I interviewed Richard Titus, CEO prompt.ly @GLAZED Conference. He spoke about London where he comes from originally & his startup prompt.ly. It is focused scheduling & is targeting to individuals. He spoke about being a serial entrepreneur & about getting investment. He is just about to close his Seed Round & about to start Series A. He spoke about being an angel investor in London, UK & his investments. He also mentioned the difficulties in raising capital in the UK & how the ecosystem works there.
Last week we had a fabulous 4 days of incredible speakers @Smart Money Silicon Valley which I coordinated. It was an amazing education about investing & I wanted to share 2 talks about Angel Investing.
Gwen Edwards, Managing Director of Golden Seeds is an accomplished executive with 30 plus years of experience from the technology/telecommunications industry. From Stanford Research Institute to operating executive running a $400M business unit of SBC/now AT&T, to CEO of a venture backed company. The constant thread in her career – from R&D to Sales VP and General manager, is one of commercializing innovation, and turning customer needs into revenue opportunities. Gwen now consults and advises both early stage and F500 companies on the art of innovation, and relishes opportunities to engage key customers, front line employees, and other stakeholders in defining next stage opportunities. She is an avid supporter of engaging women in the angel and venture investment community, and in associated leadership opportunities with new ventures. You can find Gwen on Twitter @GwenEdwards
Marya Stark is a Co-Founder of The Angel Fund, which brings key women in technology together to invest in Bay Area technology companies. She is also a Co-Founder and the Founding Executive Director of Emerge America, the premier national leadership program for women who want to run for public office. Emerge America, which now serves twelve states, is known as a “game-changer” on the national political scene. Marya began her career in corporate finance with Smith Barney and continued doing M&A transactions for a French telecom company in Paris and for a small boutique that she started with a colleague. Subsequently, she was the SVP of Marketing and Strategy for Urban Box Office Networks. She is a Board member of UC Berkeley’s Alumni Association. Marya holds a finance degree from UC Berkeley and a Masters in Applied Statistics from Georgetown University. You can find Marya on Twitter @maryastark
Last week I gave a talk to the Founding Moms’ Exchange in San Francisco about raising investment for female entrepreneurs. It was a great crowd of mompreneurs & we had a fabulous conversation about the issues.
Here’s the first part of the talk!
“There’s no question that there is a gender gap when it comes to businesses attracting funding. Pemo Theodore has spent the past two years interviewing angel investors and venture capitalists to find out why women-owned businesses are so often left out, and more importantly, what we can do about it. Anne Raimondi, Co-Founder & CEO of One Jackson will join us to provide her recent real-world experience raising VC. Don’t miss this amazing opportunity to learn how to perfect your pitch!”
Anne Raimondi, CoFounder OneJackson joined us for the 2nd part of the talk. Excuse the lack of centering of the camera – my videographer was not present to ensure it was centered. Anne’s career has been focused on fast-growth consumer and consumer technology companies including Gymboree and BlueNile, where she was a member of the founding team. At eBay, Anne launched eBay Stores and headed marketing, mechandising and all seller features, and she was head of product and user experience at Zazzle. She served as VP of Product & Marketing for Insider Pages (sold to Citysearch / IAC) and VP of Marketing for SurveyMonkey before starting One Jackson. A mother of three, Anne received her BA & MBA from Standford University. When she’s not working or at swim meets, Anne serves as a parent volunteer Art Vistas docent helping to teach art in public schools.
Here’s the second part of the talk:
Video interview with Christina Brodbeck, CoFounder The Icebreak, a fun and new service that helps couples to create more rewarding relationships with snack-sized activities that take no more than two minutes a day. Facebook is for friends, dating sites are for singles, theicebreak is for couples. Prior to theicebreak, Christina was a founding team member at YouTube and the company’s first UI Designer. She later went on to lead UI for YouTube Mobile, is an active angel investor, and mentors at various places including 500 Startups and The Designer Fund.
Transcript follows & video below
I know that you’re an investor as well as an entrepreneur. Could you tell me what you’re interested in investing? What are the things that really fascinate you, the businesses that fascinate you?
I think because I’m an angel investor instead of an institutional investor, a lot of it is what personally interests me. Instead of oh this is going to get me a huge return. Areas that I’m particularly interested in are mobile because I have a background in mobile UI. Also things that solve email problems, I’m really interested in that & productivity & utility tools. Also things that appeal to a female consumer demographic.Christina Brodbeck
Great & have you invested in many female founded businesses?
Yeah I have, I’m trying to think. Probably at least 3 or 4 of the 15 companies I’ve invested in.Christina Brodbeck
Great & I guess if you’re an angel investor, you obviously help the founders get their business going as well as the actual money that you invest.
Yes, since I don’t invest a large amount, I’m a smaller angel investor. A lot of what I do is try & give back in terms of time. Since my background is UX & UI, most of the time I spend with companies is helping them with that.Christina Brodbeck
That’s really great. You’ve got a fascinating business of your own. I’m particularly interested in it because my last startup was an online matchmaking algorithim for online dating sites. So I’d love you to talk a little about that business & how you evolved that.
Yes so the service is called The Icebreak and it’s a mobile app. We just released our iphone app about a month ago & then also a website. It’s for people who are already in existing couples, married, engaged or if you’re dating somebody. We help make your relationship & continue to make your relationship awesome. We give you fun activities that you can do & things to do to communicate & stuff like that.Christina Brodbeck
What’s your secret ingredient behind the actual process & games that you offer?
A lot of it is taking a relationship that you already have & is probably a really good relationship. Or at least a relationship that you enjoy. Then giving you small nudges & small pushes but in a very fun game like manner that enhances your relationship. We don’t want it to seem like work, it’s taking something & making it very fun.Christina Brodbeck
And what sort of responses have you had?
Yeah it’s been really interesting. I’ve learned a lot of things about men & women & how they think differently & how they approach relationship differently in the course of doing this.Christina Brodbeck
Fabulous. Now something that I get quite a few emails from female founders is that they’re interested in how to get involved in 500 Startups incubator. I know that you’re one of the mentors. I wondered if you’ve got any tips for female founders who are interested in that?
Yes, I think honestly a lot of it (& this doesn’t just apply to 500Startups, also just to incubators or anyone in general) is Persistence & knocking on a lot of doors. I’d say the best way to get in touch with Dave or any of the people who are partners there is to go through the mentors. Try & establish a relationship with them. Maybe look them up on the mentor’s page & try & start a conversation with somebody who has either invested in, mentored or advised or started a company possibly in the similar demographic as your own. Just start a conversation with them. Then hopefully something will develop into an introduction.Christina Brodbeck
As you said research really helps because then you can see whether or not they would be female founder friendly.
Right, exactly & as a whole 500 Startups is very female founder friendly. So you’re starting in a good place.Christina Brodbeck
Fabulous, you don’t have to jump any hurdles.
Right exactly.Christina Brodbeck
I know I’ve read in the past a couple of articles that have either mentioned you or you’ve actually written about women & startups. I just wondered if you’ve noticed any differences for female founders in the last couple of years.
I think now people are recognizing that a lot of spending & a lot of the consumption & the time that is being spent online is done by female consumers. So I think now there is a shift where investors are at least taking note of companies that are appealing to that demographic & they’re willing to put more money into them. I think the next step, the step beyond that is let’s invest in more female founders so they can start more companies.Christina Brodbeck
I just read, I think yesterday, that there’s a female venture capitalist firm just opened & has just invested in a female founded company. Gee even in a year, I’ve seen massive, massive change of consciousness around it.
Yes it’s really cool, it’s awesome.Christina Brodbeck
Thank you again for your time, it’s been delightful interviewing you.
Thank you so muchChristina Brodbeck
Rudy Garza is a native of Austin and a recognized Texas leader in the technology start-up industry. He started G-51 Capital in 1996 a few blocks from the University of Texas campus and now has served as an investor and board member for over 20 companies, selling numerous to publicly traded strategic acquirers including SAP, ADP, Prudential, and Cisco Systems among others. Rudy has demonstrated success in seed-stage business identification and development not only in Texas but across the country, leading to the firm’s nationally ranked return performance. He is an active leader in the venture community, including longstanding participation in NVCA and the Texas Venture Capital Association. He has led syndicated investment deals with numerous angel investors, institutional and corporate venture capital firms nationwide. You can follow Rudy on Twitter @TexasSuperAngel
Video interview with Rudy Garza, transcript follows & video below
I was wondering if you get any women or female entrepreneurs coming to pitch you with their startups?
