As a feminine founder, pitching in a patriarchy is one thing I take into consideration every day. The way forward for my enterprise and our crew rests on my capability to navigate this surroundings.
… no stress.
It’s no secret the chances are stacked overwhelmingly towards feminine founders. Solely 2.3% of enterprise capital went to feminine founders in 2020 and solely 18% had a optimistic expertise elevating funding over the previous 18 months. I’m one of many 82% who has had a less-than-positive expertise.
However, accepting that traders method women and men otherwise is empowering. And studying the foundations of the sport provides you the very best likelihood to win whatever the hand you’ve been dealt.
Listed below are seven issues I’ve discovered about pitching in a patriarchy.
Navigating the patriarchy is a ability. Be taught it like every other.
Understanding the dynamics that form our society is vital to navigating it. With out understanding unconscious bias, the gender funding hole, and delicate sexist commentary in each day dialog, this stuff will catch you off guard, knock your confidence and depart you unnecessarily questioning the basics of your corporation.
Arm your self with information. Analysis fundraising norms throughout your trade and on your stage. With out understanding the worth of your corporation your self you enable VCs and traders to find out the worth for you whether or not it’s a real illustration of your work or not. Do that with the help of mentors or advisors.
I’ve discovered it extremely cathartic to be taught concerning the patriarchy by means of the Responsible Feminist Podcast (and guide!). One other good useful resource is January Ventures’s annual report on the panorama for feminine founders.
Be taught to barter.
I used to be pitching for my first ever lead investor who was providing £100k (*faints with pleasure*) however with a low valuation. Having spoken with advisors and mentors, I knew the phrases weren’t ones I might transfer ahead with.
I spent three days earlier than the assembly staring on the wall considering the myriad of how the dialog might go. Suppose Eminem ‘palms sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy’ (however minus the vomit on my sweater as my Mother was not there to cook dinner me spaghetti).
My boyfriend requested me how I used to be going to get these phrases.
“Ask for them?”
‘So that you don’t have a negotiation plan?’
Oh shit. So the evening earlier than the pitch I did a three-hour crash course in negotiation.
As a substitute, I’d suggest really dedicating time to studying the artwork of negotiation. The very best useful resource I’ve discovered on that is the work of Chris Voss.
Learning negotiation helps you notice if you end up being taken benefit of and assert your self in these conditions. It lets you keep away from being pressured into phrases you aren’t snug with merely since you really feel the investor might stroll away if you don’t settle for or in case you have been made to really feel inexperienced or incompetent for not accepting the phrases they’ve deemed ‘truthful’.
If an investor desires to construct a long-term relationship then negotiation is a wholesome a part of agreeing on an funding. My rule of thumb is that you need to at all times have two alternatives to counter a proposal. Nice if you happen to can each agree within the first assembly. However it typically takes a second negotiation to essentially nail down the right phrases.
Go away a foul provide on the desk.
It advantages nobody — not your self, not your corporation and never your investor — if you happen to settle for phrases that undervalue your corporation or make it troublesome so that you can elevate sooner or later. Traders who again founders constructing unicorns are searching for somebody who can get up for his or her enterprise, their crew and themselves. Any investor providing a foul deal is unlikely to be somebody backing unicorns.
It’s while you’re given a foul provide that the trope of ‘the troublesome ladies’ comes into play. Do you have to politely settle for what it’s you’re being given? How does it mirror on you strolling away from these alternatives or calling folks out? That is the facility dynamic of the patriarchy.
However I don’t remorse these traders I handed on. Dangerous phrases or poisonous relationships aren’t what your corporation wants. Go away these on the desk and discover traders you actually click on with.
Pitch from a place of equality.
Energy dynamics play a major position in our consolation degree when pitching. Particularly if you’re the only particular person out of your crew within the assembly. These energy dynamics aren’t at all times arrange on goal — they’re the hangover from centuries of ladies not having a seat on the desk. That’s why we discover ourselves pitching to rooms stuffed with senior, white males. And it may be intimidating. (Again to Palms sweaty, knees weak, arms are heavy).
Keep in mind: the lived expertise is completely different to the perceived expertise. You’ve got into these rooms as a result of you’re a proficient entrepreneur. However our degree of consolation is so typically knowledgeable by what we understand to be true, particularly once we’re the one lady within the room.
In each dialog you’ve in life, be it an investor or anybody else, at all times method it from a place of equality. Count on mutual respect by default.
You could assume as a result of an investor has capital that you just ‘want’ them. The reality is, they could have capital, however you’ve an thought and you’re ‘you!’. It’s their privilege to be part of your imaginative and prescient as a lot as it’s your privilege to obtain their monetary backing and experience.
Ask for what you want, not what you assume you will get.
This one is for the primary elevate / first time founders, particularly those that haven’t grown up round cash or can simply pull collectively a friends-and-family spherical. I do know it may be so awkward to boost cash.
How do you ask folks for cash? It’s quite simple. Simply ask!
You don’t have to draw back from asking folks to commit. It’s not rude or awkward to ask for cash. That is actually their job.
By no means ask for lower than what you want. Let traders know what you’re elevating and ask for them to determine what ticket they will contribute. Should you want a sure ticket measurement for a lead investor or in case you have a minimal ticket measurement be upfront about that.
To all the feminine founders studying this. Nicely completed. This isn’t straightforward.
I hope the following pointers can in a roundabout way make it easier to alongside your personal journey. Constructing and scaling an organization as a lady will not be about smashing glass ceilings, it’s a journey with ups and downs.
You’re going to get there in the long run.
Aisling Byrne is founder and CEO of Nuw.