10 Kickstart or jumpstart? Understanding
women entrepreneurs’ crowdfunding
Smita Srivastava, Pyayt P. Oo, Arvin Sahaym and Thomas H. Allison*
We have just about seven years of experience now in crowdfunding [in the United
States], including equity and debt, and about four years in the United Kingdom. And we
have, by some estimates, $33 billion worth of funding across equity, debt, and rewards
(Jason Best, Principal of Crowdfund Capital Advisors, CCA, 2016, quoted in Assenova et
Female-owned businesses and their survival prospects have been a topic of discus-
sion for a considerable number of researchers (Jennings and Brush, 2013; Justo et
al., 2015; Klapper and Parker, 2011). Prior research has identied several possibili-
ties for the disproportionate failure of female-founded ventures: lack of access to
nancial resources (for example, funding) (Fairlie and Robb, 2009), prior manage-
rial and employment experience (Boden and Nucci, 2000; DeTienne and Chandler,
2007), founding strategy (Carter et al., 1997) and entrepreneurial condence (that
is, self-ecacy) (Bandura, 1997; Wilson et al., 2007). While it is possible that lack
of prior managerial and employment experience can be compensated by train-
ing, condence and nancial resources have fewer obvious solutions (Honig, 1998;
Wilson et al., 2007). e recent revolution in funding new ventures embodied by
crowdfunding is one potential remedy. In this chapter, we focus on how condence
plays a role in fundraising attempts by women entrepreneurs on a crowdfunding
A broad consensushasemergedamongresearchers and practitioners that crowd-
funding has already established itself as an important method for raising capital
(Assenova et al., 2016; Oo and Allison, 2015). Crowdfunding involves nascent
entrepreneurs making public calls for funding via the Internet, and potential capi-
tal providers evaluating those calls and making decisions for nancing their pro-
jects (Belleamme et al., 2014; Bruton et al., 2015). Crowdfunding entrepreneurs
typically campaign for their projects and make ‘an open call, mostly through the
Internet, for providing nancial resources either in the form of a donation or
in exchange for the future product or some form of reward’ (Belleamme et al.,
Colombo et al. (2015) note that prior research has mostly discussed the nature,
characteristics and success factors of crowdfunding. For example, scholars have
tried to discern this phenomenon from other lending mechanisms such as online
charity donations, peer-to-peer lending and microlending (Afuah and Tucci, 2012;
Hildebrand et al., 2016; Zhang and Liu, 2012). As with microlending, a particular
appeal of crowdfunding is the access to capital it provides women seeking to start
or grow a venture (Bruton et al., 2011; Marom et al., 2014). As such, a growing set of
research is examining how women-led crowdfunding projects perform (Greenberg
and Mollick, 2017; Marom et al., 2014).
As with crowdfunding research in general, much of this early research on women-
led crowdfunding projects has been descriptive. us, there is an opportunity to
draw from theories previously applied to entrepreneurial resource acquisition
research in order to close the gap between what we know about the determinants of
women’s crowdfunding outcomes, and what we need to know about this phenom-
enon. To do this, we explore how a project creator’s gender, her entrepreneurial
self-ecacy and prior experience inuence her crowdfunding performance. is
question is particularly deserving of a focused inquiry, since about 40 percent of
rms in the United States are founded by women but only 6 percent of the women
founders get funding from investors (Greenberg and Mollick, 2017). Interestingly,
about 44 percent of the crowdfunders are women (Marom et al., 2014).
We address these issues through an examination of a sample of 197 woman-led
projects on the Kickstarter platform. Kickstarter, a rewards-based crowdfund-
ing platform, is the world’s largest with more than 100,000 ventures
successfully funded and more than US$2.2 billion in deal-flow. Our results
support our theory (Figure 10.1) that the entrepreneurial self-efficacy,
entrepreneurial passion and prior experience of women entrepreneurs are
associated with their projects’ crowd-funding performance. This chapter makes
the following three key contributions to the theory and practice. First, we
contribute to theory-building on crowdfunding by highlighting psychosocial
factors that could influence women entrepreneurs’ crowdfunding success.