We do get a number of women coming to pitch us with their startups. I think if you look back over the last 3 to 5 years, I’d say the number of women entrepreneurs has probably doubled or tripled from what we were seeing 3 to 5 years ago.Rudy Garza
Gee that’s fabulous isn’t it? Can you tell me the sweet spot or theme of the companies that you like to invest in?
Yes sure. G51 Capital are a Super Angel Investor. Super Angel definition to G51 is that we place typically anywhere from $1/2million to $1million for initial investment. We generally lead the Series A & we provide very hands on support & nurturing of the companies & the entrepreneurs. We’ve invested in a number of different companies over the years. We started the company back in ’97 & the model nowadays is less is more. Entrepreneurs have become more sophisticated & they know cap tables & they know doing more with less helps them retain larger ownership percentages on the back end. We’re excited to be working in that arena.Rudy Garza
Do you like to invest locally or do you look all over the US?
We look all over the US for our investment opportunities. We just announced a Stanford fund where we’re working with what we call our hyper networker in Larry Chiang. He’s quite the energetic individual & he’s very passionate about working with engineering students & computer science students in Stanford. He’s been teaching E141 Class, Entrepreneurship for Engineers. So we’ve teamed up with Larry & we’re going to go out & find a Stanford founder. We think that model of affiliating with different universities & those associated ecosystems is a smart platform to work from going forward. So Stanford is going to be the first test bed for us.Rudy Garza
Fabulous, that sounds really interesting. I’m wondering whether you’ve noticed any differences with women when they’ve pitched their businesses? Or if you invest in them when they run their startups? Are there any differences that you note compared to men?
I always hate to generalize but I think we found that women entrepreneurs are sometimes better listeners & are willing to take advice. Sometimes the male counterparts might be a little more set in their ways & need a little more deliberation for that. But what’s nice is that when these entrepreneurs recognize that they have strengths & weaknesses & we can help support their weaknesses & they recognize that, then it works out really well. I think women entrepreneurs tend to come in with an open mind on that. So I think that’s a real positive of working with women entrepreneurs.Rudy Garza
Would you have any advice for women entrepreneurs or females that are looking to raise venture capital?
My advice for female entrepreneurs is try to understand what kind of capital your company needs. Try to right size your capital raise & your investors that you look for with the right markets. So for example if you were looking for $1/2million you may not want to go to a Sequoia or a Kleiner. You also have to understand the opportunity around your startup. So if you don’t have a billion dollar opportunity again you wouldn’t want to go to a Sequoia or a Kleiner. If you have a smaller opportunity, there’s going to be some businesses that can be very well 100% funded by angel groups. And there will be businesses that will require angel groups & super angels. And there will be businesses that will require angel groups, super angels & traditional venture. Beyond that you can add the growth capital partners on the other side when opportunities really take off & you have some magnificent opportunities. So try to look at your business & figure out what your capital requirements are going to be & right size your capital requirements with the prospects for your company for the investors that you are going to contact. If you right size those quickly you will meet with your people, you’ll be more effective & you’ll raise money faster.Rudy Garza
Fabulous & just to clarify for the audience, how would you define a Super Angel which obviously you are?
The G51 definition of a Super Angel is someone who invests post angel but is not traditional venture. I think the traditional angel investment in today’s market is around $350k. I think the typical incubator funding ranges pretty broadly from $25k to another $100k or $150k. What tends to happen is those companies are able to develop their products & build an initial team on that money but often they haven’t been able to exercise enough commercial traction to justify a traditional significant venture round of funding. So that’s where Super Angel money comes in. They’ve delivered a beta product, they’re ready to move forward & with $1/2million, $1million or $2million they can prove the commercialization opportunity around their technology. That’s my definition: It helps them prove the technology commercialization around their product or company.Rudy Garza
That’s really great & it’s given me a clearer definition. Thank you so much for that & thanks again for your time today Rudy.
You bet! Good luck! Thankyou!Rudy Garza
The free ebook “Why are Women Funded Less than Men? a crowdsourced conversation” available @Scribd, as with the year long video interview project from which it arises is an attempt to bring human faces & voices to the issue of the lack of female entrepreneurs that are successful raising venture or angel capital & also the lack of women venture capitalists & angel investors in comparison with men. There are a few organizations that have done some research & provided data which is the backdrop some of which I have included in the book. You can download the ebook for free on Scribd
I spent 5 years in London trying to raise funding for my online matchmaking business & in the end had to admit failure. My story is only one of many. Very early on in that journey I had committed to help women source venture, when I was successful. As it turned out I have been doing just that for the last year, not because I was successful but because I failed. Possibly if I had been successful I would never have had the time to accomplish a project like this. I have been video interviewing venture capitalists, angel investors & women founders on the shortfall in funding for women. My goal has been to listen to as many people as I could from both sides of the table, so I could hopefully determine where all these conversations intersected.
Whilst I have been doing these interviews, many people have said to me that no problem exists & that women can be as easily funded as men if they have a great idea, team, plan & advisors. However the statistics, some of which have been mentioned at the beginning of this book, show another story. The percentages of women in technology, female entrepreneurs & female venture capitalists are extremely low compared to men. The reasons are multifold & complex and cannot be answered or resolved quickly or easily. Many wonderful people & organizations are working to change the ratio & I am sure that this situation will slowly shift due to their efforts. When I started this project a year ago, the conversation & debate was hot & heavy & continues to carry a lot of emotional response from both genders. So I surmise that it is timely to showcase these conversations about the lack of women being funded compared to men, to shed further light & awareness on the subject.
Some of the questions that were addressed Is there a Problem? Is there Overt Discrimination? Does Bias Keep Women Disadvantaged for Investment? Are there Advantages of Diversity? Should we Generalize about Gender? Are there differences between Men & Women? How does the Female Market Impact Investment? What do Female Entrepreneurs have Going for Them? Other issues: Risk & Failure, Thinking Big, Children, Sex & Power & Helping Other Women.
Just when you thought you couldn’t go back in the water or get funded, “Why are Women Funded Less than Men” the free ebook is available @Scribd. With a cast of thousands, well a lot anyway, 120 embedded video conversations with 26 venture capitalists, 19 female founders & 7 others – a truly crowd sourced conversation.This was reposted on i7 Summit Blog , Girls in Tech, TheNextWomen, Ogunte: Global Tribal Network & Women2.0
Review of the ebook done by Penny Herscher on her blog The Grassy Road & FirstRain
The video was mentioned by Mark Suster on his blog Both Sides of the Table Why Aren’t There More Female Entrepreneurs? & reposted on Fast Company & mentioned on Startup America Partnership Blog
Nick Flores Director Investment & Entrepreneur Services Investors’ Circle, where he oversees the organization’s investment process from start to finish. He is working to grow a robust pipeline of high-impact deals across a variety of sectors, and to maintain strong communication with all portfolio companies. At the same time, he also works closely with early-stage venture funds and IC’s affiliate fund, the Patient Capital Collaborative, to manage the deal syndication process with these partners. Before coming to Investors’ Circle, Nick managed the Capital Access Program at Green For All. There he helped generate content, launch capacity-building programs, and identify capital sources, all with the intent of supporting the development of small green businesses. Nick has also worked previously in both real estate private equity and the sports industry, most notably with the PGA Tour. Nick holds both an MBA and a BA, with honors, from Stanford University.
I spent 5 years in London trying to raise funding for my online matchmaking business & in the end had to admit failure. Very early on in that journey I had committed to help women source venture when I was successful. As it turned out I have been doing just that for the last almost year, not because I was successful but because I failed. I have been video interviewing venture capitalists, angel investors & women founders on the shortfall in funding for women. My goal has been to listen to as many people as I could from both sides of the table, so I could hopefully determine where all these conversations intersected.
Video interview with Ed Reitler partner at Reitler Kailas & Rosenblatt. He attended Harvard Law School (J.D., 1990), magna cum laude, where he was an Editor and a contributor to the Journal of Law and Public Policy and a contributor to the Harvard Journal of Legislation. Ed handles a wide variety of corporate matters including private equity, venture capital, mergers & acquisitions, capital markets and joint ventures transactions. Ed handles a wide variety of corporate matters including private equity, venture capital, mergers & acquisitions, capital markets and joint ventures transactions.
