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We read the statistics: only 2 percent to 3 percent of the investment capital goes to companies founded by women only; Companies co-founded by men and women attract a further 10 percent to 15 percent. And although the pool is growing rapidly in Europe, less money is available from European VC funds than from the Americans.
Where does it leave a female founder for the first time from Eastern Europe?
In 2018, I co-founded Zowie, a no-code customer service solution for digital retailers, and immediately brought L’Oreal as our first client. Even between this success and my track record ছিল Forbes 30 Under 30, former IBM, founder of a successful software development agency ছিল there was a difference of opinion against me at the VC Funding Arena.
I started by raising pre-seed funds near home and reinvesting in our growing team. Last year, I set my sights on raising additional capital and started pitching at VC firms across the United States and Europe. It was an ups and downs battle, but it paid off: we announced the Seed Round of Zowie in January 2022, led by Gradient Ventures (Google’s AI-centric fund) and 10x from Germany.
Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to raise VC funds when you have disagreements.
Don’t listen to Impostor Syndrome.
With Impostor Syndrome, there is no way out. Many of us — especially women করেন feel inadequate when faced with a big challenge, but that voice in your head is not telling the truth.
The hard reality is that some of these feelings are socialized. There are real reasons why someone might dismiss or underestimate us, such as gender, race or power. Language can be another barrier; As a non-native English speaker, I know what it’s like to try to express my abilities and intelligence in another language. I can’t control how my pronunciation is perceived by others, but I can remind myself that I have something to say.
Set expectations for yourself instead of letting others set them for you. When you set your own values, it changes your behavior, gestures and position. It’s not about changing who you are, it’s about showing yourself.
See yourself as a founder. Talk to yourself in the mirror if it helps.
Know your number.
Investors expect founders to be data-driven and rational. These qualities are not exclusive to one sex, but unfortunately, the false stereotype is that women are irrational and do not understand the data.
This is an obstacle but a potential advantage. Since technology is so male-dominated, investors are accustomed to seeing men on these pitch calls. It is clear from their questions and behavior that they are surprised to see a woman. They are even more surprised when you throw numbers at them, know your data inside and out, and demonstrate your rational decision making.
Storytelling is valuable (in my experience more by American investors than Europeans) but it must be data-backed. The kind of strong storytelling that comes from a man that is considered charismatic can be identified as unreasonable or soft when it comes from a woman.
It shouldn’t be that women have to act like men to be successful, but our social perceptions about success and ambition have been influenced by gender dynamics. What women founders can do is be aware of this dynamic and be prepared to place additional emphasis on numbers.
Remember empathy is a superpower.
Investors are also people. There is no one-size-fits-all method for pitching, because each meeting is different. Investors have their own preferences, personalities and history in front of you. You need to be able to read them and adjust your pitch. Find out when to ask questions, when people are getting bored and when to move forward and when to finish the pitch.
Counselors will tell you how important it is to adapt to your approach, but you must learn it yourself. I practiced these skills while I was working on sales outreach for a software development agency. Some founders don’t like to hear (or say) this, however: Pitching is like selling. During the sales meeting, I would ask myself, “What is important to this person? What are their concerns? What will help them understand me better?” Now it’s time to introduce myself to investors. I ask myself the same question.
The ability of people to understand and read is important beyond the funding world. The empathy that helps us adapt to a pitch is the same skill that helps us identify our customers’ needs and design products for them. Empathy will serve you well in many areas of your business.
Feel comfortable with the reality of rejection.
Fundraising continues to decline. And hard to deny, but this is the life we choose as the founder.
The hardest part is finding the first investor, especially the first American. Once a firm invests in your business, it legitimizes you for future investments.
Like anyone else, you need to have everything right for your pitch: a great product, solid proof data, an interesting story. But that does not guarantee success. What matters is what you want to do with the rejection.
Use rejection as an opportunity to think about how you can improve. Then, get back there. Repeat your pitch every time and remember that funding is like finding a job or dating: it’s a numbers game.
It’s not easy to disprove stereotypes, but struggles make success more satisfying. Consultants can help you navigate the ups and downs of the hyper-competitive world of VC funds. At the end of the day, though, you need to learn for yourself what works for you.