Last week, CO.LAB announced our first-ever 48Hour Launch: Female Founder Edition.

Why?

Staking claim in the startup world has been an ongoing process for females. That’s not to say women haven’t already made a name for themselves as entrepreneurs, founders and investors. But we need more of them.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women own less than 30 percent of all businesses. They make up about 15 percent of angel investors and only 5 percent of venture capitalists.

Chattanooga’s recent explosion onto the startup scene shows that our city is capable of big things. It also shows that we’re no exception to the current rule: Like other major startup communities, ours is dominated by males.

At CO.LAB, we’ve seen the lack of female representation firsthand.

“More than 50 percent of our Springboard graduates are women,” said CO.LAB founder Sheldon Grizzle. “But that number doesn’t translate when you start looking at high-growth oriented startups. We’re working hard to change this because we know the talent and potential are there.”

It’s a movement that’s taking place across Tennessee: Memphis recently hosted a 48Hour Launch for women; several weeks later, women swept the competition at the Everywhere Else startup conference.

Meanwhile, CO.LAB has been working with local leaders and entrepreneurs to create a female-focused event for Chattanooga. Tiffanie Robinson, Shelley Prevost, Kristina Montague and Stefanie Crowe have helped lead the charge. The group has spent months identifying and developing a range of resources for female-led startups in Chattanooga. As a result of their collaboration with CO.LAB, 48Hour Launch: Female Founder edition was born.

“48Hour Launch does a great job of showcasing entrepreneurial talent, so it’s a natural forum to spotlight women in entrepreneurship,” said Prevost, a partner at Lamp Post Group. “There are opportunities for female founders in Chattanooga, but there’s a lack of awareness about those opportunities. With this version of 48Hour Launch, we can start to change that.”

The event is focused on female-led startups, but it’s far from being gender-exclusive: Men are encouraged to participate on the teams.

“Many people say women are more risk-averse than men,” Prevost added. “I don’t believe that’s true. I think women are more risk-tolerant. Where many men may plunge ahead, women may pause and consider alternatives. In the startup world, you need a balance between those two tendencies.”

In one sense, 48HL: FF could be considered a step toward justice and equality for women in the startup world. But it’s more than a symbolic gesture.

“We have the chance to grow the momentum we’re experiencing with our startups and entrepreneurs in Chattanooga,” she said. “Women represent an untapped market of investable concepts and potential success. We need to help them flesh out their ideas and see what they can accomplish.”

CO.LAB couldn’t agree more, and we’re proud to be a part of the movement!

For more information about 48HL: Female Founder Edition, visit: colab.is/48HourLaunch

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Photo: Tiffanie Robinson pitches her startup concept at Chattanooga’s Spring 2012 48Hour Launch. (courtesy Leslie Jensen-Inman)