Crowdfunding Panel & Advice to Entrepreneurs #startupconf

Crowdfunding panel @The Startup Conference, Mountain View with Danae Ringelmann, IndieGoGo; Chance Barnett, Crowdfunder; Sherwood Neiss, The Startup Exemption; Eric Jackson, CapLinked with moderator Anthony Ha, TechCrunch

Tim Draper, DFJ gives advice to entrepreneurs @The Startup Conference. He even does a little song & dance number.

Bjoern Herrmann: Benchmarking Female Startups

Video interview with Bjoern Herrmann.  Bjoern is the 26 year-old founder of the Startup Genome. One year ago he & his team set out to find a scalable way to accelerate businesses across the world. After releasing two research reports on success & failure of startups that were downloaded 25,000 times he most recently released the first software product that is best described as a virtual mentor for now more than 13,000 software businesses. The published research has been adopted by more than 50 universities globally -including Stanford and Berkeley. Harvard Business School Professor Thomas Eisenmann called the findings an important contribution. You can try the product at Startup Compass Genome and learn more about the research at their blog. Before, Bjoern founded and led 4 for and nonprofit ventures in Germany, Bangladesh & the US. He also worked as an executive in Russia for one year for a mid sized marketing company. His personal passion or “leitmotif” is: unleashing human potential. His higher purpose is to strive to maximize the capitalization of every single individual. You can find Bjoern on Twitter @bjoernlasse

Transcript follows & video below

As you know I’m totally a fan of Startup Genome Compass & I’m so, so glad that you guys have included the gender piece in that because I think it is so important to get some information about female startups & benchmark those as well. However I’d really like to know how you set this business up? What was your motivation? What’s your story behind this?

It all started about a little bit more than a year ago. At the time Max had already done a lot of independent research with Steve Blank in Stanford & had laid some of the foundation for what Startup Genome became later on.  I’d just finished my last startup & we started chatting. We’d already known each other for a while. One of the things we were both very inspired by was the global explosion of entrepreneurship. Everywhere you could see startups popping out of the ground. It became so cheap to start companies. Even in Siberia or the middle of India, somewhere you have companies starting. And those by the way, even in Russia or India have huge impact on the local economies. So you have a lot of people that were working there, they were growing. So they significantly contributed to outgrowth & development of the local economy. However many of them failed very early on. So you had a huge failure rates & mostly because of self destruction rather than competition. It was mostly because they were companies that did mistakes that were avoidable. That’s when we started thinking, well what are the ways that we could help those companies be more successful in a scalable way. We were pondering with different ideas. Is it more people driven, like McKinsey for Startups or is it something that is more driven by software? Then we decided to go the software route & ended up with the Startup Genome Compass which is now a fresh product, but had done a fair amount of research to get there. We are still putting out a lot of our findings in order to help the ecosystem globally to prosper & to learn from the mistakes & successes of other businesses.

Bjoern Herrmann

Ok. What have you discovered? What are the chief findings that you’ve discovered?

I think the chief finding is that most small to medium size businesses that are in our data set struggle the most with uncertainty. So their biggest problem is that they don’t know what are the right acquisition channels for me. What’s the base line? My costs for those acquisition channels? What’s the pricing that I should choose? Should I hire more people? A lot of every day questions, decisions that if they do them wrong, they might die! We found that we’ve translated this uncertainty which was fairly undefined into a concept which we call premature scaling. This concept basically describes that a company should only execute on certain things after they’ve validated that customers actually want what they think that they want. So for example, I built a new foto sharing app & I want to see that people actually want this. After validating with a number of customers that they want this, that’s when I start spending some money on customer acquisition or doing some PR. But not before this. I also don’t start hiring a lot of people before I’ve validated that actually anyone is interested in this. If people start doing this however, we call this premature scaling. This can happen in multiple different areas. So this is how we package & assess this uncertainty & based on this create a benchmark & action recommendations so a lot of people overcome this uncertainty. I think one of the key learnings for us, looking at how companies are more successful is very simple. The more & the faster you learn, the more successful you are. I think that’s really the key message because what helps you to overcome the uncertainty is learning more & learning faster. Knowing more about your customers, knowing more about your team, about your market, everything that is required in order to make this business successful.

