How women can save the startup scene

It seems that as a start-up, Muuyu just hasn’t managed to tick all of the typical boxes.

Resources:  Overstretched and under-financed – Tick!   Employees:  Similar!    Environment:  Open and engaging; Spontaneous meetings that result in 500 colored stickies being posted on all available wall-space – Tick!

Gender-bias in favour of men: Tick…wait…what?!

It’s true that the CEO of the company, Matt Devine, is a guy.  Muuyu was his idea in the first place so we’re all quite happy for him to take responsibility for that!  However, until recently there were more female employees in the company than male and even, while some folk have moved on, women still make up a large part of the team.

This is far from the usual picture though.  According to the Center for Women’s Business Research in the US, while women own approximately 40% of America’s private businesses when it comes to venture-backed startups that figure plummets to less than 10%.  The 2012 ‘Women at the Wheel’ report which was carried out by Dow Jones and studied venture-backed startups over a period of 15 years, claimed that 1.3% of privately held companies had a female founder, 6.5% had a female CEO, and 20% had only one or more female C-level executives.

Europe’s start-up story has a similar plot-line.  In fact, that was one of the reasons why American entrepreneur Jess Erickson set up the Berlin-based Geekettes, a network of female tech entrepreneurs and professionals.  She, like everyone else with adequate eyesight in the German capital could see that the internet start-up sector was swinging and yet there were very few women at the party.   Her company, which holds regular network meetings, runs courses and workshops, mentor programmes, pitch sessions and hackathons for female entrepreneurs, aims to encourage more women to step up when it comes to, well, startups.

Geekette now has over 700 German members and branches across the globe including New York and London.  In Germany, where according to BITKOM, the German Association for IT, Telecommunications and New Media, over 100,000 new jobs in the Internet sector have been created over the last five years, it is people like Erickson that are ensuring that women can be viable contenders for those positions.

But at Muuyu, gender equality runs to more than just a head-count.  As a small (but perfectly formed) start-up of eight we, in fact, represent a host of different nationalities, cultural backgrounds and age groups.  So even before we separate the men from the not-men, diversity is a given and therefore an integral part of our company culture.

On both a social and strategic level this is really a good thing.

Firstly, problem-solving, while it may take a little longer when you are eight equal voices with eight differing perspectives, happens within a much broader frame of reference.

An additional benefit to managing our issues by looking at them from all angles is that we’re also strengthened as a team because we learn to bounce off, listen to and lean on each other.

From a strategic point of view it’s also hugely important for any startup to mirror the demographics of its target market.  As Muuyu is an online yoga platform it thus goes without saying that a large part of our customer-base will be women.  Including female perspectives in the decision-making processes, then, is kind of a no-brainer.

And here’s the thing: even while women make up less than 20% of the startup sector, those companies that do include women generally perform better.  In fact, studies have shown that an average of 30% of companies with more gender diversity had better success rates from IPOs.

So what’s the problem?  Isn’t it time to drop the gender imbalance in the startup scene?

Looks like Muuyu is ticking the right boxes after all.


Siobhan is the Head of Communication and Content with Muuyuand a co-founder of the company.  Born in Ireland she has close to 20 years’ experience working in the areas of PR, communication and journalism.  She is also the editor of the Muuyu blog.  Siobhan has been practicing yoga on and off for most of her adult life.  However it was while doing a post-natal yoga class when pregnant that she really began to connect with her practice and she has been a regular practitioner ever since.

Connect with Siobhan here.

The Roots of Muuyu

It was back in 2007, whilst doing my teacher training that I registered the name Muuyu.  Being from Zimbabwe, I knew that the tree was a really positive, powerful symbol of stability and peace. It was also only 5 letters, 3 of them the same, and available as a dotcom!  My idea at the time was to create a social network to connect all the great people I met on teacher training, most of whom I still haven’t seen for over seven years.  However, at the same time that I was thinking about this a new platform called Facebook was really starting to take off …so that put an end to that idea!

Following my training I returned to Australia, which was where my family had moved, and it was there that the idea of Muuyu as a live interactive yoga platform, connecting like-minded people, really started to take shape.

My Dad and I were sitting on a bench in front of our house looking out across the sea. We began to chat about family, about staying in touch, and also about this new business idea that was slowly percolating in my mind. He said it was a pity I was going back to China, where I was living at the time, as he had wanted to do my yoga with me.

My first introduction to yoga came from my Dad.  As a child I’d watch him do Richard Hittleman’s Yoga from a book.  This was back in the Seventies in Africa, so waaaaay progressive then!

