Women raising money

imgresIt is harder for women to raise money.  It just is and it pisses me off.  I actually tell women founders to bring along their male CTO’s to the meetings because it will be easier to raise the cash.  I preference that with “I hate to say this but…”

There are multiple reasons why it is more difficult.  When more women are on the investment side of the table it will begin to get easier.  As more women build big companies, it will begin to get easier too.

Here is some advice I have given to women pitching.

1 -Don’t ramble.  Keep it short and succinct.  State the facts.  There is nothing wrong with a pause in the room.

2 – Always be selling.  When you pitch assume that the people on the other side of the table are going to fund you.  It changes the dynamic.

3 – Be bold.  If you feel the temperature in the room is lukewarm, then wrap it up.  No need to waste your time or theirs.  If you feel the love in the room then engage the investors like they are old friends talking about your business.

4 – Never apologize.  So what if the product isn’t perfect, the deck isn’t perfect.  Guess what..only you think that.

5 – Be confident and show confidence. You know your company better than the person on the other side of the table does.  You don’t need to be validated.

6 – Keep your cards close.  Don’t share who else you are talking to unless of course this is super early and you are hoping for as many angels as possible to come in.  If you have investors starting to do diligence then share that but don’t share names.  It pushes a sense of urgency into the conversation.  It makes you the master of the game.

7 – If you do have senior men on your team then bring them with you.  I am hoping that in the future I will tell men that bringing a woman with you is key.

I do feel like there is a movement happening.  Women would love to have a woman lead their rounds.  I am seeing more than a handful of women start to raise $8-10m and that is not only good for the start-up world, it is good for the next generation of women coming up the pike.

Comments (Archived):

  1. Guy Lepage

    So I don’t think I’ve ever gone on a rant here on your blog yet Joanne but I am right there with you.. And HATE that I have had to offer the same GD advice to my talented gf that she needs to take her male designer and engineer with her in her upcoming meetings. Her company is being set up as, what I like to call, an all “estrogen” company since her clientiele are all women. I would really like to see an all estrogen team for once succeed and NOT have to involve any testosterone all for once. But I suppose this needs to first happen at a VC level. I feel strongly that if an all testosterone team has been successful in the past, which it has, then an all estrogen team can as well.Great post Joanne. Please keep doing what you’re doing.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Nice rant!

    2. Maria Athanassiou

      OK. But testosterone and estrogen can complement each other and balance each other even in a company setting.

  2. Lisa Abeyta

    I can count on one hand the number of women-led companies in my state that have raised over one million from venture capital or angels. That’s not this year. That’s ever. But it is possible. Thanks for being a champion for women. It is changing the ratio.

  3. Jessica Chavarro

    Great post Joanne, this is definitely a problem and I do think it has to start with women standing up for themselves. After all this is a numbers game. There is nothing more frustrating than to see “some” women victimizing themselves because of “old beliefs”. We can definitely benefit by encouraging each other by creating a community and learning from each other’s experiences.We might need some help right now but those men helping us are the men that encourage our movement that see no difference between sexes.

    1. Guy Lepage

      100% agreed.

  4. Ella Dyer

    Having been on both sides of the table; I get and appreciate what you’re saying. Sharing this with @StartupChicks too. Thanks for your wisdom.

  5. Whitney Doherty

    This is exactly what I have been ranting about myself – compounded after attending Cyrus Innovations’ excellent panel discussion last week held at Cooley. The panel was filled with smart, confident women, including the moderate from Plum Alley as well as the founders of Honey, Cisse, Blinkbuggy and Venuebook, who spoke of being asked about their childcare plans and even breast feeding while AT pitches for funding. I was outraged! it’s one thing to suffer the indignity of pitching 60 times before getting funding (while a man’s team would pitch 6 times on average and get $$) but it’s quite another to be asked about “how you will manage the children and running your business”. A man would NEVER be asked these questions and while I agree with you, there is much women can do to prepare and learning to speak clearly and succinctly is good…we need to learn to say “next question” when these very inappropriate questions are raised. We must refuse to apologize for being women by putting up with personal questions that have no place in the game of fundraising. It these questions are not asked of men and they are giving a good ROI on investments, then they should not be asked of women and we should not answer them. Great topic Joanne – thank you.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Nice rant Whitney!