Second, this is one of the first studies to discuss the role of entrepreneurial self-
efficacy in crowdfunding performance. Third, for practition-ers, our results
suggest that crowdfunding is a promising source of capital for women
entrepreneurs as the likelihood of success is relatively higher, compared to
seeking funds from traditional sources of funding, such as venture capitalists
208 A RESEARCH AGENDA FOR WOMEN AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP
UNDERSTANDING WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS’ CROWDFUNDING PERFORMANCE 209
Theoretical background and hypotheses
Entrepreneurial self-efﬁcacy and crowdfunding performance
McGee et al. (2009: 965) dene entrepreneurial self-ecacy (ESE) as a construct
‘that measures a person’s belief in their ability to successfully launch an entrepre-
neurial venture’. In our context, entrepreneurial self-ecacy reects a woman pro-
ject creator’s self-condence in searching for product ideas, planning for market,
motivating stakeholders, and managing human as well as nancial resources.
Entrepreneurial self-ecacy inuences the level of interest in founding a venture
which is a challenging goal in itself, persistence toward the achievement of this
goal, and recovering quickly from failure over the course of venture (Bandura, 1997;
Chen et al., 1998; McGee et al., 2009). Entrepreneurial self-ecacy also determines
levels of commitment, in terms of time and resources, needed for the search of
novel opportunities (Cassar and Friedman, 2009).
Prior research has shown that traditional nancers ‒ that is, angels, VCs and
nancial institutions ‒ make their funding decisions based on a venture’s ideas
and opportunities, founder and team characteristics, market conditions, venture
resource endowments, and their intuition (Chen et al., 2009; Robinson, 1988).
Entrepreneurial self-ecacy not only reects self-belief and condence but also
helps in the improvisation of ideas and strategies that inuence venture perfor-
mance (Hmieleski and Corbett, 2008). As such, there is ample reason to expect
entrepreneurial self-ecacy to inuence fundraising outcomes. Some research has
reported that women have lower levels of self-ecacy (Gatewood et al., 1995). is
makes examining women crowdfunders’ entrepreneurial self-ecacy even more
important since, though there is a theoretical basis for expecting an eect, it is
unknown whether a women-only study context will yield results at variance with
Displays of higher levels of self-ecacy send positive signals of condence, self-
belief, persistence and potential for future performance (Gatewood et al., 1995;
Hmieleski and Baron, 2008). Because the behavioral characteristics of belief, con-
Figure 10.1 Theoretical model on performance of women entrepreneurs in crowdfunding
210 A RESEARCH AGENDA FOR WOMEN AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP
dence and commitment have a bearing on the eective management of a project
and ultimately the project’s success (Gatewood et al., 1995; Hmieleski and Baron,
2008; Hmieleski and Corbett, 2008), we argue that higher levels of displayed entre-
preneurial self-ecacy will lead potential funders to be more likely to provide
Hypothesis 1: Entrepreneurial self-ecacy of women entrepreneurs is positively asso-
ciated with their crowdfunding performance.
Entrepreneurial passion and crowdfunding performance
Entrepreneurial passion reects ‘consciously accessible intense positive feelings
experienced by engagement in entrepreneurial activities associated with roles that
are meaningful and salient to the self-identity of the entrepreneur’ (Cardon et
al., 2009: 517). On a platform like Kickstarter, crowdfunding entrepreneurial nar-
ratives will be embedded with information about passion (Allison et al., 2013).
Passion about the crowdfunding project is reected through explicit and implicit
cues including facial expressions, vocal intonation, gestures and animated body
language (Cardon et al., 2009; Chen et al., 2009).