Transcript follows & video below
Could you highlight some of the legal issues that startups face when raising venture capital or angel investment?
Sure, when an early stage company takes on any type of capital whether it’s from a venture fund or angel group or single angel, they’re really taking on a partner. The rights that are negotiated, particularly by venture funds are extensive. They fall into 2 general categories. One imposes encumbrances on the entrepreneur’s equity. So really the vc seeks to help shape the path of the company from an exit standpoint preventing the entrepreneur from selling her shares. Or allowing the venture fund to tag along into a sale, perhaps even imposing a drag along right which would allow the venture fund to force a sale. The other area of rights that the entrepreneur has to become accustomed to, is around corporate governance. That means that the investors have a right to have a say in new equity raises or maybe more than a say, a consent right to new equity raises & sales of the company. Perhaps additional executive hires, perhaps debt financings, any changes to the corporate organizational documents that could affect the rights of the venture partners. Probably the biggest thing for an entrepreneur, especially a first time entrepreneur at least one who’s first time at getting financing, has to become accustomed to is the notion that they’re no longer with the founding team calling the shots alone. The Venture & Angel investors will want a right to participate in major decisions in the company’s future.Ed Reitler
Fantastic, that’s really clear, thank you.
What percentage of women startups have you had as clients?
I looked at your questions before you came over & I thought about this question. A suprisingly low number. I’d never really thought about it until I first got your email about the video interviews you’re doing. I’d say females on an executive team, which is broader than saying the one founding, the primary mover of an early stage company, I’d say probably around 10% of the companies have women. I was surprised by that because as I thought about that it’s a shockingly low number! Given on a nationwide basis, there’s more women in the work force than men on a percentage basis. So I found myself surprised by how low that number is. We operated a small fund out of this office & it’s called Angel Run Capital. It’s made up of venture fund general partners, entrepreneurs, I’m an investor. It’s entirely volunteer partnership. We just invested in a woman led company called MyNines which is a flash sale aggregator, aggregating information off sites like Gilt, Rue La La, ideeli, HauteLook, Editor’s Closet. Apar Kothari is the CEO of that team. We’ve invested in 5 companies but of the 5 we’ve invested in, she’s the only female entrepreneur that we’ve invested in. My client base has a similar dynamic. Even though you haven’t really asked the question, in the questions that you sent me, I’ve never been clear on why that is.Ed Reitler
That’s the purpose of my interviews. I’m trying to nut down why there is a shortage & how we can boost the numbers. Thank you for that.
There are groups out there that are trying to do that. Are you familar with Girls in Tech , Golden Seeds , Astia . I went & looked at some of the interviews on your site, you spoke with Natalia, she’s with Pipeline Fund & I’m a mentor to that group. Those are all groups that are very active in trying to encourage female angel investors & help train them. also to back & support women entrepreneurs & women led businesses. I’m also on the Technology Committee of the New York City Investment Fund & Fred Wilson’s heavily involved with that. I know you’ve interviewed him . That’s a fund that seeks to invest in women led businesses within the 5 boroughs of New York City. There are a lot of efforts out there & I think they have been successful. But the numbers are still staggering about how much more work that needs to be done.Ed Reitler
Yes, yes thank you. Do you think that networking with Venture Capitalists is harder for women entrepreneurs? I know that entrepreneurs are often connected to vcs through lawyers & through their other contacts. So I’m just wondering if you’ve noted if that networking piece is missing?
I certainly actively work to put companies together with capital. It’s part of my job as facilitator or counsel to the venture funds or the companies. There’s no filter as to whether it’s a man or a woman that’s leading a venture led effort. I certainly make the introductions. On the networking front, perhanps there is a difficulty there in that, if you’re doing something after hours maybe the dynamic between a man & a woman is different than between 2 men if you’re having a beer or dinner. But I would think that that dynamic would be the same in any area where networking is crucial, any sales effort or any investment banking type of service work that there would need to be that type of interaction between a female service provider perhaps male clients or vice versa. I don’t think there’s anything unique about venture that prevents women from networking as effectively as in other industries.Ed Reitler
Video interview with Alison Davis Chairman & CEO at Fifth Era Financial . She is also Board Director at City National Bank & at GameFly. Alison is also Chairman for Women Initiative For Self Employment. She was also till recently Managing Partner and GP at Belvedere Capital Partners for over 6 years. She received an MBA from Stanford University Graduate School & Harvard Business School. You can find Alison on Twitter @adavis5552
Transcript follows & video below
I wondered if you could tell me about the initiatives that you’ve been involved with in helping women entrepreneurs?
Well I have experience from different angles. For the last 7 years I’ve been running a private equity firm that invests in financial services businesses. You know the leadership, the CEO is critical to the investment community in terms of making outsize returns. You’re really backing a person & a team. So I’ve had experience there backing female CEOs versus male CEOs. I’m also a member of Keiretsu Forum, so I’m an angel investor myself. So I see all the entrepreneurs coming through & have chosen to invest in several myself. This is not my day job but my non-profit passion at the moment is an organization called Women’s Initiative for Self Employment . I’m the Chairman of the Governing Board for that. We’re America’s biggest Micro Enterprise Development Agency. We do 3 things: we train women to start their own businesses, low income women. We make them a loan to help fund their own business. Then we provide them with an ongoing mentoring network system. So it’s like a 3 legged stool: the mini MBA program, the loan & then the ongoing mentoring. We’ve met with phenomenal success. Our entire client base is low income women & it’s phenomenally inspiring to see what these women can do when they have all the tools. I think women can be incredible entrepreneurs but they tend to be more risk averse. So sometimes they’re not willing to jump in but if you have a female entrepreneur with a passion, there’s no stopping them. Especially if they have the tools, the training & the support network & the resources.Alison Davis
The numbers are quite low, I think 3 to 5% (Illuminate Ventures mentions) of women that actually raise venture capital. I think it’s a little bit higher for angel investment. Do you have any ideas about why that would be, why women are such a small percentage? When really, I agree with you, absolutely creative, smart, fantastic women that I know of, who are entrepreneurs.
If you look at the number of small businesses in the country, small business creation that is driving our economy, a much higher percentage of small businesses are started & run by women. It’s much closer to 50/50. I think what happens is that when women are starting a business, they’re thinking how do I get to $100k, $150k, $200k cause then I can put my kids in school, I can buy the groceries, I can be comfortable, I can have a car. They’re not sitting there thinking how can I make $100m & be the CEO of facebook. So women start businesses because they have a passion they want to pursue. I don’t think they’re shooting for the big payout. They’re tend to be less focused on being an entrepreneur for the big money. Self sufficiency is important because then they can look after their families & then pursuing a passion & doing something they love. I think that’s why you see the percentages go down. But I have a lot of female networks, and there are plenty of women looking for venture capital who say they just don’t get funded. So I think there’s a bit of that going on as well.Alison Davis
What’s the feedback from those people about why they’ve had difficulty getting funded?
This is my view, I think some of them just don’t have the networks they don’t know someone who knows someone at Sequoia, as much. But often their business plan they’re not thinking big enough. Their pictures are maybe not focused so much on outsize returns on investment. Then the thoughts of having a venture partner, there are probably women that could do with funding, their businesses could be better & stronger & more successful, I think if they had a strong venture partner. But it’s a little scary to have some powerful investor sitting at the table with you. So I think some of them are just nervous about what it would mean & to seek it & would rather raise more advance money from people they know well.Alison Davis
Why do you think there’s fear around that? What’s your understanding of that fear in women?
Many things, maybe a loss of control, maybe a lack of knowledge about the venture industry? There are very few women in the venture capital industry. So if you had more women in the industry, probably they would be able to articulate the benefits of venture capital funding to women entrepreneurs.Alison Davis
Yes that’s why I’ve been doing this project. Just to make it much more accessible, For women to see that there are human beings involved in the venture industry & many, even male venture capitalists, who really appreciate women entrepreneurs & what they bring to the table. One of the things that I’ve had feedback on is that women don’t like to ask for money. Do you have any thoughts about that?
I do & there’s a lot of research to support that. Women don’t like to ask for increase in salaries. One of the reasons that women are paid less than men, is that women are reluctant to go ask for it. That’s a common theme.Alison Davis
Why do you think that is? Why would we be reluctant to ask for money? I can identify that myself, that I had to fight that when I was sourcing venture.
