The demand and focus on the issue of gender equity in the world of successful startups and venture capital is on the rise. For many years, I have followed the journey of several successful startup entrepreneurs and their haste to secure seed rounds from angel investors and venture capital groups to help expand and grow market share within their respective industries.
The enormous success of backing some of the largest companies, which have been labeled as “disruptors” in the market within the past decade, has been possible due to filling unique deficiencies. However, there is noticeable change coming to the world of venture capital, so the playing field can be more balanced to include a more gender neutral approach to the visibility of women-owned venture capital groups. In a recent interview which aired on Bloomberg Television’s Studio 1.0 with Michael Moritz of Sequoia Capital, he stated that some of the disparity in the venture capital markets can be attributed to education in the formative years.
According to the Cruchbase Women Venture Report, which was commenced to study the percentage of women with decision-making authority as investing partners at leading venture and micro-venture firms, 7 percent of partners at the top 100 venture firms are women. In addition, women received a mere $1.46 billion in VC investments last year, compared to $58.2 billion for all-male founders, according to Merian Ventures.
There are several women who are leading the way and reaching back to teach others how to begin investing and leveraging partnerships with VCs. Leaders such as Kirsten Green, founder of Forerunner Ventures, prove that women can crack the code in the venture capital world. Time magazine ranked her as one of the most influential people of the year in 2017. Forerunner also invests in women-led businesses and female founders. Green believes people are waking up to the reality that women are making an impact in the VC world.
I recently connected with 37 Angels founder and associate dean of Columbia Business School, Angela Lee. 37 Angels is a group of women venture capitalists who are committed to educating and investing in early stage entrepreneurs, and also hosts several workshops for novice angels investors to learn how to invest in young companies.
Here are four things every woman entrepreneur needs to know before pitching their business to angel investor and/or VCs.
Ask for more.
“Ask for 150 percent of what you think you [will] need,” Lee told me. This has been a recurring issue in the startup world, partially due to the fear of rejection. “[Women] need to ask with real authority and conviction,” Green said in a recent interview with CNN Money. The key to every successful negotiation is to ask for more, and settle as close the number that you need. If you aim for “just enough,” you will run the risk of securing less, which can affect the valuation of your company as well.
Learn how VCs ask questions.
Lee discussed the differences that commonly occur in pitch meetings between men and women. “[They] ask male founders promotion-based questions such as, how do you plan to acquire new customers?, etc. When speaking to female founders, they may ask more convention-based questions, i.e. how do you prevent competitors from stealing market share?” She advises women entrepreneurs to answer convention-based questions, but make sure you spin it into a promotion answer to prove you know how to create value for the investor.
Immerse yourself in the VC ecosystem.
Women entrepreneurs need to network in the startup and investing community consistently so they can learn what investors are seeking. Lee said, “If you attend at least one networking event per week, you will learn what to expect.” Groups such as the Angel Capital Association and Funding Post host several angel and capital investor events on a regular basis, which can provide value for entrepreneurs seeking funding. In 2014, I attended the Southeast Venture Conference (SEVC) before it ended and of the 1,100 attendees that year, there were fewer than 200 women.
Do not think of gender in an “all boys room” of VCs as a disadvantage. Lee suggested that women entrepreneurs “eliminate that level of over-thinking from your consciousness.” Investors rely heavily on your ability to believe in your own leadership capabilities. Present yourself with confidence and pitch yourself as a proven leader.
Related Video: 6 Great Reasons Why More Women Need to Invest