Fe/male Switch
Startup Playbook: success through failure

Fe/male Switch at Startup Festival Malta

Malta Enterprise, the country's economic development agency, is leading the national ecosystem of startups and the progress is visible. After the success of the first ever Startup Festival 2021 Malta Enterprise (through their startup division called StartInMalta) organized the festival again and it was held on October 13th and 14th of this year in a magnificent location. 

Being a part of the Maltese startup ecosystem, Fe/male Switch was invited to participate as an exhibitor. We accepted the invitation, and it turned out to be one of the best offline startup events lately. 

We arrived at the venue, Villa Bighi in Kalkara, in the morning. There were 4 of us because we were supposed to do two workshops, so we wanted to be sure we could cover everything. The Villa was decorated with banners of the Startup Festival. The weather was deliciously wonderful, lots of people were arriving and registering for the event.

One of the first things we noticed: our poster at the booth was awesome. It's a team effort: Alina Kostrub (our illustrator) created the illustrations and Darya Nikitsina (our designer) prepared the layout. And of course the organizers at StartinMalta did a great job at printing and setting everything up.

Our booth was just in front of the main entrance to the exhibition hall, and all eyes of those entering the venue were on us. We were overwhelmed with the interest our poster was bringing. A lot of women were coming up to ask “What is it, this startup game? Tell me more.” We talked a lot about female entrepreneurship, showed the demo and signed our visitors up for the game.

On the first day of the festival, a delegation of high school kids attended the event. We got a lot of interest from the youngsters who wanted to know more about startups and how to become entrepreneurs. They also crowded the coffee area and prevented us from drinking liters of it, but we hold no grudge.

But what was more surprising is the interest from men. They asked a lot of questions, like why is it only for women and when will there be a version for men. Many of them said they’ve never heard about anything like this game. Is it FOMO? 

We were interviewed by Malta Enterprise about female entrepreneurship, our project and our impressions from the festival. And we paid back by interviewing them about their new startup visa, that was officially announced that day by Miriam Dalli, the Minister for Environment, Energy and Enterprise.

Watch the video about the startup visa or read the article here.

On the second day of the Startup Festival Violetta, our CEO,  participated in the "break the bias" panel.

Here’s what she wrote about the session:

“Over the years I realized that I feel quite confident on stage. One might say, even a bit too much as I have started talking about things that I would not dare to earlier.

A few months ago I announced on stage that I am not a fan of managing people (how dare the CEO say that openly) and I wish that at least one incubator that I attended would teach me how to fire people instead of making me re-write the useless investor pitch over and over.

Cheryl Sandberg highlights in her book that both men and women demand more from women than they do from men. Aha! I said to myself when I read that. That explains so much.

Women are expected to be nice (you might start figuring out why I'm calling myself the Mean CEO) and people might get angry if that expectation is not met.

I guess the underlying message that I want to deliver is that despite me being a supporter of female entrepreneurship, I do not represent or care to represent all female entrepreneurs. My behavior is not and should not be taken for anything other than what it is.

I am who I am and as a smart woman told me recently: being authentic is key.

I would really love to inspire women to want to be authentic instead of trying to fit the ridiculous standards. Let's see if I succeed in that.

As for the panel, when you put women together we tend to talk and share a lot. So next year I demand a whole day of "female entrepreneurs" panels.

It was absolutely amazing to meet all the women on the panel. I took away something new from each story”

Another highlight of the festival was meeting the Minister for Environment, Energy and Enterprise.

Smalta is a term of endearment that we came up with to refer to Malta. Why?

One of the most popular phrases that we hear is "Malta is small", so we simply could not pass up an opportunity to play with words.

So what's good about being a small county? One thing is that you get to know people very quickly.

And it means you can discuss Fe/male Switch : startup game for women when you meet Dr. Miriam Dalli (Minister for Environment, Energy and Enterprise) for the first time and she tells Davide Guidotti that his face looks familiar.

Yay, our social media strategy for making Davide notoriously famous works! (It’s an inside joke but it’s also how we like to do business: mixing work and fun)

It has definitely been a great festival that has created a lot of pleasant memories for us. We wonder how Malta Enterprise is going to top themselves next year.

Do you want to learn if startup life is for you? Sign up for Fe/male Switch, the first educational startup game for women! It's coming soon!

Don't want to wait for game launch and want to start gaining startup skills now? Sign up for Startup School and get access to the cutting edge startup knowledge immediately.