I don’t know whether you’ve read those books The Female Brain and the Male Brain . They’re excellent books by a Harvard Medical School Professor who is now at UCSF. They’re worth reading & provide a bit of perspective on the female brain & how it has evolved through adulthood. The chemicals that are flooding women’s brains versus men’s brains. I think for men, the accumulation of power & resources, it’s something that comes much more naturally to them. If you’re a man with power, money & resources then you’re able to protect your family & your clan & keep your community safe. So men through millenial development are more oriented if there’s an opportunity to be more powerful or to get more resources. They say money is power, they’re very oriented to go get it! It makes them more able to perform their role of being protector & to compete. Whereas women are just geared very differently & our brain chemistry is from birth onwards more about community & nurturing & relationships. You do find that women can go & ask for money if it’s not about them. If the messaging is we need this money to put your children through school, then they can get up the confidence to go & ask for it because it’s principle based, it’s doing something that’s not about them, it’s for someone else. When I had women reporting to me over the years, I would tell them, it’s about fairness & equity. You should go & ask for that bonus & that increase because it’s about fairness & also you have your family to look after. If you get a bigger bonus you can write a bigger check for the non-profits you care about or help more people with it. I think women can get their minds around asking for money when they can come to terms with the message that seems right to them.Alison Davis
That really makes sense. I had one entrepreneur early on in the project who said what made her step up to the plate was that she had finally got a team around her that were dependent on her to get the money. That encouraged her to then go & do the pitching. She said when it was just her, she could think of every reason why not.
Interview with Elizabeth Hodgson, CEO & Founder Civicboom UK which is a crowdsourcing information platform: Prototype live – full version (with API) released early 2011. Built from standing start, Civicboom is an innovative platform that enables organisations to crowdsource news and insight via their own communities through open or invite-only targeted online environments. Previously, she had over 14 years media and communications experience ranging from award-winning online travel journalist and editor to speech writer and communications consultant. You can find CivicBoom on Twitter @civicboom
Transcript follows & video below
Could you tell me briefly about your past history in raising angel investment?
We started the usual way, the hard way. We came up with an idea & we had the friends, family & fools involved. We did it really from the ground up. We were quite fortunate, in so much as where we are here in the UK, we’re based in a city called Canterbury which is in the South East County of Kent. Kent University has an enterprise hub that gives facilities to potentially high growth companies/startups very,very cheap office space. The environment that they can actually be on campus. On campus we’re able to hire developers straight from graduation. It was quite a neat little space to come to. I only found out about it accidentally. I think this is something that I want to touch upon later about how we don’t know what’s going on. We fitted the criteria & as a result other institutions that are suited to our needs came to know about us. We were then approached by an organization called Innovation & Growth . It’s part of a government backed initiative that helps potentially high growth startups to reach the right angel investors initially. We went on the radar of these guys back in September/October & then we got angel investment earlier this year, round 1 really. So we’re now gearing up for round 2 because part of the process is we push forward. We’ve got our pilots going, our systems are being tested & we’re now going out into market which now makes us right for round 2. Eventually we are going to vc. But if I hadn’t found this particular little hub & been approached, I think that we would have been dead in the water by now, really.Elizabeth Hodgson
You would have slipped through the cracks, isn’t that interesting?
Yes it doesn’t matter how great your idea is, this is something I feel quite passionately about here in the UK, we do not have the infrastructure. We don’t have the startup mentality. I’m going to say something quite sacrilegious, as much as we think we do we are set up for this. Even down to the investors that you’re meeting with, they don’t understand the startup environment really.Elizabeth Hodgson
I agree because I was doing all of that years ago in London. Totally agree & particularly the ‘woman’ piece in those days was definitely a detriment to me.
Well interesting, because even now there are a couple of other startups that are associated with the hub down here that are driven by women. I look around, in the nicest possible way & all my developers are guys, all my customers are guys. People I’m meeting are guys & I’m just thinking I want to be a successful person in what I’m doing. But I do wonder where are the other women?Elizabeth Hodgson
It’s a good question. We are combing the undergrowth now & trying to get them to all come out & show their faces.
It would be good. It would be good. I do think that there are different pressures on women in business. I’m not trying to sound like a victim, because I don’t believe in that victim mentality but I do think we have to prove ourselves that little bit more.Elizabeth Hodgson
Yes I agree & many people say the same thing. What attitudes towards you being female have you noted from angel investors when you have been raising capital?
I think I’m very much I’m an unknown, as it were, because I don’t think the people who invest in companies in this area, it’s usually a male run company. I genuinely think that I’m a rare creature, a CEO of a technology company that’s got angel investment in the UK. I think that the percentage of companies that actually reach the stage that we’re at, & if you strip away the fact that it’s run by a woman, I think that I’m quite unusual. I’m very lucky in the fact that my investors don’t see it any differently. But I think that I am unusual in this environment. I certainly feel it when I’m looking at other companies. You do background checks on other companies that are coming up & you just see that it’s men, men, men, men.Elizabeth Hodgson
What qualities do you think women entrepreneurs need specifically for sourcing angel investment then after your hard won experience?
I would like to say the same as a male. I would like to say they have the passion, the drive, the commitment, the idea, the tenacity. I do think that there’s a difference in, without trying to get too much Men are from Mars & Women are from Venus all of that, but I do think that women do have a particularly different approach to business. I don’t want to play by the men’s rules because it doesn’t suit me to play by the men’s rules. I want to play by my rules. But I think that women unfortunately are still judged by the mere fact that they’re a woman. I think you’ve got to not play that card. I think actually you’ve got to be even more professional. So I would say be absolutely focused on what you’re doing. Also it’s something, I forget where I read it, (actually I think it was something you wrote) women tend not to focus so much on the hard sale. We’ll try & make something as perfect as possible. This is what I’m finding with my peers as well, the small number of peers that I have. Whereas I’m trying really hard to get my head around the fact that you just get it out there, speed, speed, speed. Get it out there & worry about whether it’s got the shiny corners later. Just get something out there & do it & lead & don’t be afraid. But I think that there are constraints on women, in particular women who actually find that they’re in a position to actually start something of their own. Usually it’s later on in their life. It’s not the twenty somethings! I came to this later on, after many years experience of working in the field. I thought this is what I want to do. So I think that there are constraints & conditions put on women that will stop them from doing this anyway. They might have families. They might not be in the financial position because financially you’ve got to be able to do this.Elizabeth Hodgson
You’ve got to be able to run lean a lot of the time, haven’t you?
Be prepared to lose everything.Elizabeth Hodgson
What I’m hearing is that it’s really important to focus on the business per se, rather than the fact that you’re a woman & any of those considerations. And also to be a little bit more bold!
Yeah I do think that. Again I don’t want to say that women are victims. However I think that there are perceptions about women in business. I would like to challenge those perceptions. I think that women do need to collaborate & work together in proving that there is a different way to work than just I think that we all perceive are the only rules.Elizabeth Hodgson
And the great thing about women if we’re going to generalize is that usually we’re good at collaborating & supporting each other. So that will certainly stand us in good stead! In your opinion what percentage of women would qualify then as regards having these qualities? Could they be developed? If so what are your ideas about how this could happen?
Looking at my peer group & my friends as well, I am a firm believer (like everyone’s got a book inside them) everyone’s got the ability to do something. I’m the kind of person that if you’re going to do something do it big! There’s no in between. But then I’ve got other peers, one of my friends has set up a bookkeeping company. That’s very small, but she’s done that off her own bat. She’s trained herself, she’s doing it! I think that the startup mentality doesn’t have to be massive. It’s just I’m going to do something & I’m going to do something for myself. I’m going to create something from scratch. We started literally from an A4 piece of paper, an idea on a bit of paper. It’s having that confidence to say yeah I’m going to give this a go, I’m going to push this forward. So I think that most women have got it in them.I think it goes in our favor, that you go through your 20s you are establishing who you are, you’re working out what your talents are. You’re getting some experience under your belt. I think that the age at which women finaally realize that they can do something, is actually a really good age because they’ve got that confidence & they’ve got the connections. I would encourage any woman really, not necessarily take the risks that I’ve been prepared to take (& to get to this point it’s been a very, very hairy journey but we’re here). I would like to have had a little bit more support, not around hand holding but just this is where you can go with this, this is what you can do. The legal aspects, how to set up a company. Here in the UK the same rules apply to us as they do to Google & it’s ridiculous. Personally we don’t get the breaks. We don’t get any kinds of breaks at all. We have the same tax rules,the same everything, the structure of the companies. But I would like to impart this information. I would like to be able to turn around & say to somebody this is what you need to do. These are the support mechanisms that are in place for you already. Genuinely I think anyone could do this. But I just think it’s having the tenacity & the commitment & a little bit of a door opening for you. Because we’ve got to pull each other through.Elizabeth Hodgson
So what I’m hearing is that the mentoring & sharing with your colleagues, all of that’s really helpful to encourage & to build that confidence in women to give it a shot!
