Pooled advice from people who want to see you succeed
Tools to keep your steel,
be yourself and lean in
Tools to keep your steel, be yourself and lean in
Mindset tools in a male dominated environment
When raising funds, whether from a bank or investor,
you'll most likely be entering a male dominated world.
Growth mindset versus fixed mindset phases
Understand the impact growth mindset phases can have on your choice, to opt out, or rule yourself out.
Consider the phrases used by the investor, in the context of their overall fit as an investor for you. The phrases may have put you off considering them, without you realising why.
Growth mindset phrases can help you see more resilient people, and more women.
A factor to recruit women as investors or founders, or not limit your choice of talent pool on either. Growth mindset phrases promote resilience, perseverance, "seeks challenge", recruit faster and more inclusively. Fixed mindset phrases “the best and brightest” see less applicants, are unappealing to both genders, deterring women to a higher degree.
According to research by Textio, on a database of 50 million postings to measure the statistical performance of two types of phrases.
Counter feelings of stereotype threat
In the same way saying "you're good at this" can push you up ...
stereotype expectations can uplift or dampen performance in line with the stereotype.
Be aware it's a natural draw to fit to expectations, and of course, tell yourself "you're good at this".
Role models matter
Our unconscious assumptions are influenced by what we see, and may differ to our conscious values. Research found school childrens associations of women and leadership, was significantly increased by role models in the school, and even by just being shown images. Buffer your own association of yourself and leadership.
association of yourself & entrepreneurship
Women mentoring initiatives to are to find more mentors, not to fix a deficiency in women that warrants more mentors.
[In the workplace, make mentoring the norm, to avoid perceptions of fixing women.]
Reframe imposter syndrome
Checking you have the skills needed, is being self aware.
The world is moving forward, why wouldn't you keep on learning new skills
Finding your closest warm connections,
and how to be time efficient on maximising those connections
11 great recommendations for female founders raising funds, by Michelle Caira.
Go through your Linked In connections in detail. Somewhere in that list that you’ve accumulated will be the golden ticket. Somebody you know will either be the VC warm introduction or will be connected to someone else. You need to go through each connection and be prepared to reach out to them with a solid “ask”.
Go through this list curated by Joshua Henderson: The Global Ecosystem Supporting Women Innovators and Investors and create a potential investor funnel spreadsheet. Go through each and every entry and see if there is a golden ticket there.
Join this list on Twitter curated by Mackenzie Burnett: Investors and add them to your potential investor funnel spreadsheet. Go through each and every entry, cross reference with your Linked In connections and see if there are any connections that are 1st or 2nd connections. You’re looking for a warm introduction when you cross-reference Twitter accounts and Linked In connections.
Don’t waste time polishing your pitch deck. Instead have a two-page Executive Summary (I have mine as a word / PDF document) that covers the main headlines: Intro; Problem; Solution; Market; Competition; Why Us; Expectations – Main header, with two sub-headers: Forecast for Year 1 and Forecast for Years 2-3; Financing Required (this also covers off: Use of Funds). This is a short summary of the main themes that can easily be sent to a potential investor and to a creative genius who can transfer this document into a brilliant pitch deck on power point – if needed.
Go to a few pitch practice nights to see what others are doing – what are they including in their decks and what is the feedback from the panel like. What are the main takeaways from the sessions? Take those, use them to perfect your Executive Summary and full business plan.
Create, draft, edit and prepare two different email drafts: One for a cold VC submission. One for a warm VC introduction. In either case you want and need to be ready. If you want to submit your business for VC consideration then have all of your paperwork ready. Sometimes drafting an email on the fly is your best work, other times you’re stumbling to find the right words, your mind is blank or you’re just not in the zone – on these occasions you’ll be glad you’ve prepared an email already.
Be realistic with the pitching events. Be confident enough to ask the hosts questions like: what investors are attending this event? What industries are they typically investing in? How often are your events attended by investors with chequebooks? What is your ratio in female-founding businesses gaining investment? It’s not easy to ask these questions, but that is one of the issues with women in the workplace – we appear to be so grateful for the chance or opportunity that we’re just happy to be included / invited, and rather than “rock the boat” we go along with the narrative. It takes courage to buck the trend and to say – “well, I’d love to attend XYZ, but I’m being very specific with my fundraising efforts at the moment and only pitching to business angels / VCs who are investing in female-founder start ups at seed stage. Would that type of investor be attending?”