Prior research has shown that lenders such as venture capitalists often base a part
of their funding decision on the technical, personal and interpersonal characteris-
tics of the entrepreneur. Passion is one of key attributes they look for (Cardon et
al., 2009; Chen et al., 2009). A key reason is that passionate entrepreneurs are more
committed, better prepared and more knowledgeable about their projects (Chen
et al., 2009). ey are strongly inclined toward the activities they like and nd
important, and will invest their time and energy to make these activities successful
(Vallerand et al., 2003). Entrepreneurs who are passionate about their project signal
that they are intensely committed to their project; that they are motivated to build
the venture (Chen et al., 2009). For these reasons, prior work has associated passion
with overall performance (Cardon et al., 2009; Lerner et al., 1997). We extend this
logic and propose that the same eects will also impact fundraising performance on
Hypothesis 2: Entrepreneurial passion of women entrepreneurs is positively associ-
ated with their crowdfunding performance.
Prior industry experience and crowdfunding performance
Next, we discuss the role of women entrepreneurs’ prior industry experience on
crowdfunding performance. Prior industry experience provides entrepreneurs with
a better understanding of the key constituents and stakeholders in the product
market (for example, competitors, active investors, potential employees, suppliers,
and so on) which helps them not only in their pitching for the projects but also
in their project’s long-term success (Dobrev and Barnett, 2005; Shane and Stuart,
2002). Indeed, prior industry experience is built on hands-on practical training
UNDERSTANDING WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS’ CROWDFUNDING PERFORMANCE 211
and rst-hand learning about the technology, stakeholders and product market
(Davidsson and Honig, 2003). Delmar and Shane (2006) note that:
much of the relevant knowledge about creating a new company is learned by doing . . .
experience provides tacit knowledge of organizing routines and skills that have already
been learned from their prior activities, and which can be transferred to the new
venture. . . it provides tacit knowledge about how to run a new rm that has been learned
from prior mistakes [and] previously encountered the problems. (ibid.: 222)
We believe that women entrepreneurs’ prior industry experience will help them in
identifying both core and peripheral needs of customers. is will lead to discover-
ing associated opportunities (Kotha and George, 2012).
Although ndings are robust about entrepreneurs’ prior industry experience and
investment from formal sources, research has yet to examine the role of prior indus-
try experience in the context of women entrepreneurs’ crowdfunding performance.
Prior research has demonstrated that traditional investors such as VCs use prior
industry experience as a key consideration in their funding decisions (Franke et
al., 2008). We build on the ndings that ventures founded by entrepreneurs with
prior industry experience are more likely to secure VC funding as they show higher
growth rate and overall performance (Rauch et al., 2005; Shane and Stuart, 2002).
We believe that potential backers’ decision-making behavior will parallel that of tra-
ditional investors. We expect that crowdfunding backers will also react positively to
prior industry experience, as it is associated with knowledge, capabilities, legitimacy,
access to social networks and higher venture quality. As such, we hypothesize the
Hypothesis 3: Prior experience of women entrepreneurs in related industry is posi-
tively associated with their crowdfunding performance.
Sample and data collection
We drew our sample from Kickstarter, the largest crowdfunding site in the world.
We selected a random sample of female-led projects from three categories: gaming,
technology and product design. ese industry categories were chosen because
most projects in these categories are similar to traditional new ventures (Mollick
and Kuppuswamy, 2014). ere were two additional sampling criteria. First, we
only included crowdfunding projects on behalf of individual entrepreneurs, rather
than organizations. Second, we only included projects which had videos in which
the entrepreneur was clearly shown. ese criteria allow us to develop a sample
of only woman-led crowdfunding projects, while also providing the data neces-
sary to code entrepreneurial passion. e nal sample consisted of 197 women-led
212 A RESEARCH AGENDA FOR WOMEN AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Among the three product categories, 108 projects (54 percent) were from prod-
uct design, 51 (20 percent) were from gaming, and 38 (26 percent) were from
technology. The campaigns occurred during the period 2009‒2013. The
projects requested a mean funding amount of US$21,576. The overall success
rate is 78 percent, which is relatively high compared to the Kickstarter average
reported by Mollick (2014): 48 percent. This higher average success rate likely
reflects the positive effect on crowdfunding performance of having a video
(Mollick, 2014), and the higher chance of succeeding in crowdfunding that
women have compared to men (Marom et al., 2015).