To interject, I think also that women work in a different way to men. I don’t think it’s a bad way. As I’m looking across my not vast office, the 3 developers here are 3 guys. I think I’m fortunate in that we’re all in this together. I think that there could be some issues around some men don’t like taking leadership from women. I’ve had that said to me & to still hear that kind of stuff is really quite negative.Elizabeth Hodgson
Disappointing, disappointing, yes. Obviously in the UK & Ireland where I was based before London that definitely still seems to be much more prevalent. It’s a slower move to the current trend where we’re actually all equal.
I think we will get there but there’s still a lot of work. Education, education, it starts from being a 5 year old in school, that’s where it starts.Elizabeth Hodgson
Video Interview with Robin Wolaner, author of Naked in the Boardroom. Robin is a company founder and former publishing/internet executive; her book, Naked in the Boardroom A CEO Bares Her Secrets So You Can Transform Your Career , was published by Simon & Schuster in March 2005. She is the Board Chair for Skout Inc She was the Founder & CEO of TeeBeeDee, a social network for people 40+. Previously she was Executive VicePresident for CNET Networks. You can find Robin @ her website & on Twitter @robinwolinar
Transcript follows & video below
Could you tell me briefly about your past history in sourcing venture funding?
Sure, well I did it so long ago. The first time was back in 1985 when I was the founder of Parenting Magazine. Because I’m out here, I looked first to Sand Hill Road & vcs for investment. Magazines were really not in their sweet spot. It wasn’t a technology company. I met some guys who became giant vcs later on but Bob Kagle , Tim Draper who made an angel investment in Parenting before he even started Draper Fisher. My dear friend David Nierenberg who left the venture world for a hedge fund that I’m an investor in. So I met great people but it really wasn’t a venture kind of a deal & I ended up raising the money from Time Inc instead. After that the next time I went the venture route was for TeeBeeDee which was a social networking site that I founded in 2005. I raised angel money first & then venture money. So that’s my more recent experience. We closed our Series A in the beginning of 2007.Robin Wolaner
- What personal lessons being a woman have you taken out of your successes &/or failures in that regard?
Well I don’t really feel like being a woman had any impact on my raising money. I think what has an impact on raising money (& probably not in this order but the ones that come to mind) are your track record. You have succeeded previously, obviously a great thing, even if you’ve failed previously. I lost all my investor’s money & my own money in TeeBeeDee. Yet when I joined Skout it really wasn’t a factor. In fact several people from prominent venture firms said you learned more by doing that & it’s made you more hands on which is more appropriate for today’s startups. Small startups don’t take as much capital. So I don’t actually think that being a woman had any effect but track record has an impact. Now there are fewer women who have led companies, who have founded companies who have succeeded or failed than men. So of course that’s a factor, there are fewer of us. But once you have that track record I don’t believe that you’re either advantaged or disadvantaged with venture capitalists. I believe that now in today’s kind of startup, in the world that I’m in which is the consumer technology company, being an engineer as a founder is really important. There just aren’t that many women engineers. We know that Larry Summers got fired from Harvard for saying that. I don’t agree with his reasoning but it is true. So every time you’ve got something that reduces the pool of available women whether it’s whether they’re in engineering or whether they’ve had the track record, there’s less for the VCs to invest in. But VCs are complete sheep. They follow the trend, right!Robin Wolaner
So if a woman walks in with what they’re funding that week (I’m not saying they all do but the lion’s share of them are lemmings) so if a woman walks in with that hot sector that they’re all funding that week, they’ll fund her company. Whether she’s done it before, female, male or anything in between. They will overlook anything in the race to get in on the next hot deal. So I think that people make more of it.Robin Wolaner
Definitely more enlightened here than it is in London, that’s for sure.
I’m sure that’s right, I’m privileged to live in Silicon Valley.Robin Wolaner
I would say so, it’s like heaven here compared to London & Ireland.
It is like heaven here, much as I like Ireland.Robin Wolaner
What attitudes towards you being female have you noted from venture capitalists when you have been sourcing investment?
Not of being female. I’m older now so I see the baby vcs who are really young enough to be my kids, I’m in my 50s. I have a funny story from the days when I was raising money for Parenting. Trying to convince these guys to take a bet on a magazine, they wanted an industry expert to talk to them about advertising because I wasn’t an advertising expert. So I got the woman who was then the head of advertising for the Magazine Publisher’s Association & she happened to be a former Penthouse Pet. I had worked with her at Penthouse. I think these guys thought ‘Oh my God we’ve died & gone to heaven!’ This is what they look like in publishing, very different from Silicon Valley. She was lovely, Scottish actually but they still didn’t invest. I think you could bring in the great beautiful guns but it didn’t matter, they weren’t funding magazines, they weren’t funding mine.Robin Wolaner
What qualities do you think women entrepreneurs need specifically for sourcing venture capital? Many have mentioned women’s intuitive abilities & I quote you “Women get more credit (than men) for being intuitive. Some of the things that stop women from listening to their gut are they hold themselves up to unrealistically perfect standards and so then their gut starts giving them insecurities instead of messages that are really helpful, like ‘oh I’m not qualified for that’ which is not something you generally hear men say. I think women have some real potential for being more emotionally in tune.” Do you think these qualities could serve women entrepreneurs when sourcing venture?
Did I write that? Well it was a while ago & maybe I’ll edit it on the fly now. Because what I think is, in a way it’s bad to be in tune with your emotions when your emotions are making you feel insecure. I had a friend who is an amazing success story today C level exec. She was describing a job that was being recruited & she was telling me all the reasons she wasn’t qualified for it. I guarantee you a man in that position would not have that conversation. So in a way listening to your gut is good but not when it’s giving you the message of ‘Oh, oh heres the hole in my resume!’ Guys don’t do that & women need to stop doing that too.Robin Wolaner
I wonder if that’s the gut, it may be more the lack of confidence & insecurity rather than the gut feeling?
Yeah so I think that quote is more of a mashup than what I believe. What I believe is that women need whatever it takes to make them feel invulnerable. Basically if you’re going into vcs as a founder, you have to suspend disbelief or you wouldn’t be a founder. The odds are overwhelmingly against you. Most things fail. So you’ve got to suspend any disbelief about your ability to get it done. I don’t know if most founders see the possible problems. I’ve worked with male founders. I’ve worked with female founders. I’ve been a founder several times. I don’t know any of them who fit the image of ‘never doubt, the complete Silicon Valley asshole theory. I’ve met those assholes later in their lives & I don’t think Larry Ellison would ever admit to a moment of self doubt. But the founders that I meet generally ‘Oh my God can I actually get everything to happen?’ & you just have to suspend that. I think in some ways men are better at denial than women.Robin Wolaner
Yes I have had feedback during these interviews that women tend to be more upfront & realistic.
Self deprecating! I did rehearsals with one of my girlfriends who’s a C level exec herself, has been an entrepreneur in residence venture firms. When I did my pitch (I guess it was for TeeBeeDee) she was like… self deprecating….self deprecating…take it out! So it’s a good tip. Get somebody else.Robin Wolaner
Great to have a mentor like that heh?
Well I hate the word mentor myself, I call them tormentors. But have a friend, have somebody who’s going to give you the tough feedback.Robin Wolaner
Video interview with Stephanie Hanbury-Brown, Managing Director Golden Seeds. Stephanie has been the Managing Director of Golden Seeds LLC, which provides investment capital to early stage, high growth companies, since its founding in 2004. Prior to that, she spent 20 years working in the financial services industry in Sydney, London and New York. The majority of her career was with J.P. Morgan, where she headed several global businesses including Global Head of Futures and Options, Head of International Private Banking, Chief Operating Officer of Global Equities and Head of eCommerce.
Could you tell me about Golden Seeds & how this network of angel investors support women entrepreneurs?
