RocksBox founder Meaghan Rose shares what she's learned from the challenges and triumphs she experienced fundraising while being a woman. By Meaghan Rose (Founder & CEO, RocksBox)
It's not the same. It just isn’t. Fundraising for your startup is going to be harder for you than a male counterpart with the same business. Here are a few things I’ve learned along the way that can help you succeed despite the challenges.
Women founders are always being told to be more confident - even the most confident ones! It makes me cringe to hear that because it sounds so condescending, but the truth is I often hear from investor friends of mine (men and woman) that women don’t promote themselves as much as men in a pitch – and this is a mistake. When looking at a business, the founder is one of the most important things that an investor needs to understand.
Be prepared to talk about you and why you are the person to build and run this company. Practice it with several different people (try to practice with male finance types if you can) and have them give you feedback. Just like you have a go-to elevator pitch for your company, you should be prepared to pitch on why you are the person to do the job. People invest in you every bit as much as the idea. Give them a reason to believe!
Invest in Your Network
A Stanford study shows that strong network ties are even more important for woman founders. It is hard to build and maintain all of the relationships in your life and it wont happen by accident. Make a spreadsheet; know everyone in your space and how you connect with them. Get warm leads, follow up on those, and know what you want out of each meeting. Know what you need, why you need it and then ask for it. People generally want to help — you can make it easy for them by doing the homework in advance. Being strategic and proactive about networking is smart, not calculating.
Seek Out Women-friendly Investors
Ultimately in early-stage fundraising the decision will come down to gut instinct. Decisions are based on past experiences and how someone feels about the founding team and the opportunity. Whether intentional or not, investors are more likely to go with someone and something that feels familiar to them – and generally this is going to be a guy. There are some investors who have worked with several successful female founders and you should make a point to try and connect with them.
Don’t Let People Treat You With Kid Gloves
I recently had an email with a fellow entrepreneur and friend. He sent me some feedback over email and then said “I really hope it is helpful -- I sent it with the best intentions and I recognize there are different personal styles/approaches.” I thought it was a little funny because he was obviously concerned that he had hurt my feelings, either that or he thought I didn’t know that there are different styles and approaches and that I was free to use my own.
I’ve come to realize that people are often not comfortable giving a woman feedback or criticism. This comes from a nice place, but it is a huge disservice. Feedback is what will get you to success as fast as possible. Just like you track data and use those insights to drive your product, feedback can give you important insights that shape your success as a leader and entrepreneur. You get to decide what to do with that feedback (a lot of it is useless, some of it is invaluable), but if you don’t get it you’re totally missing the opportunity. Don’t let people underestimate how tough you are. Let them (especially those whose opinions you value) know that you would love their feedback and don’t get knocked back by feedback when it comes. If someone takes the time to give you feedback it is a real compliment – it means they believe in you enough to make an effort.
Connect With Other Female Entrepreneurs
As a female founder you will face challenges and situations that aren’t covered in most of the startup blogs or experienced by most entrepreneurs. There is a fine line between bitchy and assertive – finding it and walking it can be hard, and frustrating. Find a network of great female founders that you can talk to and learn from through the ups and downs. Although we are still the minority, there are hundreds of fabulous female entrepreneurs out there. The Women 2.0 events page is full of great ways to connect. And feel free to connect with me (firstname.lastname@example.org) if I can ever be of help!
About the guest blogger: Meaghan Rose, is founder and CEO of RocksBox, an innovative e-commerce company that is changing the way women discover and shop for jewelry. RocksBox is a membership-based service in which members borrow high-quality designer jewelry and can buy the pieces that they love. Prior to starting RocksBox Meaghan worked at McKinsey & Co. in marketing and product innovation strategy and with Bain & Co. She holds an MBA from Wharton. Follow her on Twitter @megkendall.