Following prior studies (Colombo et al., 2015; Mollick, 2014), we measured crowd-
funding performance dichotomously. If a campaign meets or exceeds its goal, it is
coded 1, and 0 otherwise. Our study includes three independent variables: entre-
preneurial self-ecacy, entrepreneurial passion and prior industry experience. We
adapted McGee et al.’s (2009) established entrepreneurial self-ecacy scale. Each
item was coded on a ve-point Likert scale (ranging from 1 = ‘low condence’ to
5 = ‘high condence’). Where necessary, scales were modied to t the crowd-
funding context (Chen et al., 1998; McGee et al., 2009). e last two items of the
existing ten-item scale for entrepreneurial self-ecacy were not applicable in our
crowdfunding context; as a result, we dropped these items. Given this change, we
then checked construct validity. First, we conducted an exploratory factor analysis
with 50 projects. e results supported a one-factor solution: all eight items (items
are shown in Table 10A.1) had loadings greater than 0.60 on the factor. Internal
consistency was also achieved with α = 0.85. Second, once all data were collected,
we performed conrmatory factor analysis. e analysis indicated that we have a
sucient overall t for the one-factor model (χ² = 24.46, df = 14, p = 0.04, CFI =
0.97, TLI = 0.95, RMSEA = 0.09, SRMR = 0.04).
For entrepreneurial passion, we adopted the established measure developed by
Chen et al. (2009). Items are shown in Table 10A.2. High internal consistency was
achieved (α = 0.88). Consistent with Chen et al., we used a ve-point Likert scale
(ranging from 1 = ‘never’ to 5 = ‘very frequently’). Prior industry experience was
dummy coded as 1 if an entrepreneur mentioned that she had prior related indus-
try experience, and 0 otherwise. Coding was performed by two independent coders
for the rst 50 projects. After 50 projects were coded, interrater agreement was
evaluated. Reliabilities were high (that is, r > 0.8). Due to the high interrater reli-
ability, the remaining 147 projects were rated by a single coder (Cuddy et al., 2015).
To minimize alternative explanations, we included a broad set of controls. First,
prior crowdfunding experience on Kickstarter was controlled for (dummy coded),
under the assumption that experience may lead to a better campaign. Second,
because a team of entrepreneurs may have more resources than a sole entrepreneur
(Mosakowski, 1998), we controlled for whether the venture was launched by an
individual or a team (dummy coded, team = 1, 0 otherwise). ird, consistent with
UNDERSTANDING WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS’ CROWDFUNDING PERFORMANCE 213
prior ndings showing that internal social capital has an eect on the outcome
of the campaign (Colombo et al., 2015), we controlled for internal social capital.
Fourth, because some projects were featured as ‘sta picks’, which might give such
projects greater exposure, we controlled for whether a given project had this desig-
nation (dummy coded, featured on Kickstarter = 1, 0 otherwise). Fifth, since media
coverage can be a signal of quality, can bring more attention and can provide legiti-
macy (Deephouse, 2000), we controlled for this by examining whether a campaign
had such coverage, as reected on their crowdfunding page (dummy coded, media
coverage = 1, 0 otherwise). Sixth and nally, consistent with prior studies (Mollick,
2014), we controlled for the duration and funding goal (log transformation) of each
Table 10.1 shows means, standard deviations and a correlation matrix for the vari-
ables included in the statistical models. We checked for multicollinearity with vari-
ance ination factors (VIFs). e results indicated that the maximum value is 1.46
and the mean value is 1.18. Both are within accepted limits. Table 10.2 presents our
logistic regression models. Model 1 is limited to controls, Model 2 adds all predic-
tors. In Hypothesis 1, we predicted that entrepreneurial self-ecacy is positively
related to crowdfunding performance. Consistent with our theory, we found that
the coecient estimate is positive and statistically signicant (β = 1.029; p = 0.004).