Bjoern Herrmann

Are there actual or pragmatic steps that we could do to action that result?

Yeah, we published 2 reports (link here & here ) that describe a lot of the key learnings & give you specific recommendations. Then we pushed out a fresh product that’s called Startup Genome Compass which is @startupcompass.co There you can assess your company, you get benchmarked & we give you a number of recommendations that you can use in order to be more successful. Specifically those recommendations could be: ‘Your conversion funnels are really bad. You should stop spending money on customer acquisition right away.’ or ‘Your conversion rates are really, really good. You should start spending much more money on customer acquisition because you should grow otherwise
someone else will do this.’

Bjoern Herrmann

That immediately adds value to a startup to get that sort of overview, right?

Yeah & you can also use it as a way to get your stake holders on the same page & the team to show them this is where we are today, this is where we want to get to, now everyone let’s focus on just one problem. Or I can do the same thing with my investors & I can get them on the same page & help everyone to pull on the same string & not to give everyone recommendations based on their own version of the truth.

Bjoern Herrmann

Now the reports come out of the information they put into the questionnaire?

Exactly, yeah.

Bjoern Herrmann

That’s based on algorithms that you guys have put together, correct?

Yeah.

Bjoern Herrmann

So here’s my question, because I guess I’m on the interface of humans & technology all the time, interviewing people. I wonder how you can also bring some human support or back up to that because algorithms are often quite generalized, correct?

Of course, the algorithms are definitely not the same as having a human sitting there, working with you. But we’ve found that it’s a good way to first of all help you with a lot of everyday decisions. But then also to work better with your mentors. Many times today a mentor comes in once a month & first you have to get them up to speed & then many times they will miss out on certain things. Now you can just give them one report that gives them right away an image of the company. The image is in context by comparing you to your peers. It doesn’t just say 5,000 users it says 5,000 users & this is really awesome. Then based on this the mentor can say well it seems like user growth is not your problem, but maybe on your hiring side you have a problem? And this is where I can now help you to make a difference.

Bjoern Herrmann

So it’s free for startups to sign up & I would gather then from my understanding of what you’re saying is that it might be helpful for startups to keep going back to put their information in at certain phases of the startup? Would that be correct?

Yes.

Bjoern Herrmann

And is that taken into account in your algorithm?

Yeah. So we’re looking at gathering more long term data which will allow us to give much better benchmarks & recommendations. We will also start implementing ways to collect data in an automatic way which will make it much easier. Right now you have to spend 45minutes just to get started. The goal is to reduce this time a lot by making it much easier.

Bjoern Herrmann

Is there a continuity, so if I sign up with my startup tomorrow & I come back in 6 months when my startup is in a whole different place, is there a way of connecting my information that I’ve already signed up.

Yes we already do this partially but there is a lot that we can do definitely much better at leveraging those 2 data points & understanding the growth that a company goes through. And based on this actually give you much more value than just another snapshot of you that is comparing you to your other peers.

Bjoern Herrmann

Incredible potential in that, really! Fabulous, you’re doing great work! And it’s so great that you’re doing now the gender piece. Have you managed to glean very much information? I’ve definitely been sharing it everywhere & we’ve had some great articles.

Yes, yes I saw it was great. And the gender piece is something that we started looking into & we have 4 researchers that we have from different Universities that are helping us to crank out a number of reports. So we get some support there. We are still also looking for good people who are interested in contributing to the research. On the women’s side, it will be very interesting generally. I told you a while ago, in general we see that there’s not such a big difference between the performance of companies that are led by women than to men. There’s some differences in the characteristics but generally it’s pretty much the same. So if someone decides to start a company, you’ve a fairly equal distribution in their performance. So I think one of the things that we will be able to contribute to overcome this myth of prejudice & to just show that if someone decides to start a company, you have always good & bad ones. But there’s as many good women entrepreneurs as there is men entrepreneurs.

