This founder shares her tips for overcoming gender bias in the tech startup industry

Alexis Aaron, co-founder of Sortd, recently shared her insights on gender bias within the industry, overcoming prevention questions, and how reframing the problem you’re solving for can win over different investors


Grace Wearne

Grace is responsible for strengthening and bolstering Antler’s brand presence in Australia. With a passion for tech and innovation communications, Grace has over six years of experience in helping Aussie and global disruptors tell their stories. Prior to Antler, she worked at GoFundMe Australia and award-winning tech PR agency, Sling & Stone. She competed in SpaceX's Hyperloop Pod competition in 2016.

What started as a conversation between friends about pain points shopping online two years ago, today stands as Sortd with $1.26m in Pre-Seed funding. The all-in-one platform empowers shoppers to save, compare, share and checkout from thousands of e-commerce sites. 

Founded by commercial lawyer Alexis Aaron and film producer Jodine Wolman, the pair bootstrapped their idea with a loan, worked on it two days a week while juggling full-time careers, and created an MVP with 500 users, all before joining Antler in 2022. Within nine months, they have secured Pre-Seed funding, launched Sortd’s app, and are affiliated with leading retailers including The Iconic, Farfetch, and Shopbop.

Alexis recently sat down with us for Women of Antler, a community-led program which aims to address issues such as the gender funding gap, unconscious bias, and provide practical support for all founders to receive equal opportunities. Here she shared her experience co-founding Sortd and facing gender bias within the industry. 

Despite the highs and lows of launching a tech startup, Alexis said; “If I’d known then what I know now, it wouldn’t have deterred me from co-founding Sortd.”

Reframe Prevention Questions 

Overseas studies show women founders are typically asked prevention questions by a ratio of two to one, compared to their male counterparts. These questions are positioned around what could go wrong or signalling potential risks, as opposed to promotional questions which are focused on growth and opportunities. 

Alexis and Jodine are not immune. In the middle of one investor pitch, they were asked, “What would stop two men overseas from copying your idea?” The question is ultimately about defensibility, however, it should have been framed differently.

To answer the question, on reflection, Alexis said, “Nothing. There is nothing to stop someone trying to replicate our idea, but that’s the same with all ideas. That’s irrelevant. What matters is we have the skillset, tenacity, and connection to the problem we’re solving for, and we will take this company from strength to strength.” 

Now, Alexis and Jodine anticipate prevention questions. They are prepared to think critically about what is at the core of the question and directly answer that. Whether it is on product-market-fit, go-to-market strategies, product defensibility, and so on. 

Position Your Problem As An Opportunity 

“Well, I just don’t see that as a problem.” Alexis and Jodine have faced flippant comments that the friction point they’re solving for “just isn’t a problem”. However, they know it is. 

Many online shoppers face the pain point of scouring the web trying to discover what they want to buy, often resorting to countless tabs open, copying them to their phone notes, sharing with a friend, or worse, accidentally closing all their tabs and starting from scratch.

These comments were initially challenging and somewhat demotivating. However, the pair did receive some advice on differentiating between problems, opportunities, and inconveniences, which reshaped how they position Sortd. There are some universal problems the world faces from food insecurity, climate change, and catastrophic weather events. And then, there are opportunities and inconveniences in day-to-day life too, such as pain points in shopping online. 

“Sometimes you have a market, a growing opportunity, and a viable business model that solves an inconvenience. As long as it is affecting people, it’s worth solving for. Position it as an opportunity,” said Alexis.

Sortd co-foudners Jodine Wolman and Alexis Aaron

Overcoming Buzz Words  

After Sortd recently launched its app and announced its Pre-Seed fundraising round, Alexis and Jodine’s gender became the headline in many listicles, articles, and posts focused on the company’s growth. 

“The buzz around ‘female founders’ doesn’t sit right with me,” said Alexis. “We need to recognise that all founders are one and the same in terms of equality. I am not a female founder, I am a founder that is female.”