    2. pointsnfigures

      Uff da. Shoot me if I ask a female what her breast feeding habits are. Really. I will load and give you the gun. Child care generally falls on a woman. That’s a tough one. I would never ever ask a woman if she is pregnant, if she has a relationship, how her marriage was etc. in an initial pitch. As to child care, in an initial pitch I would assume she has it handled and I wouldn’t worry about it. But, it’s probably fair game in due diligence. But if she said she had it handled, you’d have to trust her. No one loves their child more than a Mom.

  6. Nina Luu

    Great post. Love 3 and 7!

  7. goldwerger

    It has happened that 50% of the founders I ever backed over the years have been women. I probably has been explicitly deliberate, but on reflection I think it has been a bit of “auspicious” selection on my part, recognizing at some level that a woman founder would, on average, will have come further and overcome more – which in my book means a greater indication of perseverance and talent. And, of course, it feels just right.

    1. Gotham Gal

      and how have they done?

      1. goldwerger

        100% in business. Distribution of performance to date: 20% home run, 40% very excited about, 40% estimate won’t yield return. If I had the chance to go back and choose all-or-none, I would have reinvested knowing what I know today.

  8. Hope Lawrence

    Great post which I will put in my pocket for future use. Thank you!

  9. P Donohue

    I tell my daughters that 2015 to 2025 is the decade of the woman.For I too, have a very strong sense of change coming. This was brought to light with the emergence of the Pashtun heroine, Malala. She is The Woman my daughters look up to. Additionally, all over the web there are groups supporting women in Tech and/or Entrepreneurship springing up and moving forward like never before. Further, there are more women working as CEOs of large multinationals. So, I agree whole heartedly and support your feeling “like there is a movement happening”.Regarding the Glass Ceiling, i say, Own The Celining, Control the Glass. Thus it is imperative that girls are raised with the idea that they can start and run a company and/or that they should go after whatever lights their fire and not let anything get in their way.Furthermore, there is a lot of wealth in the hands of women these days. Unfortunately, they are risk adverse. Conversely, they don’t blink an eye when someone piches them for a charity and then write big checks.Maybe it is all a matter of culture and education. Maybe there needs to be a social conversation among their peers, The Family Office Crowd, about how they could change the world for future generations of women by backing those on the front lines today, with the idea that yes, they may loose their money, but in the process they also would be moving the needle in the right direction and that for the entrepreneur there is an education like no other gained in the process. Even better, they might consider funding incubaters, a la Y Combinator, but for women.There is so much that can happen today, if only more women of means were to pitch in.Ever since there have been corporations, they have until recently, been all male. They let women take dictation and fetch coffee and other than that the companies were all male. Then came the late 1960’s and early 70’s with the women taking it to the street and shaking things up (thank you Gloria).So here we are today and I am thinking, “What if there were to be a large multinational, run and staffed almost exclusively by women that entered its market and ate everyones lunch, would the world take notice of such a Purple Cow?” What if it just suddenly appeared?I have been studying companies that are also causes and it seems obvious that when people are mission aligned, mountains can be moved and the impossible done. Take Tesla Motors for example. Customers, rank and file, and investors are more or less aligned in a cause and it seems to be working well… except the profit part which I believe will come when they reach proper scale. But, their execution and growth in a very difficult industry has been nothing but impressive. The word Cult comes to mind, but not in a pejorative way, just a functional one, as is used in the parlance of marketing.The one thing I remember from a college marketing class is that to become a “Cult Company” is a marketer’s Nervana. Consequently, I see possibility here.So why be incremental in the pursuit of this cause? I believe it is time for the all Female Unicorn to come forward. There is so much talent and wisdom that can be tapped right now for a candidate with the right product/service that could serve as a realistic rallying point for women while supplying products and or services that women universally need or want, that could be disruptive.Lastly, the woman’s movement should no longer ask or demand what it wants, it should just take it. Building a hugely successful and large corporation to facilitate that, while making a decent profit, might be a way to go.