Bjoern Herrmann

Of course, I guess if you’re crazy enough to be an entrepreneur, it doesn’t matter what gender you are!

Exactly.

Bjoern Herrmann

Fabulous. Look thank you so much & I really will support your work as much as I can. I think it’s fabulous & I’m sure it will really help the community. Thanks again for your time today Bjorn.

Yes thanks.

Bjoern Herrmann

You can view the collaborative post with Startup Genome Compass @ Defining the X chromosome: the DNA of Women Led Startups & on Startup Genome’s blog

Cassie Phillipps, FailCon: Failure is the Best Way to Learn How to Succeed

Video interview with Cassandra Phillipps, Executive Producer FailCon.  Cassandra has been a startup event producer for over three years, producing and managing numerous conferences, including FailCon http://thefailcon.com/, SF MusicTech Summit, Inside Social Apps, Unleashed Conference, Startup Seminars, and many more. She works with clients to insure each has a high-quality and profitable event, connecting them with the best partners, sponsors, and speakers for their topics. Before moving to the start-up industry, she served as a stage manager at various theaters around the country, including the American Conservatory Theater, Chicago Court, Marin Theater Company, and Aurora. Cassandra has a B.A in Human Development from the University of Chicago. You can find Cassandra on her blog & on Twitter @webwallflower 

I was wondering if you could tell me a bit about your story about how you started the FailCon Conferences?

Sure I’ve been doing events in the startup community now for about 4 years. I started in 2007. Our first events were on the facebook platform which had launched in, I believe July 2007. Through that clientel we started to do events for the startup community as whole for early stage founders. Around that time I started developing my own startup which we called Trogger. Long story short we worked on it for about 9 months & it failed. We spent about $80,000 of our own dollars on it. I still think it was a neat idea but we just didn’t execute it well. While we were working on it, I was attending & producing conferences to make some money on the side. I realized very quickly that I was getting bored at these shows. I was getting bored at my own shows. I realized that the reason was was that I could be inspired by the speakers on stage but I couldn’t take their story & apply it directly to my startup. They could tell me exactly what they did & exactly how they got to that successful point but because I didn’t know the same people, I didn’t have the same funding, it wasn’t the same market, I couldn’t do that! I would have rathered heard ‘well we made these early hiring mistakes that didn’t work out so lesson learned’ or ‘well we didn’t iterate fast enough, we lost a lot of money in the beginning so that was really hard.’ Those were lessons that I could actually take & say ok don’t do that! At least eliminate those things! So from that FailCon started. That was back in February 2009 & from there it’s just grown. It started off it was going to be a half day evening seminar & everyone seemed to love the idea. They said yeah I do want more events like that that are telling me well don’t do this, don’t do that & getting really respected & really successful people on stage to say heh, I wasn’t always successful, here’s kind of the mistakes I’ve made. And the shows just really taken off!

Cassie Phillips

Fabulous! I know that the thing that prompted my project was my own failure at raising venture after 5 years in London. So I can be definitely reassured that that definitely is a huge motivating factor! That you would do things you wouldn’t normally do & step outside of your own comfort zone & step outside of your own reality I guess to look at new ways of doing things! So it’s extremely valuable. What would you say that people get most out of your conferences?

I would say & it kind of follows up on what you just mentioned, is looking at someone who is successful & seeing in them that they weren’t always successful. Seeing that they maybe had to mortgage their home or one of them was separated from his wife a while or had to declare bankruptcy. And they were where you are now or even lower, losing homes, losing apartments & they bounced back. They had these stories of ‘listen, once you get as low as you can get, suddenly getting higher again isn’t so hard. You realize that if that’s really as bad as I can get, well why not try again? If that’s the worse I could have? I think a lot of founders come away with both a realistic approach to what a startup is going to be like, that it’s not just these great successes. Don’t think that’s what it is: you just make a product & bam it’s really popular! But they also come away with this idea that ‘Hey I can do this & it will be really hard but these successful people started where I started & it makes that a little more tangible. It gives me & other attendees more actionable things that we can start with.

