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Jessica Alderson of So Syncd: “Women are good at setting up businesses”

Firstly, women are good at setting up businesses. Women-led businesses are an untapped resource and, on average, investments into female-founded businesses yield much better returns. In turn, more efficiently run businesses are beneficial for the economy and can ultimately result in better living standards. Secondly, starting a business is an amazing opportunity for personal growth […]

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Firstly, women are good at setting up businesses. Women-led businesses are an untapped resource and, on average, investments into female-founded businesses yield much better returns. In turn, more efficiently run businesses are beneficial for the economy and can ultimately result in better living standards.

Secondly, starting a business is an amazing opportunity for personal growth and it’s highly rewarding. Not all women want to be founders, and that’s totally ok, but it should be a level playing field for the ones that do.

Thirdly, equality is something that every company and every individual and institution should strive for from a moral standpoint.

Fourthly, diversity generates new perspectives and innovation, which is essential to the success of any company.

Lastly, diversity breeds diversity. Having women on a founding team increases the ethnic diversity of the employees, executive suite, and board of directors.


As a part of our series about “Why We Need More Women Founders”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Jessica Alderson.

Jessica Alderson is the CEO of So Syncd, the dating app that matches compatible personality types, which she co-founded with her sister, Louella. She is also the UK lead for Women in Tech. Prior to setting up So Syncd, Jessica worked as an equity research analyst for five years at Morgan Stanley.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?

The idea for So Syncd was sparked by a break-up up with a long-term partner. I started using Myers-Briggs personality types as a framework to understand what went wrong. The break-up coincided with me leaving my job at an investment bank and I decided to take a year out to travel and learn about personality type compatibility. It was clear that some personality type combinations worked better in relationships than others.

After my year of travelling, I was having drinks in Soho with my sister and she was telling me that her friends and colleagues were going on these terrible dates with people they’d met on dating apps. I explained what I’d learned over the past year. Louella, while being skeptical at first, became convinced of how accurate the personality-matching concept was when we applied the matching concept to our friends and her own successful relationship. It turned out that she’d been in a long-term relationship with her perfect personality match.

The next morning, I went to my sister’s flat and we started building So Syncd, our dating app that matches compatible personality types.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Shortly after we launched So Syncd, we started a podcast called Personality Love Lab, where we interview couples to delve deeper into the dynamics of personality types and love. One of the first interviews we did was with a couple who met on our app called Ben and Indy. When they first connected on So Syncd, Ben was living in the UK and Indy was living in Paris. They dated virtually at first due to Covid travel restrictions but eventually Ben was able to go and visit Indy in Paris. We interviewed them on the first weekend they ever met. We kept in touch regularly and they would update us on how everything was going until one day, last November, Ben proposed. I’ll never forget the moment I received that message. I called my sister straight away. They are both such kind people, it was an incredible to think that we’d brought them together. They sent us photos on their wedding day.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I had a funny meeting with a VC firm that could have been a comedy sketch. It was with two partners of the company and the idea that any man might care about anything other than looks when on a dating app was a completely novel concept to them. They couldn’t believe that any men would sign up to a personality-based dating app. I explained that we have an even split of men and women signed up to So Syncd but they just couldn’t believe that any man would take the time to do a personality test on a dating app. It taught me that if someone just doesn’t get your idea, they might not be able to look past that, even if your numbers and traction are telling a different story.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

There is a long list of people who’ve helped us get to where we are today. That’s one of the most heartwarming things I’ve found about setting up a business — I’ve met some amazing people who are extremely smart and incredibly generous with their time. Two people in particular are Yoann Benhacoun and Ryan Brodie. Yoann is the lead investor of our seed round. Fundraising is tough and even more so for female founders. Having a mentor like Yoann has made all the difference — he believed in us from the beginning and is a true teammate. We are also grateful for Ryan Brodie’s help. He is the co-founder and ex-CTO of Muzmatch, the biggest Muslim dating app in the world. He’s been through a similar journey and is able to share a wealth of advice with us. There are many, many more people who’ve helped too.

Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

Gifts Differing — Understanding Personality Types by Isabel Briggs Myers and Peter Briggs Myers. It was the first book I ever read about Myers-Briggs personality types and it opened my eyes to a whole new world of human nature. It helped me better understand myself as well as family, friends and colleagues.

Do you have a favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Do you have a story about how that was relevant in your life or your work?

“If you risk nothing, then you risk everything.” — Geena Davis. Risk is such an interesting concept and it’s obviously highly subjective but, for me personally, the biggest risk is feeling like I’m not living life to the fullest.

My new mantra is ‘keep calm and solve problems’. That’s my entire job in a nutshell. There are always new problems to solve; some big, some small. You don’t want to be fighting fires all the time, but there are always things that could be improved or new ideas you could try.

How have you used your success to make the world a better place?

That is exactly the reason why we launched So Syncd — to make the world a better place by helping people find meaningful connections. We’ve had close to 400 couples (that we know of) find relationships through our app since launching at the beginning on the pandemic. We’ve seen one of our couples get married already and there are many more who’ve moved countries to be together. Hearing success stories of people who have fallen in love through So Syncd is the most incredible feeling.

