Start Up Grind Zurich: Let’s hear it for the girls…


More and more, we hear about women in business. Be it leadership or entrepreneurship, there’s a host of content and events out there about women and their endeavours. However, there are not so many options to do something that reaches an audience more diverse than just other women, and that goes beyond discussions around flexibility and work/life balance.

A Man’s World?

I’m not so sure. It’s whatever you want it to be. But one thing I am sure about, as a woman myself, is that we have complex barriers to overcome when trying to build networks and publicise our offers.

We need a platform – the opportunity (and therefore the permission) to showcase our ideas and share our successes. We need to be accepted – firstly by ourselves.

That’s exactly what Google’s #40Forward is trying to achieve. They describe it is as ‘a challenge to startup and entrepreneur organizations to create innovative new programs to increase participation of women by 25% in 2014 in their communities’. They are giving us the stage, and it’s our turn to step on it.

Start Up and Grind

Start Up Grind, led in Zurich by David Butler and Timothy Chuma, is doing just that. Throughout May, all of the entrepreneurs who speak at the events will have one thing in common –they are women.

It’s an opportunity for us to hear more from the ladies who dare to be put in the spotlight. And who can prove that it’s ok to be quietly brilliant, no matter your age, personality, background or gender.

Man or woman, Start Up Grind is an inspiring platform for anyone interested in design, ideas, entrepreneurship or running a business. The two fireside chats I have been to have fuelled ideas and connections that I wouldn’t have expected.

Joiz TV’s Alexander Mazzaro‘s chat held at Google Zurich didn’t feel so much fireside as expected. But I also didn’t expect to hear about his approach to talent – something close to our hearts.

His philosophy of looking in less-than-obvious places for talent gives people with less-than-obvious backgrounds a chance to thrive in one of Switzerland’s coolest startups. Joiz has a new fan in me.


Again, with Mikko Alasaarel from Linko. I thought we would hear about finance, networks, business and tech guys. We did, of course. But the thing I took away was his journey of self-development.

He found his natural pattern testing what time he actually woke up sans alarm clock, and then planning his day around it. Good advice for anyone trying to live their life in a bubble of uncertainty and a finite resource of energy.


Step Up Janina Woods

Along with the brilliant Franziska Vonaesch of Frau Buchstäblich, I had the pleasure of meeting Janina Woods this week, ahead of her talk at Start Up Grind on 26th May.  

Janina is a founding partner in Ateo, a start-up based in Zurich specialising in innovative apps and games using the latest wearable technology.  They focus on virtual and augmented reality (AR) and serious games to deliver experiences well beyond the power of words and visuals.

Janina doesn’t identify so much being a female entrepreneur, as she does a being a Gamer.  Equality is the only true platform to drive change in behaviour and opinion, not distinction.  The great thing about gaming is, gender is pretty irrelevant.  In Janina’s view, the same applies in business.  She is an entrepreneur.  She’s just happens to be a woman.

Most of all, she’s a techy. She’s gamed since she was a young child and growing in this emotionally dynamic world, she knows things about AR technology and its positive effect on people that wouldn’t even enter our minds.  She sees the power of a platform like AR and gaming as key to building skills, relationships and even learning languages.  She attributes her excellent English to the online world. Now she’s tackling Japanese.

Interestingly, around 90% of female characters in gaming are played by men.  And many women play men. If that doesn’t teach us a little about the importance of detaching from stereotypes to get results, I don’t know what does.

One thing that could change to help on the path to equality in entrepreneurship?  It’s a tough question. Perception. Next time you think you know someone’s role, think twice.

As for a platform to change those perceptions – maybe Janina has that in her hands already.


Sign Up for Start Up Grind

Sign up and receive 15% discount for 8th April event with Francois Ruf (Microsoft Dynamics), former CEO of Netbreeze, using code “5brand”

For the ladies – Start Up Grind are offering a 25% discount for Janina’s chat on 26th May.  Sign up now using the code “40forward”.





Photo credits – Start Up Grind Zurich and Ateo