Cassie Phillips

So it sounds like the stories are what inflame & empassion the attendees? Is that correct?

It certainly seems that way. People do ask for a mix (& I try to do this) have one or 2 speakers that are just telling their stories (those seem to be the most inspiring things). I also try to have a few workshop sessions that are what can you do right now early on to stop a failure that you’re encountering or to prevent it down the road. So there not all just stories, some of them are very actionable goals. But I do try to shelve it, like bookend it, with 2 really good stories.

Cassie Phillips

I know you actually had a startup you were mentioning, which failed unfortunately. I wondered if you could give any tips to women who may be currently thinking about or actually doing it – raising venture or angel capital?

Sure my lessons are predominantly for web apps. (I don’t have very good advice for building the next biotech company) But my number one piece of advise for anyone working on the web & looking to raise funding for a web app or any sort of online tool, B2B or B2C, is Start with you Minimum Viable Product. The Lean Startup movement is about this & some close colleagues of mine had the same idea. Don’t try to build a huge product with 10 different features because you think they’re all cool. You’ll just never get anywhere, you’ll never be able to launch anything, you’ll be stumbling, you’ll be spending a lot of money & by the time you do release it, you’ve never tested it. You don’t even know if your customers want it. Elizabeth Yin has a great story with her past startup, where it failed for that reason. Now she’s launching something that is literally her product when she launched was some emails between friends. It was this whole idea that she could sell advertising for them. Ok great so you’ve talked to her? It’s this idea that now she’s raising funding for that. She’s a very simple one page website & as she figures out how her clients are using it & what sort of things they’re asking for she’s slowly tacking on things.

Cassie Phillips

Yes it’s a very inspiring story!

Yeah & that was our biggest mistake. We kept trying to build this startup & launch it with leaderboards & points & comment threads & status symbols & website integration & facebook integration & viability. Then we launched it after 6 months of working on it & $70,000 spent & everyone said ‘I don’t really get it! I don’t really get what I’m supposed to do with it!’ And we didn’t have any time left to fix it! So that’s my number one piece of advice: launch something small really, really early then fix it as you go along!

Cassie Phillips

That’s my advice too so it must come out of failure!

Yeah, yeah it seems to be the biggest mistake that every first time founder makes, trying to launch something really cool right away rather than something really small & simple (even if it’s not getting press) it’s ok just test it slowly & build up!

Cassie Phillips

The big element really is to go where the demand is, rather than try to supplant your own ideas on top of people!

Yes we also did that too. We kept having our users say I don’t get it! And we would say ‘Well you’re not the target audience! We’ll find a new target audience!’ Bad idea!

Cassie Phillips

Things we do! Well thank you very much. Would you have experienced any bias for women who have been trying to raise capital at all yourself or heard stories about that?

I personally when I was talking to vcs, didn’t feel any bias. That could have been because I was young & clearly not at the family age which tends to be the bias. I was 23, obviously single, obviously not having babies anytime soon. I certainly could find stories but I don’t have them immediately any off the top of my head! The great one was Jessica Jackley, Profounder who was having twins & her actual investor writing a blog post ‘I’m nervous that she is having twins, I wouldn’t be if she was a man or wife was having twins!’ I was actually upset with people who got very angry at him, because he wasn’t attacking her, he was saying ‘Community I understand that this is not right, that this is not a good thought for me to have but tell me why I shouldn’t have it.’ And I hated the people that said because you’re a jerk! That’s not fixing this industry. So that’s a famous story of that bias!

Cassie Phillips

Thanks so much for your time today, I really appreciated your feedback. I’m looking forward to the FailCon.

Thank you, I hope to see you there!