Golden Seeds is first & foremost a group of investors. We support women entrepreneurs by giving them capital that’s number one. It’s very tough for women entrepreneurs to get capital. I guess it’s tough for all entrepreneurs to get capital but definitely women entrepreneurs are an under served segment. They really only get between 0 & 6% of venture capital in any one year. But capital is best when it comes value added & ours comes with a lot of advice, mentoring, coaches to the entrepreneurs. Because we have a network of 160 members we can use that network to open doors for the companies whether it’s for partnerships, potential acquirers, customers. All of us are really interested in helping these companies grow.Stephanie Hanbury-Brown
Wow thank you! How do you become an angel investor with Golden Seeds?
First of all you have to be sponsored by another member. You have to be an accredited investor per the SEC definition. After that you just have to have a passion for entrepreneurs. There’s a lot of learning involved & you have to be willing to roll up your sleeves & do real work around due diligence & sitting on boards of companies. But most of our members are successful business people themselves in their own right either entrepreneurs or corporate people or marketing or financial people. So it’s the full range & all of that is extremely valuable because all of it can help companies.Stephanie Hanbury-Brown
And how many have you got in your community of angel investors?
We have 160 members altogether & most of them are women. We do have some men as well & we love men. They’re concentrated in New York, San Francisco & Boston. We also have a small group in Philadephia. Then we have several elsewhere in the country that come into one of those centers.Stephanie Hanbury-Brown
What is the process for a female entrepreneur to obtain funding with Golden Seeds?
For an entrepreneur to obtain funding from us, first of all she fills in an online application from our website. This is viewed within one or 2 days by our screening director. Then forum leaders in the locations in which we hold forums. So it could be Boston, New York, San Francisco is where we do our screenings. So then those people review the application & choose a subset from the application to come into screening. Then the entrepreneur is in front of any number of us from our group as she gets screened. Those who make it through the screening will then be invited to a forum. So then you pitch to all the members at the forums. If you get enough investor interest at the forum, then we hold a 2 hour meeting immediately following the forum so we can dig into key issues. If things go well from that meeting then we form a due diligence team. We do about 2 to 3 months of due diligence. At the end of the process if all continues well then hopefully we make an investment, put someone on the board & then start working with the company alongside the entrepreneur.Stephanie Hanbury-Brown
Fantastic. Is it like with venture capital, a lot of venture capitalists say they like to invest in people locally, close to them? So would you get entrepreneurs from the Mid West, Florida or other parts of the country?
We invest in entrepreneurs all over the US. In fact we have a company in Canada that we made an investment in last year. One reason why traditionally both angel groups & venture capitalists like to invest locally is they like to be able to be close so they don’t have to go too far to board meetings. So they feel that the entrepreneur can easily get to them. But we’re quite comfortable working remotely. Our members do of course fly to board meetings. We feel a lot can be accomplished without having to be in people’s back yard.Stephanie Hanbury-Brown
Fantastic. That’s reassuring for some of the uncovered areas particularly the MidWest. I’ve had inquiries from people in that area. What do you look for in women entrepreneurs & startups that indicate interest to you in investing in their businesses?
When we’re looking to invest in an entrepreneur, the first thing we look for is passion for her idea. This is very easy to detect. Most entrepreneurs are actually very passionate about what they’re doing. So the why they’re doing the business is a really important thing for us to ascertain. Secondly how much experience does she have in the arena in which she’s established her business? Even if she doesn’t have all the experience that’s required, has she been able to demonstrate the ability to build a team that complements her skills & experience. And put other people around the company such as advisory board members who can really help her with introductions & advice, counsel all of that. So they’re the critical things such as advisory board members who can really help her with introductions. We do focus on 3 sectors: consumer goods, life sciences & internet businesses. But we’ll look at anything outside of that but that’s where our core expertise is.Stephanie Hanbury-Brown
Brilliant, brilliant. What can women entrepreneurs/startups do to increase their chances in sourcing angel investment, generally rather than specifically Golden Seeds?
When an entrepreneur is looking for investment, there are lots of places to go. You have to get out & about & go to venture capital fairs & forums & meet & mingle with investors. Don’t be shy about promoting your cause. So that’s number one. But you have to build a relationship, because people don’t (or at least very rarely) just write a check after one meeting. So this is a relationship building exercise that can take a while. I think that’s a really important thing to establish. Even going through a few months of due diligence is about developing a relationship. So it’s not just about fact checking. It’s great to get some individual introductions when you go to a venture capitalist or an angel investor group as having an advocate there for you makes a huge difference. You can find angel groups in particular if you go to 2 sources: the Angel Capital Association website lists angel groups around the country. In addition AngelSoft which is a deal management system many of us use also. It helps you find groups. Venture capital firms, you can find them through the the National Venture Capital Association website. Then look at who are the partners. Use Linkedin & be creative about getting personal introductions.Stephanie Hanbury-Brown
Great, great good idea. What sort of challenges do women face if they become an angel investor? Obviously you’d have lots of experience with the challenges?
Yes, becoming an angel investor is really a fun thing to do. I think it’s a great second career, especially for people that want to stay involved in the business world but don’t necessarily want to be fully employed or have a boss. But it’s a lot of work because you really have to do a lot more than just write a check. You really have to be willing to support the companies & you really have to go through tough times with the entrepreneurs. It’s really important that you’re communicating with the entrepreneur & have them communicate regularly with you because it’s hard to help the company if you don’t really know what the challenges are.Stephanie Hanbury-Brown
So really building the relationship between the entrepreneur & the investor?
Yes like all business this is a relationship business.Stephanie Hanbury-Brown
Yes of course because we’re people, we’re humans! Great! What qualities & experience are necessary to be a female angel investor?
To be an angel investor it’s extremely valuable if you’ve got some business background yourself & actively engaged in the world. Because your connections can really help these companies. Your advice can, your experience, your particular expertise can too. But it’s your connections that are going to help them mostly because getting access to big companies for partnerships, for clients, that’s the toughest thing that entrepreneurs face. Any help that we can give them in that respect is extremely valuable.Stephanie Hanbury-Brown
Thank you again for your time today. I really appreciate it, I know you’re very busy.
It’s great to meet you.Stephanie Hanbury-Brown
Video Interview with Wendy Lea, CEO of Get Satisfaction. Get Satisfaction is a community-based platform that helps companies engage their customers through open and transparent conversations that increase customer satisfaction, product insight and enhance customer loyalty. Wendy founded The Chatham Group, where she currently serves as an angel investor, strategic advisor and board member for a long list of startup companies. Wendy chairs the board for The Forum of Women Entrepreneurs & Executives (FWE&E.org) and serves on the board of Silicon Valley Social Venture Capital (SV2.org). She was recently recognized as a Top 100 Woman of Influence in Silicon Valley. You can find Wendy at her site & Twitter @wendyslea
Transcription follows & video below. This is Part II of the interview. You can view Part I here
What qualities do you think women entrepreneurs need specifically for sourcing venture?
First of all I think there’s skill & knowledge & a certain kind of work ethic process. I come from the CRM days so I think in formulas. When it comes to skill: the skill of presenting, the skill of negotiating, the skill of positioning is critical. Those are very refined skills, this is not light weight! That’s why at Astia & other places you can go learn how to pitch. The skill of presenting is non trivial, the skill of negotiating (& we have to get comfortable with the terms too). I wasn’t that familar with them all, so I had to learn that. But I had good negotiating skill overall. So that’s important. On the knowledge side, complete knowledge of the product you are presenting, that goes without saying, but market knowledge & competitive knowledge very important. So whatever it takes to fill that tank up because the impact of your presenting comes from how you’re presenting & the words & content. If you don’t have both of those, then you’re going to miss the mark. Because they want someone who is not just an eloquent speaker but speaks with confidence & competence (confidence meaning knowledge, so it’s knowledge based). Then I would say the tenacity & the resilience, they would be the softer skills but you can’t teach someone that. You just can’t!Wendy Lea
No it has to be innate.