Beyond the choice of language, Alexis reiterated the importance for all founders to be treated with the same respect, the same access to funding, and the same access to opportunities. 

Antler is committed to driving greater diversity and inclusion across the startup ecosystem and VC industry. In doing so, we have a global policy ensuring that as an investor, we assess people on the attributes that make great founders and in the process build diverse portfolios.


If you're an individual looking for a co-founder(s), seeking to validate an idea and build an MVP. Applications to join Antler Australia are open!

This article was originally published on the 3rd of July 2023

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get the latest news and views from Antler’s global community

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Must-read articles from Antler

Browse our collection of founder stories, industry insights and latest startup successes from Antler Australia

See articles
5 min read
Introducing Canada's Next Big Thing: A blueprint for future entrepreneurs

Exciting news for entrepreneurs ready to leave their mark: We've launched a pivotal initiative that spotlights the diverse opportunities within Canada's thriving industries.

Our report curates pivotal problem statements from Canada's leading tech visionaries, founders, and VCs, offering aspiring entrepreneurs a pathway to impactful innovation.

Discover 20+ big opportunities pinpointed by top Canadian minds, spread across six fast-growing industries. Each challenge is an invitation to create and innovate—leading the way to the future.

We hope it will serve as a roadmap for aspiring founders ready to build tomorrow's solutions today.

5 min read
Invest in women: fast-track progress

Making progress a certainty—our north star goal at Antler—can’t happen if driven and visionary people aren’t firing at all cylinders with the support they need to tackle the pressing problems of our time. We’re marking International Women’s Day by asking women founders and team members in Antler’s global community why women are essential to progress.

5 min read
How to secure venture capital as an underrepresented founder

There is growing recognition that diverse founders and diverse teams generate more innovative solutions, ultimately building stronger businesses in the long run. Read Antler in the UK portfolio director Sarah Finegan's recent article in Startups Magazine, offering 10 tips on securing venture capital as an underrepresented founder.

5 min read
From day zero to greatness: Magnus Grimeland on the Capital Allocators podcast

How can the world tackle the increasingly complex problems of our time? With a new global infrastructure backing the most driven founders. Listen to Antler founder and CEO Magnus Grimeland discuss this—and why we're building Antler—on the Capital Allocators podcast.

5 min read
Antler expands into Queensland, Australia

Antler is charting a new course for innovation by expanding our presence in Australia. We are launching in Queensland and partnering with the Queensland Investment Corporation (QIC).

Supported by the Queensland Government's Queensland Venture Capital Development Fund (QVCDF), the partnership is poised to transform the state's innovation sector. With a focus on bridging the early-stage funding gap, Antler and QIC are committed to attracting and nurturing the nation's top talent, driving forward Queensland's position on the global innovation stage.

5 min read
Bridging startups and industry leaders to drive purposeful innovation

As Jeff Bezos once said: “What’s dangerous is to not evolve.” While most business leaders understand that stagnation is fatal, for a host of reasons established companies often struggle to innovate—purposefully and powerfully.

Antler’s Business Development and Collaborations Group helps global corporates drive innovation excellence through high value-generating collaborations with Antler’s 1,000+ (and growing) global startup portfolio. In our collaboration with Investa, a leading Australian real estate investment manager and developer, we are connecting them to our global community of founders and the cutting-edge solutions they are building.

Read more about the powerful outcomes that happen when ambitious startups and industry leaders come together.

5 min read
The next wave of innovation: 27 industry trends set to define 2024

What will innovation look like as we move deeper into 2024? What are the biggest industry trends that will define the coming year?

We asked our global network of Antler Operators—founders, sector leaders, CxOs, and VPs from companies including Roblox, Airtable, Shopify, Spotify, Affirm, DoorDash, Uber, Hubspot, and more, who offer 1:1 advice to Antler portfolio companies, giving them extra firepower to help fast-track their growth.

5 min read
Antler leads $5.1M pre-seed funding for 37 startups across Southeast Asia

This marks the highest number of pre-seed deals completed in a single round in the region.