Cassie Phillips

Nnena Ukuku, Black Founders: Diversity is Not Just About Gender & Race

Nnena Ukuku is one of 4 CoFounders of Black Founders.  Black Founders exists to equip and connect African American Technology Entrepreneurs.  BF started at the end of March 2011 and has gained a following across the nation. The Founders of Black Founders are Monique Woodward, Chris Bennett, Hadiyah Mujhad and Nnena Ukuku. Nnena Ukuku is a local attorney who works with early stage start up companies. She is passionate about her clients and also seeing entrepreneurs thrive.  You can find Nnena on Twitter @nukuku & Black Founders @blackfounders

Transcript follows & video below

I believe you are a cofounder of the Black Founders?

I am.  I am one of 4 CoFounders for Black Founders.

Nnena Ukuku

Fantastic.  Could you tell me a bit about the organization & why it was formed?

Black Founders exists to equip & connect black entrepreneurs.  What a lot of us found was that when we went to different parties or different organizations, we would look around & we didn’t see anyone who looked like us. We would meet somebody who was black & involved in technology & we’d ask do you know this person? Do you know that person? We slowly started realizing that there was a lack of connection between the different black entrepreneurs that are here in San Francisco. What that can sometimes do, it can sort of creates a bit of (not just disconnect) but that people become a little less sure that perhaps they can succeed in Silicon Valley?  Or is there anyone else out there that looks like me? Is there any sort of support for me?  Based on a lot of our interactions we decided to form Black Founders because we not only wanted to connect black entrepreneurs with each other.  But we also wanted to equip them so that they could create successful businesses that thrived.  We didn’t want to just increase the number of black technology companies.  That’s of no use.  But black technology companies that are solid, that are strong & add benefit to society that’s what we wanted to create.

Nnena Ukuku

So making them much more functional & supported?  That’s brilliant, isn’t it.  And could you tell me, obviously my interest is toward investment & venture & I have noticed that there’s only one or two that I know of anyway of black venture capitalists or angels.  So I just wondered are you linked to the investment community in any way?  Are there any investors that are supporting your organization?

Actually there are a few investors that are supporting our organization. One of them is Charles Hudson A wonderful, wonderful man.  He is a fabulous man.  We met with him one early morning before he decided to head off to work.  He just sat us down & talked about well here are the connectors in Silicon Valley.  Here are the other people of color who are also venture capitalists who you might not be aware of, things of that nature.  What we’ve also found is that there are some older venture capitalists who are not located in San Francisco but are located in Southern California & some people on the East Coast. We’ve had some of them express a little bit of interest & try to connect with us as well too.

Nnena Ukuku

So would part of your remit be in supporting black founders in getting invested?

Yes supporting black founders in getting invested & supporting black entrepreneurs who maybe want to basically start more speaking engagements.  We view the black entrepreneur not just as someone who is actually starting a company but we want to provide a support to where people can even get to a point where they are an angel that are highly sought for some of the different competitions that are going on around town.  It’s not enough to just have a company unfortunately in this space.  We need more faces everywhere.

Nnena Ukuku

Yes exactly, I found the same thing with women.

Exactly the exact same thing with women!  Where are the women that understand the value that a woman brings to a company?

Nnena Ukuku

So really you need to increase the number of women entrepreneurs but you also need to increase the numbers of women venture capitalists & angels.

Exactly, exactly.  And what they do is they help to provide perspective for some of the other companies that they might invest in that they might not have had otherwise.  So later on this year we’re going to have a speaking event where we want to have a panel of people that are diverse.  But diversity is not just race or gender. We also want to have people who are maybe an older white male that has a family that is also in a startup.

Nnena Ukuku

Or an older white female?

Or an older white female. Exactly, do you want to be on the panel? We can talk about that. What we want to focus is not the idea of diversity for diversitys sake. Are you losing profits because you have a narrow vision of the world.  That’s the benefit that a female vc & a female entrepreneur or a black or fill in the blank person has. They get a broader picture of what’s out there.

Nnena Ukuku

I so support your cause, it’s fantastic. I think that I did mention that every vcs office I’ve gone into, the only women that I see are the ones on the admin side of things.  And I never see black men or black women unfortunately. So your cause is great & I just think that this is really going to bridge the connections for everyone so that people are aware of the potential in the black community along with the female community.