Ok, thank you for that. Let’s now jump to the primary focus of our interview. According to this EY report, only about 20 percent of funded companies have women founders. This reflects great historical progress, but it also shows that more work still has to be done to empower women to create companies. In your opinion and experience what is currently holding back women from founding companies?

There is definitely more work to be done to empower women to build companies. At the moment, women just don’t have the same opportunities as men when it comes to setting up companies. Founding a company is hard enough as it is and female founders have an additional set of obstacles.

Women are often viewed as more risk averse than men, and this perception sometimes puts off investors. But the women who start companies despite the additional challenges relating to their gender are actually taking a much, much greater risk than men in the same position. Also, they are self-selecting in the sense that women founders will innately be more comfortable with risk due to the very fact that they’ve chosen to set up a business, and against the odds.

Businesses founded by women make twice as much revenue per dollar invested than those founded by men (other studies show similar trends) yet women-led companies are 65% less likely to receive early-stage funding. This is consistent with other studies. It’s shocking and unacceptable.

Can you share with our readers what you are doing to help empower women to become founders?

I have taken on an additional role as the UK Ambassador forWomen in Tech. I think it’s important to carve out time for causes that you feel strongly about. I’m about to launch a new set of initiatives which will involve events, courses and programs designed to empower women in STEM.

Someone recently voiced their views that there should be ‘less talk, more action’ around gender equality in tech. I don’t think this is right. A better strategy would be: ‘more talk, more action’. If people aren’t aware that an issue exists, how will it ever change?

This might be intuitive to you but I think it will be helpful to spell this out. Can you share a few reasons why more women should become founders?

Firstly, women are good at setting up businesses. Women-led businesses are an untapped resource and, on average, investments into female-founded businesses yield much better returns. In turn, more efficiently run businesses are beneficial for the economy and can ultimately result in better living standards.

Secondly, starting a business is an amazing opportunity for personal growth and it’s highly rewarding. Not all women want to be founders, and that’s totally ok, but it should be a level playing field for the ones that do.

Thirdly, equality is something that every company and every individual and institution should strive for from a moral standpoint.

Fourthly, diversity generates new perspectives and innovation, which is essential to the success of any company.

Lastly, diversity breeds diversity. Having women on a founding team increases the ethnic diversity of the employees, executive suite, and board of directors.

Ok super. Here is the main question of our interview. Can you please share 5 things that can be done or should be done to help empower more women to become founders? If you can, please share an example or story for each.

There are a number of actionable steps we can take to empower more women to become founders:

  1. Education around unconscious biases. Harvard Business Review has published two interesting articles around this topic. This first study showed that 67% of the questions posed to male entrepreneurs were promotion-oriented, i.e. focused on how they will achieve their goals. In contrast, 66% of those posed to female entrepreneurs were prevention-oriented, i.e. focused on safety, security, responsibility and vigilance. The second study showed that investors are less likely to invest in founders who exhibit stereotypically feminine behavior. In my first fundraising-meeting the investor said, “I really like your idea and I think you’ve done a great job but I don’t think you’ll be able to raise money.” I’m glad that we persevered and we’ve ended up with a group of investors who couldn’t be more supportive.
  2. Make diversity investment stats public. One of the most effective methods for improving access to capital to female founders would be for venture capital funds to make their diversity investment stats publicly available so that companies are held accountable. Of course, we should use common sense and not assume that each fund will have a perfect split of diversity investments every year, particularly if they make very few investments, but this will help track longer-term trends.
  3. Reduce the reliance on warm introductions. Startups that are referred to VCs via warm introductions are 13 times more likely to be funded by them than startups which come to their attention via cold pitch deck submissions. This puts founders without links to VCs (often diverse founders) at a significant disadvantage. Investors are very busy and warm introductions are an easy way to filter through the hundreds of pitch decks they receive each week but they are by no means a fair way of filtering. If investors rely on their existing network for warm introductions, they simply won’t see a diverse deal flow.
  4. Promote inspirational role models. Type ‘tech CEO’ into Google and have a look at the results; it takes a while to see any photos of women. Showcasing more stories of inspirational female founders encourages women to view entrepreneurship as a realistic option, particularly if girls see these stories from a young age and grow up with them.
  5. Initiatives to encourage more female investors. As with a lot of significant changes, it starts at the top. At the seed stage, female VC partners back almost twice as many gender diverse founding teams than male VC partners. This trend continues for Series A rounds.

There are initiatives being take already, including the creation of networks that support female founders or women in certain industries, such as Women in Tech, who are rapidly growing their presence around the world. Gary Chimwa has just launched MentorshipHub, a mentorship platform for underrepresented founders.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger.

A movement I’d like to inspire, which we are trying to encourage through So Syncd, is to spend more time understanding others. We think that using a personality type-framework can help a lot with this. I think it’s sometimes hard to apprehend quite how different everyone is until you really delve into it. The world would be a much better place if everyone better understood and appreciated each other’s personalities.

We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them.

Arianna Huffington. It’s admirable that she’s dedicated so much of her life to promoting truth and integrity, as well as showcasing the benefits of a healthy work-life balance.

How can our readers further follow your work online?

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jessica-alderson-40890129/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/jesssalderson

Thank you for these fantastic insights. We greatly appreciate the time you spent on this.

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