Men Who Start Companies for Women: The Rise of Pink-Collar Businessmen

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Forget about men-focused startup tech companies, there's a new breed of male founders out there. We're talking about men who launch girly businesses! More and more, men are paying attention to the female consumer. And these men say they are facing reverse discrimination with people second-guessing their motivation and qualifications...



Men Who Start Companies for Women: The Rise of Pink-Collar Businessmen
Published in Forbes, April 25 2012

The surge in “pink-collar” start-ups—businesses in traditionally feminine industries like fashion, beauty, and shopping—has been a somewhat controversial topic. Tech  reporter Jolie O’Dell  touched off a mini firestorm  last September when she tweeted that the women starting these companies were “embarrassing” her. Concern over the threat of a “pink-collar tech ghetto” was alarming enough that the organizers of last year’s SXSW Interactive conference included a panel to discuss the issue. Girly companies, it seems, aren’t very cool.

But I took up the topic last fall in my article “Handbags vs. Hard Drives,” in which I suggested that companies in feminine industries deserve a second look.

According to a 2010 report from comScore, women spend more time online than men, and they’re overrepresented in social networking, gaming, photos, blogs, and retail. Not only do women spend time online, they spend money, too—female customers make up 61% of online transactions. In a TechCrunch article  on the topic, Silicon Valley venture capitalist Aileen Lee called women the “rocket fuel” of e-commerce. “Especially when it comes to social and shopping,” Lee explains, “women rule the Internet.”

But women aren’t the only tech entrepreneurs with their eyes on female customers. From the men behind Pinterest  to the dudes who started Shoe Dazzle, smart men are defying gender stereotypes in the pursuit of great business and jumping at the chance to cash in on pink-collar opportunities.

Nils Johnson is one of the three male co-founders of Beautylish, a beauty-focused social network. What attracted three men to the female-dominated cosmetics industry? “Most engineers are guys, so they think about products for guys,” Johnson explains. “When we thought about the intersection of technology and beauty, we saw a large opportunity in a market that was significantly underserved.”

Josh Berman and Diego Berdakin are another great example: The duo took their expertise in technology and proximity to the heart of Hollywood and identified a huge opportunity to revolutionize e-commerce. The result was Beachmint, a designer-curated social-commerce site, which, until its recent launch  of a home goods vertical curated by Justin Timberlake, catered exclusively to women. “The founders never pretended to be fashion experts,” says Ara Katz, Beachmint’s Head of Creative and Partnerships. “Their strengths are in technology and operations.”

Michael Topolovac, too, learned of a gap in the market and he saw an opportunity to start a business. After overhearing his female friends express frustration about sex toys, Topolovac founded Crave  and set out to make luxury sensual products for women. “I had a vision to make a truly female-centric brand,” Topolovac says.

But not everyone thought Topolovac was the right person for the job. “There were definitely people who asked me, ‘What business do you have doing products for women?’”


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Posted by on 04/28/2012



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