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Without data, you're just another person with an opinion

This is how I started my recent Breakthrough Labs workshop on the importance of research evidence to start-up founders. It's how my former manager at the OECD used to sign his emails. It's important to remember, especially for start-up founders who are so passionate about their ideas, yet still need to convince customers and investors to buy into them.

It's also what I think about when I'm asked about Breakthrough Labs' USP. When our website and marketing materials say that what we do is "grounded in research", we mean it.

But what exactly do we mean?

Data, evidence and research are at the centre of everything we do at Breakthrough Labs. We use evidence to decide what to put in front of our female founders, to drive our decision-making and to inform the new offerings we create. In other words, our programmes and the work we do with women aren't just based on a sample of one, i.e., one person's experience as an entrepreneur and what they think start-ups need. Neither are we driven by the objectives of large, corporate institutions. We are guided by evidence.

For example, to develop the programme for our accelerator, we reviewed decades of academic research on why female founders aren't getting funded and what the research says can be done to help. We added those finding to our own, in-house research, in which we interviewed female founders who had experience pitching for funding. From those data, we developed the topics of our workshops and took that to investors for their review. Finally, we searched high and low for the best qualified people to deliver each of the workshops. The data we collect from founders after each workshop demonstrate that this effort was worth it.

We are still learning and iterating, just as the start-ups we work with are. But our evidence shows we're on the right track, and we can't wait to share our learnings to help more female founders succeed.

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