People say ‘Well you’ve just got to hang in there!’ No you’ve got to have a deep seated passion of course but that passion has to translate into tenacity & resilience. When you’re wondering what they’re thinking & they’re not really saying & then they’re all shaking their heads like birds pecking water. You get happy ears because in our case we were running out of money. There’s nothing worse!Wendy Lea
Yeah it’s a terrible feeling. You don’t want to share that because then you feel you’re losing your ability to influence them. Then on the process side? There’s skill, there’s knowledge, there’s kind of the whole human factors resilience, energy that piece. And then on the process side, really understanding how to pace, when to demo, how early, all the financials: that’s the process of it. It’s very important because otherwise you can get ahead of yourself & they can pull you that way. Then you think that they’re really interested when they’re not. So there’s a lot to it! And all of that while you’re trying to run a business! It’s more than a full time job!Wendy Lea
Exactly, thank you so much. In your opinion what percentage of women would qualify then as regards having these qualities? You’ve already said that some of them can’t be developed, they have to be innate. But the other skills can be developed? If so what are your ideas about how this could happen?
Of course, skills are acquirable. They’re behaviors. So to say that someone can’t have a skill, that’s impossible, crazy. Because if you decide you need to have that skill, you go learn it. Be it analytical skill, any of those skills. Let’s just start with I think the bigger question, maybe the more important question is: Inventory your Skills! To see which of those skills you are strong in & from there decide who wants to be with you in this process.Wendy Lea
Yes because you can’t be all things?
That’s right. So first inventory the skills of presenting, of analyzing, of positioning. That’s what I would say! Because you have them if you’re going to be in business. It’s just how strong they are? Then the second is knowledge. You can acquire knowledge too. You think well if you’re going to be the CEO or you’re going to be a founder of something, you’re going to have certain knowledge anyway. You’re going to have market knowledge & product knowledge because that’s inherent to building the business. But the competitive knowledge you just have to go get it! And the go to market knowledge you have to go get it! So yes you can acquire that! No excuses! No excuses on the skill side, it’s just a matter of exploring your strengths & weaknesses. No excuses on the knowledge side because you’re not going to have a business if you’re not going to have the knowledge. I think the difference, the woolly parts, the ones up for grab would be the tenacity, the resilience, the work ethic (because I don’t think you can make yourself work hard!) I think you just do or don’t!Wendy Lea
And if we’re looking at it through the lens about women?
I think women are much more hard working. Period!Wendy Lea
And the resilience & tenacity?
In fact I will go so far as to say, the guys who funded us, Azure Capital Partners. They are very experienced. They really come from an investment banking background. They’ve had their fund for 10 years. They’re the original investors in VMWare with Diane Green. They love women entrepreneurs! Full stop! If you ask them & you could Cameron Lester or Mike, either one. They would say they feel like women do work harder. They are more resilient. They do feel like (we feel like) we have more to prove! I know it’s not fun to admit that! And maybe not all women do but I think some!Wendy Lea
A few people actually have said that in the interviews.
For me, you would think well Wendy what do you have to prove? You’ve already built a business & sold a business! You’re financially independent! You know I’m not sure what I had to prove. But for me the drive was to be more current, more relevant in this new world meaning in the social technology world. In the world of online business, new business models that have some connection to the social technology side, I wanted to be more relevant. I had been investing in those things but you know I had one investment which was just amazing UStream which was just amazing. But the others weren’t. Well if I had been more knowledgeable, I wouldn’t have made some of those investments. I wouldn’t have just come behind someone to throw in my $50k for the sake of it. My drive was to be current & relevant & to get my hands dirty & to feel like I had helped the company & the team bring their assets to full potential. That’s my thing is bringing assets to full potential! Human assets, IP assets, knowledge assets: I like that! In these times when you can build a business much less expensively than you used to & you can move much faster than you used to, just because of the nature of open source & being online. It was the perfect time for me to play that out! So I feel right now, I’m completely in my sweet spot.Wendy Lea
I’m hearing that you agree, that women actually have these abilities & really nothing should hold them back except their own attitudes.
Yes I think so, their own attitudes & just their own fears.Wendy Lea
Some say that women may not be suitable for running startups, due to the demands of their personal & family life. I’ve had that feedback from both men & women vcs. How do you see this challenge Wendy?
I think that’s a real challenge. I’m not speaking from experience. I have no children & I have no husband. I have a dog & I take good care of him (I have to make arrangements). The work of building a company is really tough. So I do think when you’ve got children of any age or a partner who wants any attention? I have a pattern of not doing any of that well. When I’m in, I’m all in. So in that way I’m a work horse, even a workaholic. I think the older I get the harder that is, just for the stamina thing. But I think for young women that are going into this & yes they do want children & do want a husband (I respect them for that!) So you’re just going to have to pull it all together because it’s going to take a lot of management. It’s not impossible.Wendy Lea
No & they do say that women are much better at multi tasking.
And we are & you know that & you can tell that. That’s why you can cook dinner & make sure everyone’s comfortable & walk the dog & blah, blah, blah & do your email at the same time. That’s our blessing & our curse & it does wear us down. But to answer your question, I think if I were in my 20s and I just had a baby & I had this great husband. We’d have to sit down & have this real serious pow wow about it. I’d say ‘Look I want to go do this & it’s going to be demanding and will you support me?’ I just think you need to be explicit about what’s going to be required, that’s all.Wendy Lea
And so this might be, from our conversation, the only challenge that you see for women? Because if we have all those abilities & we can develop all the skills, then really it’s just the right sense of family & personal life?
Yes I think so, it’s a priority thing, isn’t it? The wonderful thing about the female gender (there’s so many wonderful things about the female gender!) but I think we’re much better at pulsing in & out. What I mean by that is, you take a run, you take a 5 year chunk & you say ‘I’m in between movies!’ Let’s pretend like I’m an actor. ‘I’m going to go have my children!’ I’m at the stage either early or late, I’ll adopt them or have them. I’m going to take a break & do that & come back. When I come back, I’m going to start the next Google or the next facebook. Then I’m going to take a pause, because I want to go to Bali & do a meditation path & I want to come back & I want to be in politics. Then I’m going to come back & run a non-profit. It seems to me, based on my observation of my friends from 20 year olds to 70 year olds, that we feel more comfortable opting in & out over the life cycle of our career. I think that’s a beautiful thing. I think that makes us better at each stage.Wendy Lea
Yes it makes us more whole!
I think it makes us more whole. I think it gives us more ability to lead because we have more empathy relative to where everyone else is. I think that’s a beautiful thing.Wendy Lea
Video Interview with Adeo Ressi, Founding Member of TheFunded.com. TheFunded.com is an online community of 12,000 CEOs to research, rate, and review funding sources worldwide. Adeo also runs the Founder Institute, a mentoring program that helps entrepreneurs launch hundreds of world-class companies each year. The Institute is the eighth start-up that Adeo has founded or built, four of which were acquired and three of which are still operating. You can find Adeo @ his blog or on Twitter @adeoressi or Founding Institute @founding
Transcript follows and video below
Could you briefly talk about TheFunded.com & how it can make a difference to female startups?
Sure TheFunded.com is the largest directory of information on funding sources in the world. The vast majority of information is free. So you can see all the major funds, all the major angel groups, their preferences & things like that, all for free. If you want to see telephone numbers & email addresses you need to be a member & you also need to be a member to see some of the reviews that CEOs post. But we don’t basically care about gender or ethnicity at all.Adeo Ressi
I’ve noticed, its great!
We have probably 10% female CEO membership in TheFunded. And the reality is again, it could be 50% or 75%. There’s no bias at all.Adeo Ressi
And no limitation placed on it?
Yeah gender & race doesn’t factor into our admissions process to being a member of TheFunded. We only care that in fact you are a CEO or founder of technology company. When I say technology what I mean is some sort of company that has the potential to raise money from investors. So if it’s a restaurant chain, it’s not really appropriate for TheFunded community.Adeo Ressi
I heard that you were kind enough to say at TheFunded.com Showcase, that you were wanting to increase your female participation. Is that on the site or as far as your incubators go?