Read this article by Parul Singh, then read it again: Raising Seed Capital It’s a brilliantly fast article taking you through some sense-checks, including “are you actually at the right stage in the raising process?” It should help you to review exactly where your business is today, and exactly what level of funding you need and from where. Getting in at the VC level might’ve seemed like the correct stage, but perhaps you’re at the Business Angel level once you’ve reviewed your “ask”. Always spend time working towards a result that matches your business stage – applying for VC funding when you’re not at that stage will, of course, result in precisely nothing.
Research crowd funding and co-op investments options. These are brilliant ways to raise funds at the start up / seed stage and match well with female-founder businesses – if we’ve produced something (product or service) and need ad spend, marketing, team build, etc, then you will find a crowd funding platform particularly attractive – you have something, today, to sell – so sell it with a discount in exchange for a financial pledge. The co-op investment works with equity but in a similar way – offering micro slivers of equity in your business in exchange for funds. The co-op might ring-fence X% of equity, one voting share right for the co-op, and the usual shareholder features apply. You get funds upfront, lose a small amount of your equity and can get the show on the road.
Set up a page within your website that is an “investor” focused page. Make the page very reader friendly and walk the reader through your business concept, successes / traction / client acquisition to date, details of the next stage in business, how much you need to get you there, and a contact us form. Put a password on this webpage. If and when you meet someone who asks “so, what’s your business? How much are you trying to raise?” you can give them the weblink and password and leave them to read through the “whet the appetite” update. This way you’re not sending out pitch decks, financial models, business plans, or the NDAs that will never be signed. But you are giving them further details and a way to reach you if they’re interested in finding out more.
Looking for funding to progress in business is tough and turns into a full-time role, if you let it. My advice is not to lose sight of your business and the work you should be putting into that. The more time you spend trying to find funding is less time working on your business. You will regret doing that when a strong potential investor asks you for solid numbers – how many new clients have you taken on in the past two months? What’s the average up/cross sell from existing clients? What is your automated marketing process for existing clients? How are you on-boarding new clients from free to paid model? – you can’t hide anywhere when you’re being asked specific questions and you definitely cannot say “well, I’ve been working solely on fundraising for the past two months”. That is not what you should be doing or saying. Work solidly on the business and raising funds. Dedicate part of your days work to the business and part to your investor pipeline spreadsheet. Don’t ignore one for the other.
the challenge of the 'uptick' projection
A solution could lie in changing what it means to you
One barrier to raising funds, can be the expectation of a revenue/profit growth chart that follows the Nike tick profile. A solution could lie in changing what the tick profile means to you.
It may help to:
🧩 Reframe the uptick in your mind to be about, ‘communicating your ideas, for your business’. The difference you could make in the world with more resources.
🧩 Break the pressure of the uptick, by separating it into three levels of resources, realistic now, a bit more resource, a lot more resource.
🧩 Stay true to yourself, you don’t have to morph into anyone else, decide your angle on the tick.
Communicating your ideas, of what you want to do, given more resources
70% of founders start their business to ‘bring their idea to market’. See the uptick as an opportunity to expand the reach of your business. To deliver your problem solving or life enhancing, product or service, to more people. What difference could you make in the world with more resources?
Separate out the uptick
Separate out the uptick into, what’s realistic and planned, what’s possible with a little more resource (quick wins), what’s possible with a lot more resources (upside potential). Remembering, the pitch meeting is about bringing in more resources.
Realistic plan. Start with the realistic deliverable projection. Test these on others to check they’re not on the conservative side (know your own personality, if you’re naturally conservative, ask others for a sense check).
+ Quick Wins. What are the ideas or projects you want to do, believe you can do, given a bit more time and resource. Lay out the options and consider, which are the easiest to deliver, the most doable, the ones you feel you ‘should’ be doing (if you had a double of yourself), which have a step you could start now.
Being convinced yourself, makes you convincing to others. Take a few of these ideas, prove the case is valid with outline financials. These are your quick wins.
++ Upside Potential. Upside are the ideas you want to do, would love to do, with a lot more time and resource. They’re feasible opportunities, based on your knowledge of potential new markets or off-shoot products. The financials here, are profit outcomes, estimated with knowledge but with significantly less financial detail.
Importantly, these projections show investors you are investable in. You have ideas for growth, can plan to goals and timescales, and are convincing in your communication.
For founders who are women, ask for the resources you truly need
Remember the Boots advert where two women, with colds, are listing all they’re going to do, including painting the bathroom. Note to investors, women are seriously resilient. Note to women, we may take on too much, and feel pressure to deliver. An answer is to ask for more funds. Women tend to ask for less money, and tend to receive a lower percentage of the funds asked for (compared to male counterparts). So, BCG and I encourage you to ask for more funds.
Business isn't a separate entity, business is people.