Fighting for Funding: 5 Tips for Female Founders From Ingrid Vanderveldt

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It's a war out there for funding, but Vanderveldt, Dell's Entrepreneur-in-Residence, has some tips for female founders to get the capital they need. By Jessica Stillman (Editor, Women 2.0)

Getting cash to grow your startup is never easy and there's some evidence that it may be particularly challenging for female founders who sometimes lack strong ties to a network of investors, face subtle unconscious bias, or work in niches outside the comfort zone of the still largely male VC pool (that's part of the reason, of course, we'd love to see more female VCs).

But there are some things you can do to make the process easier, Dell's Entrepreneur-in-Residence, Ingrid Vanderveldt, told an audience at SXSW Interactive recently. Vanderveldt sat down with Kay Koplovitz, a venture capitalist and co-founder of Springboard Enterprises, to chat about the current market and the various options available to growing businesses, particularly female-led businesses, as well as the unique hurdles women entrepreneurs face.

Serial entrepreneur Vanderveldt has built and sold two companies, as well as founding the GLASS Forum for women, so she knows of what she speaks. What were her tips? Dell shared them in an email:

Start asking: According to the Department of Commerce, women are substantially less likely to tap outside funding, including loans, angel investments or venture capital over their lifetime. It’s not all bad, though.  Part of the reason for this is that more women are self-funding and are better at making the most of their resources.

Speak the language: Women often struggle with speaking to investors in a way that resonates. They are typically more focused on the product and what it does than how it will make their investor a return on their dollar. They also tend to be more focused on areas in the startup space that are of less interest to men or that that they don’t understand as well, such as fashion or beauty, which can be tough when you are speaking to a panel of male investors.  A way to bridge that gap is to pay attention to the words you use and spend more time on the business of the business.

Take credit for accomplishments and qualifications: Women seem to have a hard time bragging about themselves, but when you are asking for investment it’s not the time to be modest.  If you have two PhDs in a relevant field, make sure it’s known. Your potential investors want to know that you are uniquely qualified to get the job done.

Look for resources to fill the gaps:  You often hear of people struggling to get bank loans, but they forget it’s not the only game in town.  The Small Business Association has a number of resources for businesses of all stages, while Dell and Springboard Enterprises have their own support programs for women entrepreneurs. Crowdfunding with popular sites like Indiegogo and Kickstarter has also been a good option for some entrepreneurs, and the JOBS Act will make it even more of a game-changer by opening the door for businesses to market ownership stakes in their ventures to people over the internet.

Women 2.0 readers: What's your best piece of advice for female founders fighting for funding?

Jessica Stillman is a freelance writer with interests in unconventional career paths, generational differences, and the future of work. She writes a daily column for Inc.com and has blogged for CBS MoneyWatch, GigaOM, and Brazen Careerist, among others. Follow her on Twitter at @entrylevelrebel. Photo credit: Dell via Flickr