Talking to him that day outside our home in Australia, everything suddenly became clear to me.  I realized that even though I was living on another continent, I still wanted to be able to connect with my family through yoga. I wanted to be able to do live classes with them, and, in fact with everyone.  I just had to redefine how that connection could happen against the obvious geographical barriers.  That was when Muuyu was born.

I wrote my first business plan in 2008 and tried to find a video conferencing platform that would enable me to realize my vision of live, interactive yoga practice in real time.  But this was 6 years ago and the technology was still way too slow and way too expensive.

So I built my own.

Not me personally, of course, but through connecting with partners and friends who were way smarter than me.

And now, here it is.   I hope you like it.  I think this platform might become really useful to a lot of people, both experienced and new to yoga.

And hopefully our mantra will shape how Muuyu evolves.  And what is that mantra?

Redefine Connection.

Please Enjoy!

Wise words I learned in my first class with Alyson McWilliams

A hipster on the train.  A punker in the airport.  A couple fighting intensely in IKEA.  Another couple  kissing passionately in the park.  A man begging on the street.  We encounter numerous people in different settings during our daily lives.

We see, we process, and … we judge.

Why does he need to be so hipster?  A pair of regular glasses would do, man.

Such a pity to dye that beautiful hair pitch black.

That must be such a bad relationship.  Just leave the flat-pack kitchen and find a counselor.

Kissing in public?  Ugh, get a room!

Donating money?  Puh! We all need to work – so do you.

The moment we encounter something we trigger an immediate thought and judging process that we hardly have any control over without conscious awareness.

It was two weeks ago during my first Muuyu class with Alyson McWilliams that made me realize this.  While we were preparing for our last asana, the savasana (oh, how I love that one!), she said something that was so simple and clear but had such a powerful meaning.  It was about respecting differences and focusing on the positive and on yourself.   She ended with the wise words “Don’t judge, just observe.”

It may sound very simple now but try it.  You will become aware that observing is just a small part of your awareness.  What follows is thinking, comparing, and automatically judging.  The latter can easily translate into something negative. Such a waste!

And who are you to judge anyway?  His glasses are actually way cooler than yours.  Oh see, I shouldn’t judge..;)


A funny thing happens when you put a team of people in a room…


Over the last few months – heck, weeks, really! – there have been a lot of changes in Muuyu. We’ve been trying to get to the absolute heart of how we can best deliver everything that Muuyu has to offer to the wider world. You see, Muuyu as an online yoga platform providing live classes in real time to students around the globe is doing something quite unique at the moment. It’s redefining how we connect – to our yoga practice, to ourselves and our bodies, to the world that we’re constantly creating.

Yet it’s a simple idea. Really. I mean, think about it.

Bringing teachers and students together in a live class through the internet – what could be easier and more convenient in today’s world of digital interconnectedness where global travel, either for business or fun, is the norm for so many?

As CEO of Muuyu I’ve always known that a platform like this would be great. Great for teachers because it can liberate them to connect with their regular pupils as well as new students no matter where they are in the world. And great for students because it can give them the freedom of practicing yoga with world-class teachers from the comfort of their own homes or when they themselves are travelling. It is also an answer for those questioning how they might find a way into yoga but for geographical, health or other reasons can’t make it to a local studio class.

Still, it hasn’t always been easy for me to fully express all the benefits of Muuyu to others. Sometimes, when you’re so close to an idea, when you’ve been dreaming, living, breathing this idea for so long, you need other people to reveal all that’s been hiding in plain sight, to ask those questions for which the answers have always been intuitive feelings for you in the past, but which you now need to find a way to express openly.

So that’s what the team at Muuyu has been doing. I could say things like we’re ‘developing our strategy’, or ‘analyzing’ and ‘forecasting’ but mostly we’ve been sitting in a room together talking and questioning and dreaming and laughing.

Because a funny thing happens when you put a group of people together in a room to discuss one idea: a whole host of other ideas start to snowball, ideas that I could never have thought or dreamed of on my own. Crazy, singular and smart ideas that all come back to Muuyu’s main intention, which is to help anyone and everyone do yoga their way, on their time and in their own space. They’ve teased thoughts out of me I didn’t even know I was thinking and brought so much new thinking to the table that I feel as excited now as I was when the idea of creating a connected community of people through an online, live yoga platform first started to come into focus for me.

We’re starting to put real shape on these ideas as well as an action plan in place and we promise to keep you updated each step of the way. We’ve been pretty quiet this last while but that’s all about to change as we’ve a whole host of new possibilities that we want to share.

In the meantime, check out our website, do a class – if you’re a first time user whatever class you chose will be FREE! – and while we’re opening up to you, please feel free to share any ideas with us that you might have about Muuyu.