Theoretically there should be a 50% female founder rate. The reality is that right now, depending on who you ask, it’s somewhere between 2 & 7% of technology company CEOs are female. It might be a little bit higher reaching to 10% if you look at technology company founders because a lot of times female founders will take a secondary position in company management allowing the male founders to be the face of the company for fund raising & other benefits. But again that really makes no sense, so from my perspective there should be about half the population depending on where in the world you are, are female. And about half of the CEOs of startup companies should be female if in fact we embody the things that we say in startup culture which is equal rights etc. Now I think, with that said the largest obstacle in my view towards greater female roles as startup founders & more likely startup CEOs is that the investment community definitely does not favor female founders & female CEOs. Just look at the composition of investor groups & they are well over 90% male. I can probably name on 2 hands, the number of female partners at funds worldwide that have really taken a leadership role. In fact I can probably name on 2 hands the number of female partners at funds worldwide that I know. And maybe there’s a few more than that. So if the people that are funding are not 50:50, it’s pretty clear that the people who are funded are also not going to be 50:50. With that said we’ve taken some initiatives in another organization that I run called the Founder Institute, where we have no selection bias there as well, we do a couple of things. Number 1 we try to have the Institute itself be run by females half & half. So 30% of our chapters are run by females today. We’d obviously like to see that get to 50%. Obviously if we ourselves can say we have 50% of our chapter management being run by females, we obviously want to see 50% of founders being female. Again keeping in mind that we have absolutely no bias at all, second we do some extra marketing to females that are interested in starting a company. So we have partnerships with Women2.0 & other groups that focus on women & we use those marketing partnerships to build the number of females that apply to the program. Then we put them through the exact same filtration process. Given some names (I don’t even know gender half of the time), so a lot of people have foreign names so I wouldn’t even know whether they are male or female.Adeo Ressi
I know that’s the case for my name too, I often get mail for Mr Theodore Pemo (my name turned around).
Exactly, for us gender doesn’t even factor into it at all.Adeo Ressi
That’s so brilliant & so great to hear about the initiatives.
There are some realities that are different so we are graduating right now. We are enrolling about 20 to 25% female & we’re graduating about 15% female. The reason for the disparity is that I think our program is very hard, at least the Founder Institute program is very hard. It’s very hard for males, it’s very hard for females. It doesn’t matter your race, gender or other life circumstances the program is hard.Adeo Ressi
So it really filters people out?
Right, we try to make it hard because it’s designed to be a proxy for the real world. So for example right now we’re in the holiday period & we’ve asked people to not only work on their product through the holidays but prepare a year end board kit that they would normally have to do if they were running a startup. We’ve added 100 hours worth of work through the Xmas & New Year’s holiday 2 week period & the reality is if they were running a startup they would have to do that work anyway. So even though it’s a training program, we’re training them in a vocational way to be ready to run their startup. For whatever reason, we find that the females drop out a little easier. I’ve spoken with other women’s groups about why that is. And I think that a lot of females have perceptions that differ from male perceptions on the world. I think men expect things to be often times hard & sometimes women expect things not to be as hard. And I think women deal with things differently. If you look at how the women who run chapters deal with founders in their program, it’s actually different in many cases than the ways that men deal with the same thing. So I think there’s going to be a balancing where some of the norms have to change in how startups are done to attract more females in? Because if we just say hey we’re just going to give you stuff that you need to do in a startup regardless of gender, race, age & we see more females drop out, clearly the way that startups are being built & run today do not appeal to females as much as they do to males. With that said the way startups are built & managed will need to change to attract more females. Startups are very cut throat & maybe too cut throat I would argue? The work load is often excessive & its arguably too excessive. So I think if we can balance startup life a little bit more, that will also help attract females into startups.Adeo Ressi
So changing the startup culture is what your intention is?
Yeah it’s pretty clear that modern day startup culture was built & developed by men. And look what the net result is then, over 90% of the people who fund startup culture or who run startups are men. So obviously if you want to get more females involved, it cannot continue to be a male run & operated industry.Adeo Ressi
Do you have any ideas about how you could change that environment? Obviously you’ve been having some wonderful thoughts about this, which is really great.
It’s a chicken & egg situation of course because the startup world today is what it is. So it’s got males that fund in the vast majority of both angel & venture sources. And it’s got males that are running the vast majority of companies by buy in. Now you have a bunch of female movements, but what’s happening there is its almost creating a separate universe.Adeo Ressi
Yes, which is not so great!
Which is not so great, I agree, where you have female funded & female run. So it’ll be like these are the female businesses & these are the male businesses. What do you do? Do you change the gender mix & hope that changes the way that things operate? Or do you change the way things operate & hope that that will change the gender mix? I don’t think that you can just universally change the way that things operate though maybe? You certainly can do it with certain types of regulations & things like that. But that’s never a good way to change anything, right? So I think the best solution is, even though it’s a bit of a chicken & egg, would be to bring more successful females into the mix even if it’s not a very conducive environment for the way that they look at the world. Then their world view will start to change how things are done. Arguably that’s how corporate America changed & that’s how many other institutions that have been male dominated in the past changed.Adeo Ressi
Right so using that female influence & power to affect the startup environment is your idea to be successful?
Right, right. It’s starting to happen slowly. There are fantastic females that have run very successful companies like Techcrunch etc. For us, what we try to do is get a percentage of every graduating class containing female founders. Get as many as possible locations of the Founder Institute run by female facilitators as we refer to them. And try & get as many as possible female mentors in the program to help the combined male & female students or founders who are building companies through the initiative. With that said, I think we are achieving success. There’s no question that today we are the largest female incubator in the world in terms of number of female led companies started & in terms of pace of companies that are started by female led entrepreneurs.Adeo Ressi
You did mention earlier that there is some sort of bias or challenge as far as the funders go. Could you talk a little more about that, about how you’ve seen it or your experience?
You know it’s bad. Many of the female founders that I know personally have been extremely discouraged. I don’t know first hand obviously, I’m not a female founder.Adeo Ressi
But you’ve had feedback from members?
Yes, first of all I am completely unbiased in every way. I’m happily married with a beautiful young daughter. So obviously I’d like to see startups have more females if just for any reason future career path for my young child. So many of the female founders that I consider my friends, have told stories that you would obviously guess. They often get meetings for the wrong reasons, potentially their looks or something of that nature. A lot of times they may even do an investment based on looks & things like that. Then the second something goes wrong, they’re eliminated very quickly. When things go wrong people are eliminated pretty quickly in the venture industry no matter what. But it’s pretty clear that the shoe drops faster based on the experiences I’ve had with female founders.Adeo Ressi
Wow fascinating! Incredible. With those challenges that we are facing as women entrepreneurs with venture & angel funding what are the opportunities that we have? It’s so great to hear your story about the Founder Institute & TheFunded.com (obviously I’ve been plugging away there too).
The reality is that just because something is hard, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it. There’s definitely a spectrum of somethings too hard it becomes impossible whereas if something is hard enough, it makes you better for going through it. I think female entrepreneurs definitely face an environment that is on the border of almost too hard but hard enough that it makes you stronger. There are some advantages to being a female entrepreneur that haven’t been discussed. There are many disadvantages for sure, but there are some advantages. For the most part the females that I’ve dealt with in startups have stronger, innate management ability. They also have female specific networks that they can tap into, such as GirlsinTech or Astia & many others that certainly don’t exist for men. The females who are in funding positions are good targets to talk to about funding opportunities. There are definitely advantages to being a woman in technology but I would say that it’s quite hard. Definitely it’s on that border line of almost being too hard to being doable. Hopefully if you make it through, you’re going to be a better founder & CEO. There’s no question about that.Adeo Ressi
So I gather really what we’d be seeing are the pathfinders at the moment. Those women that are breaking through are the pathfinders, that are making it easier for other women?
Yeah but it will never be easy. It’s incredibly hard for men, it’s incredibly hard for anyone. It’s never going to be easy. It’s true that there are pathfinders as you call them & they may make it somewhat easier but it’s not going to be that much easier.Adeo Ressi
No & what you’re saying is correct, for everyone it’s difficult but as you said there is that extra challenge of being a woman. Obviously this year (2010) this conversation has really been a current conversation in the press & in all these different organizations & groups. I think that obviously that is also a sign that something is shifting in the culture.
Yeah to some extent just talking about it, is good but you should just do something about it! If a famous angel investor says ‘There’s not enough women in tech!’ well there’s an easy way for you to fix that, you just start investing in women led companies. To some extent it comes from the top, so look at your own organization first. As I said when we have 30% of our facilitators are women. I would like to see that be higher. I’m not going to bias anything.Adeo Ressi
But you’re open to that experience?
Absolutely, I’m not going to say you’re qualified & you’re qualified but since you’re a woman we’re going to pick you over you. But also you have to look holistically at what you have. We’re very fortunate in that a lot of great women now come & said we’re going to lead chapters. So if there’s an inspired woman out there who wants to lead a chapter, come talk to me, we’d love to have you inch up the percentages up to 50%.Adeo Ressi