us, Hypothesis 1 is supported. Hypothesis 2 predicted that high entrepreneurial
passion is positively related to crowdfunding performance. We also nd support
for this hypothesis (β = 0.853; p = 0.027). Finally, Hypothesis 3 predicted that prior
industry experience helps women entrepreneurs in succeeding with their cam-
paigns. is, too, was supported (β = 1.123; p = 0.046).
is chapter builds a theoretical framework for predicting women entrepre-
neurs’ crowdfunding performance. Given that women entrepreneurs are playing
an important role in the economy, and 40 percent of entrepreneurial rms are
founded by women, this issue also has immense practical implications. Our anal-
ysis with 197 female-led projects on Kickstarter from three industry categories
(product design, gaming and technology) reveal that entrepreneurial self-ecacy,
entrepreneurial passion and prior industry experience of women entrepreneurs are
positively related to crowdfunding performance. Our results are consistent with
our developed hypotheses. Our study provides support for the idea that women
entrepreneurs with high entrepreneurial self-ecacy engender more support from
potential backers through their strong self-belief and ability to tackle dicult tasks,
resulting in a successful crowdfunding performance. eir entrepreneurial passion
appears to serve as an indicator of greater preparedness and commitment, which in
turn will lead the backers to believe in their venture ideas.
Table 10.1 Descriptive statistics and correlationsa
Variables Mean s.d. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
1. Crowdfunding Performance 0.78 0.41
2. Prior Crowdfunding Experience 0.12 0.43 0.12
3. Individual/Team 0.36 0.49 0.13 −0.05
4. Internal Social Capital 2.93 4.54 0.21 0.12 −0.08
5. Featured on Kickstarter 0.23 0.42 0.26 0.02 0.02 0.18
6. Media Coverage 0.07 0.26 0.10 −0.03 0.08 0.15 0.08
7. Duration of Campaign 36.40 13.84 −0.19 −0.09 −0.05 −0.08 −0.04 −0.01
8. Goal of Campaign (Logged) 8.90 1.38 −0.35 −0.09 0.09 −0.02 −0.05 0.24 0.17
9. Entrepreneurial Self-Efﬁcacy 3.38 0.88 0.23 0.02 0.24 0.05 0.18 0.19 −0.08 0.31
10. Entrepreneurial Passion 3.34 0.74 0.28 0.11 0.15 0.16 0.13 0.08 −0.05 0.08 0.42
11. Prior Industry Experience 2.67 30.96 0.04 −0.02 0.10 −0.01 0.13 −0.02 −0.03 0.04 0.07 −0.02
Note: N = 197. Correlations with absolute greater than 0.16 are signiﬁcant at p < 0.05.
While our study makes some important contributions, it is also important to be
mindful of the trade-os we made in order to achieve these ndings. In order
to maximize the similarity of crowdfunding projects to traditional ventures, we
limited our sampling frame to those categories previously established to be most
reective of such ventures. However, future research might take a broader view of
crowdfunding projects in order to better understand the crowdfunding phenom-
enon overall. Further, we measured entrepreneurial passion manifested through
facial expressions, body movement, tone of voice and other non-verbal cues which
may overlap with impression management cues (Baron, 1989). While there is good
evidence for this type of espoused passion measure, psychometric measures of pas-
sion might provide further condence in our ndings.
