God bless us women. We are pragmatic, we don’t promise more than we can deliver, we talk “we” rather than “I”. All these attributes, which personally I think are wonderful and separate us from the spotlight hoggers, are death when it comes to raising money.
Modesty will not galvanize a room full of venture capitalists. As Leslie Feinzaig, Founder of the Female Founders Alliance, says more than once during our interview, venture capitalists are the capitalists of capitalists. Meaning, they want to hear about the big vision, the big idea, the big disruptor that will lead to big returns on their investment. While they’re waiting to hear big, we stay small. Sometimes asking for money that will just cover our costs, rather than asking for the big money that will allow us to expand and succeed. Our modesty, that self-effacing thing we do – it wasn’t me, it was just luck – has got to be banished if we’re finally going to move that stubborn 3% of VC money going to women.
Last note: When I was out raising money, there were two things I always did before I entered the lion’s den. First, I jogged and did jumping jacks in the parking lot to get that Rocky fighting adrenalin going. Second, I said to myself I’m not raising money for me, I’m raising money for this business that I can’t believe nobody else has started. Oh, and a third thing: Once I was inside the room with all the men around the big table, I pictured them like little boys; these are just guys and I can convince them!
If you haven’t already heard the interview, you can click here to listen.
Learn the Money Raising Playbook
The day you say I can’t keep doing this all myself is the day you wonder how can you grow your business without some help. But you can’t get the help if you don’t have the money to get the help. Whether that help is one more person, better production facilities (i.e., not your basement or kitchen), a marketing push by someone who’s a marketing maven. What do you do? That could be the time to create a business plan and go out and raise money, so you can make more money. And, remember, think big, talk numbers, big numbers. To get your mojo going, listen to this episode a second time, a third time until you can throw up your arms and scream from the rooftops, I have something big and I’m going to make it big.
How to Help Women’s Startups
If you’re rolling in cash, you can ante some up to the women’s startup of your choice. If money is modest, you can do what women have always done: join forces with others and create a bigger sum from all the parts. There are women-run collective venture funds out there, where each woman puts in modest amounts that add up to a substantial financial play.
Share Your Connections
Making connections for your friends is as easy as breathing for most women. We do it all the time; you give out the name of your electrician, you recommend a nursery school, you fix up a friend on a date. This time, what you’re doing is thinking of anyone you know who might be a banker, say, or a friend who’s had startup experience, anyone who might help a budding woman entrepreneur on her path.
What Startup Women Vets Can Do
There are women out there who have started businesses and had success. Those women who often continue to be serial entrepreneurs have also got to become serial investors. Play it forward by helping out the next women coming up. For one women’s startup, I corralled four of my friends to join me in investing. Together, we put together a large enough sum to get us into a financing round. And the rest of my time I’m often looking over business proposals and providing input, for a friend of a friend. Find a woman whose successful business you admire and contact her. At the very least, she may put you in touch with others who can help you.