I had the pleasure of attending my first SheWorx Breakfast Roundtable in LA. As described by the organization, SheWorx roundtables are focused on bringing female entrepreneurs actionable strategies to help build and grow their businesses.
The community of female founders that SheWorx is bringing together globally is inspiring. SheWorx is the global collective of ambitious female entrepreneurs redefining leadership. Recognized as the leading female entrepreneur event series, SheWorx provides women with access to top mentors and actionable business strategies to build and scale successful companies.
The presenter of the event was Dana Settle, CoFounder and Partner of Greycroft Ventures. From the moment she walked into the room with a huge smile, I found Dana to be incredibly genuine, warm and open. Her energy and enthusiasm were fantastic and refreshing! She carried the energy of the room of about 20 women from various backgrounds and stages of their businesses.
The talk was focused on: Fundraising While Female. And one of the first things Dana said, which I absolutely loved, is that the challenges of raising while being a female can be self-inflicted if we, as women, let any bias or belief in gender "equality" or inequality bother us. You are presenting a great opportunity and you are in control. End the meeting if there is disrespect or denigration.
"Be an entrepreneur, not a woman."
There were several questions and great discussions during the course of the hour with Dana. Here are some takeaways:
- There is not a pipeline problem! There are not too few female entrepreneurs. That may have been the case 10 years ago but it is not the case today.
- Pitch to the right audience; not every venture capitalist, angel investor or family office will 'get' your business. Do the research to find the groups or individuals who may have already worked in, built a company in, or invested in your sector or in a similar business.
- Not all companies should raise from a VC, and getting funding from a male VC is not a badge of honor. The economics of a VC's business affects the timeline that they want to get their money back. If your business is not aligned with that, you may be miserable.
- There are a lot of women VCs and angels. Find them, pitch to them!
- Raise capital from people who make sense to you and to your business.
- The critical factor in making a seed stage investment is the team and believing that the team in place can execute on a believable plan, scale the company and the products. The product does not have to be final at this stage.
- It is extremely important for an early stage company to have a plan and to be focused on executing to the plan. The ability to do so has consequences when raising future rounds as investors will look at how well you as a founder were able to perform to plan.
- For Dana, some of her most successful teams have been husband and wife teams despite some common tales about it not being a good idea to work with your spouse!
- Approach fundraising like a dating process. You are getting to know someone that you'll be working with for a long time (hopefully). VCs will also come in for follow-on rounds so you should not approach raising capital like a one-off event.
- When looking for investors to pitch to, there is no shortcut. Do the research - use Crunchase for VCs and LinkedIn for founders who have been successful (these are potential angel investors). In short, find people, target them. Be persistent.
- Investors, VC or angel, respond well to data - for example market data that shows the size of the market and can tell the story of the opportunity. And as a founder, no matter if you are a numbers person or not, you need to know your basic numbers.
- Get used to rejection. Suck it up!
- With the persistence of seeking out the right investors, the network you create and getting into the flow are very important. Sometimes all it takes is one person who can make the right subsequent introductions. People are generous and helpful and investors are looking for opportunities. If they get a referral from someone they trust, that warm introduction will be very effective.
At one point someone came in quite urgently and whispered something in Dana's ear. She ran out and about 5 minutes later came back in. Whatever was going on, she had to take care of it. She apologized and said, "There was a situation with one of my companies. If you were one of my founders you would want me to do for you what I just did for them."
That example underlies the way Dana describes what makes Greycroft different and unique. Their approach to funding companies is about being in alignment with what the founder needs. Funding should not be about what the VC needs, though most meetings and rounds are dictated by the VCs needs. As Dana stated, "you are not a lottery ticket!"
Since capital is a commodity, Greycroft is focused on helping its companies succeed by doing things that move the needle. This includes strategic events for founders and introductions to real business opportunities and partnerships. They regularly make connections between their portfolio companies and major brands, which can lead to partnerships, mergers or acquisitions.
I could tell how intensely focused Dana and Greycroft are on the relationship side of their business. They are intent on doing what is in the best interest of their companies. I appreciated this perspective and approach. Dana's insights and advice during the talk were honest and real. We need more people telling it like it is, inspiring hope through hard work, and encouraging women to be entrepreneurs. Period.