Given the nearly equal representation of women entrepreneurs on crowdfunding
platforms, this study suggests some directions for future research. For example,
future studies can develop a deeper understanding of factors that may moderate
the relationship between entrepreneurial self-ecacy, passion and crowdfunding
performance of women entrepreneurs. On the other hand, it would be interesting
to explore whether female backers are more prone to fund women entrepreneurs
due to their social identication with ‘women’ (Brown, 2000), or whether male
backers are coming forward to back women entrepreneurs. Since crowdfunding
could be women entrepreneurs’ most promising source of early-stage funding, it
UNDERSTANDING WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS’ CROWDFUNDING PERFORMANCE 215
Table 10.2 Regression analysis for campaign result
Variables Model 1 Model 2
Prior Crowdfunding Experience 1.334 0.640
Individual/Team 1.452*** 1.012*
Internal Social Capital 0.307*** 0.332***
Featured on Kickstarter 3.875*** 3.350**
Media Coverage 2.523** 2.488*
Duration of Campaign −0.025 −0.024
Goal of Campaign (Logged) −1.005*** −1.453***
Entrepreneurial Self-Efﬁcacy 1.029***
Entrepreneurial Passion 0.853**
Prior Industry Experience 1.123**
N 197 197
Chi-square 82.909 105.688
*** p < 0.01, ** p < 0.05, * p < 0.1
Industry controls (dummy variables) included in analysis but not reported.
216 A RESEARCH AGENDA FOR WOMEN AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP
is important to better understand the overall role of narratives in helping entre-
preneurs to establish a relationship with backers. Future research could do this by
conducting a content analysis of the narratives used on crowdfunding platforms.
For example, it would be interesting to examine the extent to which social identity
espoused by crowdfunders impacts crowdfunding performance.
We began this study motivated by a belief in the importance of women entrepre-
neurs, and with the desire to better understand the interaction between condence
and passion in inuencing fundraising performance. Given that crowdfunding is
a promising avenue for many women entrepreneurs to access needed nancial
resources, our results contribute to both the theory and practice by showing that
high levels of self-ecacy (condence) and passion among women entrepreneurs
result in better fundraising outcomes through crowdfunding. In this chapter, we
begin to connect the dots between women entrepreneurs and access to resources
via crowdfunding. We provide an initial look at factors inuencing the crowdfund-
ing performance of women entrepreneurs. We provide a broader understanding
of entrepreneurial passion and entrepreneurial self-ecacy by examining their
eect in the novel resource acquisition context of crowdfunding. Overall, this work
is another step towards understanding how to increase the survival rate of the
women-led ventures through innovative venture funding.
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UNDERSTANDING WOMEN ENTREPRENEURS’ CROWDFUNDING PERFORMANCE 219
Table 10A.1 Entrepreneurial self-efﬁcacy rating scale
How much conﬁdence does the speaker have in her ability to come up with a new
idea for a product or service?
1 2 3 4 5
How much conﬁdence does the speaker have in her ability to design a product or
service that will satisfy customer needs and wants?
1 2 3 4 5
How much conﬁdence does the speaker have in her ability to estimate customer
demand for a new product or service?
1 2 3 4 5
How much conﬁdence does the speaker have in her ability to determine a
competitive price for a new product or service?
1 2 3 4 5
How much conﬁdence does the speaker have in her ability to estimate the amount
of start-up funds and working capital necessary to start the business?
1 2 3 4 5
How much conﬁdence does the speaker have in her ability to design an effective
marketing/advertising campaign for a new product or service
1 2 3 4 5
How much conﬁdence does the speaker have in her ability to get others to identify
with and believe in the vision and plans for a new business?
1 2 3 4 5
How much conﬁdence does the speaker have in her ability to clearly and concisely
explain verbally/in writing the business idea in everyday terms?
1 2 3 4 5
Note: * 1 = low conﬁdence, 2 = moderate conﬁdence, 3 = uncertain, 4 = much conﬁdent, 5 = high
220 A RESEARCH AGENDA FOR WOMEN AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP
Table 10A.2 Entrepreneurial passion rating scale
The presenter(s) had energetic body movements. 1 2 3 4 5
The presenter(s) had rich body language 1 2 3 4 5
The presenter(s) showed animated facial expression 1 2 3 4 5
The presenter(s) used a lot of gestures 1 2 3 4 5
The presenter’s face lit up when he/she talked 1 2 3 4 5
The presenter(s) talked with varied tone and pitch 1 2 3 4 5
Note: * 1 = never, 2 = rarely, 3 = occasionally, 4 = frequently, 5 = very frequently