Absolutely agree.

Nnena Ukuku

Wonderful stuff!  Would you have any advice for a black founder, a black female founder who is thinking of jumping in & swimming in the entrepreneurial sea/ocean?

It is very hard to succeed on your own. So my biggest piece of advice for a black female entrepreneur is 1) get plugged into the community.  Meet women, meet people who look like you. Meet people who do not look like you. But start connecting with the community because those people will be able to make introductions for you later on as your product grows. Those are the people that will invest in your product because they believe in you. And those are the people that will pick you up when you have the really low days & you will wonder will your product actually find a market. If you want to be able to avoid some of those pitfalls you need to become connected with the community.

Nnena Ukuku

So building community & gaining support from that?

Gaining support because that community can not only give you education but they can also carry you when you need it.

Nnena Ukuku
  • Great & I would imagine that you would have some great services?  They should plug into you obviously, your organization?

Yes definitely plug into Black Founders.

Nnena Ukuku

Do you have meetups or anything like that?

We do, we do, we have meetups We have some that are purely social so that people can connect with each other: happy hours.  We’re going to have a couple of parties later on this summer, things of that nature. But then we have other programs where we want to equip you. So we’re starting to work on what we call Founder Labs or Founder Talks which allows you as a founder to start working on your speaking skills.  And to start working on how to pitch & not only working on how to pitch, but say someone picks up the phone & they want us to connect them with someone who is maybe knowledgeable in a subject? Now we can refer you & you’ve had the experience of speaking. We also have a couple of other events that will also protect you in dealing with some of your legal matters & also help you as far as learning how to strengthen your coding skills things of that nature. We want to make sure that you’re a strong entrepreneur overall.

Nnena Ukuku

Fabulous & also at the meetups you meet some fabulous people I would imagine?

Yes you definitely meet fabulous people. Of course you know you will!

Nnena Ukuku

Thank you so much for your time today & I’m looking forward to participating in some of the events.

You’ll be on our panel.

Nnena Ukuku

Definitely, I’ll be the older white female!

There you go!

Nnena Ukuku

Jennifer Toney: Mompreneurs & Intelligently Creative Time Management

Jennifer Toney Founder/CEO WeMakeItSafer, a company that builds web applications for consumers, manufacturers and retailers around the issues of product safety and recalls. By developing solutions that identify product hazards in homes, resale shops and online marketplaces, WeMakeItSafer is able to reduce injuries and save lives while helping companies to mitigate product liability risk, decrease product recall expense and increase sales. Prior to founding WeMakeItSafer, Jennifer was an Expert (testifying/consulting) in Commercial Damages. Most recently, she was a Principal with ERSGroup and, before that, a Senior Consultant with Navigant Consulting. As a business and litigation consultant, Jennifer worked with numerous companies in the consumer products, retail, technology, energy, telecommunications and insurance industries. Jennifer’s cases included product recall, product liability, intellectual property infringement, breach of contract, and antitrust matters. Jennifer graduated with Honors and as a Community Fellow from UC Berkeley’s Haas School of Business where, in addition to her MBA, she earned certificates in Entrepreneurship and in Management of Technology (MOT) – a joint curriculum program with the College of Engineering. Jennifer completed her BA early, in three years at UC Berkeley (cum laude) with degrees in Economics and Japanese. Jennifer also studied and conducted conducted research in Economics at Oxford University (UK).  Jennifer lives in the Bay Area with her husband, two little boys and an adorable Lab puppy. You can find Jennifer on her blog & on Twitter @Jennifer_Toney & @WeMakeItSafer

Transcript follows & video below

I’ve not actually interviewed any Mompreneurs. Have I said it correctly with my Australian accent? Is that how you say it?

You know I’ve heard Mommapreneur, Mompreneur, Mom entrepreneurs. I think you can say it any way you like.