  10. pointsnfigures

    Great advice. I 100% agree with your last paragraph. I can’t wait for the first, second, and 100th company founded and lead by a women. I think that women speak and present differently than men. Recognize the difference and use that difference to benefit you. Jujitsu works.

  11. Rathna Sharad

    I keep hoping #7 will not matter! Thanks for the pointers

    1. pointsnfigures

      If they have senior women on their team, I’d bring them too!

      1. Karissa Bodnar

        Yes! That’s what I do!

      2. Nicole Yeary

        To clarify, I’m assuming you are suggesting young women bring senior women.

  12. Sandi Lin

    I didn’t bring my male CTO to my fundraising meetings, except for final pitches. I have 2 engineering degrees from MIT. I wonder if/how this would have changed things.

  13. joahspearman

    Great post and probably similar to pitching while Black as there are even fewer Black VCs than female VCs (Lord, it must be really hard for Black female entrepreneurs!).

    1. Gotham Gal

      Very hard!

    2. oui shave

      Thankfully I’ve never been one to back down. Entrepreneurial trait #1

  14. Sierra Choi

    Brilliant advice! I wonder though if perhaps there is more of a prejudice against people with liberal arts degrees than an inequality between men and women in general? The media certainly has a lot to do with this- after all Mark Zuckerberg is a household name known for having been a computer geek (although he was actually a psychology major btw before he dropped out at Harvard), and hardly anyone knows who Lynda Weinman is despite the fact that she also founded a $1billion+ company. I think the media favours young male engineers as entrepreneurs in the media, and this in turn, has an sociological effect that influences people’s perception of what a woman’s role should be.There was a very well-regarded thought leader I followed on twitter, and one of the advice he gave to women was not to be stylish nor stand out. I’ll be curious to see what other VCs think about this.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Once your business starts, where you went to school is not relevant. It is just part of the journey on how you got there.

      1. Karissa Bodnar

        Very true!

  15. charlessmith

    I’m late to the conversation, but I’ll add one:-don’t pitch your negatives. This is a corollary to #4, but way too often women founders lay out a great plan and then walk all of the way through the weaknesses of the plan and where it might go wrong. Men founders almost never do this.

    1. Gotham Gal

      Great advice

    2. Nicole Yeary

      This is great advice.

  16. Karissa Bodnar

    There is a movement happening thanks to trailblazers like yourself. Thanks for another inspiring post.

  17. Ben Wiener

    Happy to join the “rant”:1. Many of us (male) investors are blinded to fact that female founders may actually be BETTER suited for startup success than men, even though they get far fewer chances to prove it. Don’t believe me? See the VERY FIRST takeaway rom First Round Capital’s epic ten-year portfolio review:http://10years.firstround.c…2. A sad observation: most of these tips are generic and apply equally to male and female founders (be concise, be positive etc.) – the problem is that male investors are more likely to be more forgiving of male founders “violating” these rules – for example, a male founder apologizing for his product may be viewed as endearingly honest and transparent, while a female founder may be viewed by the same investor as evidencing weakness or lack of confidence. A male rambling is “passionate” and “type A” while a female is judged to be, well, “rambling,” etc.I’ve had a thesis for years, based on my own experience as well as the writings of Deborah Jackson, than female founders may have an edge over males in finding product/market fit for pre-P/M Fit startups, and anybody I quietly shared it with thought I was crazy – I was really encouraged to see First Round’s data to arguably back it up. At Jumpspeed Ventures we’re really proud to put our money where our mouth is, with a bunch of female-led startups in the portfolio already and I’m actively working on at least two more as this is being written. May the best (wo)man win.

  18. Alexa Shoen

    Number 4 is so true. It hurts my heart when I hear women pitch and at the end say something along the lines of, “And even if my spiel here was terrible….”Play the part. Play the part, play the part, play the part. You may still feel like you’re faking it long after the money comes in, so start practicing now.