to empower women to feel confident about themselves by wearing beautiful clothes so then they can lead the amazing life that they deserve”
— Dea Amira, 30 for 2030 Network Member
Additionally, as a female founder you need to understand people and what motivates them. Whether it’s the co-founder or the first employees, those first people in the office are going to be so critical to the success of the business, but they are going to be there for different reasons. It’s up to you to develop the managerial experience to understand their needs as individuals and make that fit with the company goals. In Rentique we always prioritize the need of our teams and users, our team now consists of 98 per cent female employees, We currently have 100,000 users who are 99 per cent women, 300+ women designers, and 200+ women artisans.
To summarize, it might almost be a cliché to quote Oprah Winfrey, but she certainly understands success. Her statement: “don’t worry about being successful but work towards being significant and the success will naturally follow,” certainly applies to entrepreneurs of all kinds. You need to be willing to continue to learn, adapt, and do what you need to in order to build up those around you. If you can have a great reputation from day one, and attract great people, then you’re putting your start-up in a great position from the outset. It’s not easy to do any of this, but the rewards will speak for themselves.