By Pemo Theodore (Founder, Ezebis)
I interviewed Cindy Gallop of IfWeRanTheWorld about the New York startup scene and funding for women. She also gave a great tip for those pitching for investment.
Pemo Theodore: Cindy, lovely to meet you in person.
Cindy Gallop: Lovely to meet you in person as well, Pemo.
Pemo Theodore: I was wondering if you could tell me how the startup scene is going for women in New York. I know that you’re the heart and life of that, and thought you might be able to give us some feedback about that. I know its booming in New York at the moment?
Cindy Gallop: Obviously I’m biased because I’m based in New York. But I have to say: the tech startup scene in New York is absolutely booming. It is particularly booming in terms of the number of female startup founders and entrepreneurs who are getting businesses off the ground there.
I think that’s fantastic, both because obviously for all of us as women entrepreneurs it’s terrific to have the solidarity and the camaraderie of a lot of us doing the same thing. But I also think that’s brilliant for the New York tech scene because it means that there is true diversity, creativity and innovation coming in from different perspectives in a way that the historically male dominated tech startup scene hasn’t seen. I think that can only be good for innovation and the New York tech scene generally.
Pemo Theodore: Fabulous, fabulous. I was wondering if you’d share a little bit about your personal journey trying to get funding for your startups. I know you’ve got the 2 startups IfWeRanTheWorld and MakeLoveNotPorn. Could you give us some feedback about what’s happening about the funding piece there?
Cindy Gallop: An area that I particularly like to focus in on in terms of how I help other women entrepreneurs is the whole area of money and funding. I do that because I have to say to women regularly, we don’t get taken seriously until we get taken seriously financially. So it’s absolutely fine to focus in on money, finding it, making it — and it’s enormously important that female tech entrepreneurs go after funding with the same ferocity and single mindedness that men do.
Now that being said, I represent the double whammy of unfundability — I’m female abd I’m older! So I won’t pretend that it’s not extremely difficult to find funding for female startup founders. It took me 3 years to get IfWeRanTheWorld funded. It’s taken a year to get MakeLoveNotPorn.tv funded and so I’m very conflicted in this area.
On the one hand, I would love to see female tech founders raise the same kinds of rounds of funding that male run tech startups are. I would love to see female tech founders make huge exits. I would love to see a female tech billionaire topple Mark, Steve, Larry and Sergey from the top of the Vanity Fair New Establishment List.
But on the other hand the very realistic advice that I now always give to female entrepreneurs is — it can be so difficult to find funding so if at all possible, boot strap your idea and get it out there. Get it out there as a minimum viable product, get it into the market place, get it gaining traction.
You’ll find it a great deal easier to get funded when you have something out there with proof of concept and if you’ve designed your startup around a business model designed to generate revenue from day 1 then with any luck you won’t need funding. And actually that is much more the desirable scenario to be in.
So as I said on the one hand I would love to see women gaining much more ground because the tech funding bubble is completely passing us by as witnessed all over the media stories. The talk about the tech bubble and the ridiculous amounts of money being thrown at startups, all of the examples are always male founders universally.
But on the other hand what that actually means is that it’s a lot more realistic for female tech startup founders to actually find a way to bootstrap and get out there and with any luck to find a different way to make your startup viable and pay for itself.
Pemo Theodore: So what I’m hearing is don’t allow anything to hold you back, do whatever you can to get your idea and startup tangible and earning revenue.
Cindy Gallop: Absolutely, the only person to make things happen for you is you! Because it’s a fact of life that female founders face many more obstacles than men, the playing field is not level, actually know that, grit your teeth and make your startup happen off your own resources, your own initiative and your own creativity as much as you possibly can.
Pemo Theodore: You’re a fabulous speaker, Cindy. You have a fan in me! I wondered if you’ve got any tips for women who are pitching to any sort of investor?
Cindy Gallop: I think that the best piece of advice that I can give any female startup founder pitching to any investor is — do whatever it takes to not give a shit when you walk into the room! What I mean by that is (I gave a talk this past Spring @MIT to the Graduate Women’s Association on “Empowerment: Power & How to Find it in Places You Don’t Expect”.
One of the things I talked about was the power of not caring. The power of not caring in a good way in dating, in life and in business. What I mean by what I’ve just said is that the single most paralyzing dynamic in business is Fear.
Too many women when they walk into pitch to a VC, when they get up in public and speak to a large audience, particularly of techies and therefore male dominated is they feel fear. They feel nervousness, they feel insecurity and that has a very dampening effect on their ability to be compelling, articulate and powerful in public. So when I say the most important thing is you don’t give a shit what anybody thinks — get yourself into a mindset where you don’t really care what your audience thinks.
What that means is always give yourself options. If you’re pitching to VCs, have lined up so many meetings that you go “Well if they don’t like me and this doesn’t go well, I don’t care because I’ve got all these others lined up. So I won’t go “OMG so much hangs on this meeting, OMG everything matters so much, I’m going to be paralyzed with nerves and I can’t speak!” because that’s what happens otherwise.
Equally, when you get up in public, on a stage in front of an audience don’t really care what they think. Think “I’m going to have a good time because I’m talking about my startup” or “I’m talking about my program” or “I’m talking about something that I love doing!” I will enjoy talking about that and I really don’t care what this audience thinks of that. That’s the single best thing you can do to make yourself a good speaker and a good pitcher!
Pemo Theodore: Sounds like great advice. Thank you so much Cindy.
Cindy Gallop: Total pleasure.
Editor’s note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below.
About the guest blogger: Pemo Theodore is Founder of EZebis. She is an Australian entrepreneur focused on winning the venture game for women. Pemo has been involved in online businesses for over 6 years, starting with AstraMatch. Prior to that, she has been involved in small business for over 30 years in Australia, Canada, Ireland and London. Pemo is a certificated business coach. Follow her on Twitter at @pemo and her startup at @ezebis.