Jennifer Toney

In Australia we don’t even spell it that way, we spell it Mum so that’s why I wanted to clarify the pronunciation. So I was just wondering what it’s like being a Mompreneur & how do you manage to balance it all?  Do you notice any biases towards you in the entrepreneurial community or the investor community?

Sure, I think there are a few questions rolled into one. I do think there are some biases towards mothers in general in business in general. And the venture community are probably not separate from that at all? I think there tends to be a fear that Moms aren’t going to have the same amount of time as a single person or someone without children to spend on their startups. To that I would say everybody has something else that they’re working on.  I think by definition if you’re a successful entrepreneur you’re most likely an overachiever. So whether you’re a marathon runner or a sailor or you’re sitting on boards of other startups or you’re trying to work on a charity & solve world hunger, you’re doing something else anyway. So for a Mom your something else happens to be your children. When I had kids it wasn’t the business & technology & entrepreneurship that got sidelined, it was the other things that I was doing. I didn’t spend as much time at the gym.  I didn’t compete in triathalons anymore. I didn’t do painting & things that I normally did.  So it changes but it doesn’t mean necessarily that you have less time to work on your business. I think also talking about work/life balance, you switch how you think about things.  I’ve sat in a number of conferences where there would be a panel on work/life balance & you do unfortunately hear a lot of women who are in positions or CEO positions that will say it’s not possible to do both.  I think that will always come from somebody who doesn’t already have kids. So they feel like I know what I’m doing now, I know how hard it is, I know how much time I’m spending, there’s no way I could have children. That’s probably true! In that mind frame & in that model that you’ve set yourself, you probably couldn’t also have children & do a good job. I think that a lot of work/life balance is being very creative, intelligently creative about your organization & changing your mind about how things work when you get things done.

Jennifer Toney

Yes & as a coach, I know in our training years ago, we were taught that it is impossible to multi task & I put my hand up & said however women tend to have to do that no matter what profession they go into.  I know I did that when I was raising my own children. I did that by myself & I had to run a business as well. You just have to do it really, don’t you?

You do, you find a way to make things work.  I think again it’s about changing the model. It’s being willing to erase the lines & redraw them & step outside of the box.  Sure you might not be able to do the 10am to 4am work & incubator with a bunch of people.  But you’re also not doing other things that take away from other entrepreneurs/startups. So Thursday, Friday, Saturday you will never find me at a bar from 9pm to 2am.  I’m back at my computer working very hard & progressing on the company. Whereas my single entrepreneur friends will out at the bar drunk tweeting. Some of it I’m sure is helpful to their business & networking but a lot of it is just drunk tweeting. They’re having a great time & it’s great.  But those are a lot of hours during the week that Moms are spending, or people who have other obligatioins are spending on their companies.  So I think it’s a misnomer to think that just because you have children that you have less time to spend on your company. I think if you were to compare productive hours, it would be very similar it’s just that they’re happening at different times & in different ways.

Jennifer Toney

That’s really great advice thank you very much. I was wondering if you could talk a bit about your own startup & whether or not you have raised venture or angel investment?

Sure the name of our company is WeMakeItSafer & we build web applications to identify recall products in homes & in market places. We alert consumers & sellers if a manufacturer or the government recalls a product or there’s a safety issue with that item. So its web applications around product safety. We have raised money.  We raised angel at the beginning of last year.  We kind of fell into it, we weren’t looking for money.  The money sort of found us. I had started the research & development for WeCanMakeItSafer when I was a grad student at UC Berkeley. And as such any project for any class turned into a project for WeMakeItSafer.  I’d always bend the rules a little bit. The assignment would be do this & I would say what about this? It would tend to work & we’d mold it into a project for WeMakeItSafer. So as such there were a lot of classmates & professors that got to know very well what I was doing & were very helpful. After I graduated & started working on it on a more regular basis I would occasionally send out emails to the people that were involved just to keep them apprised about how things were going. What I didn’t know was that one of the professors involved was an active investor.  After one of these apparently particularly interesting emails that I sent out, he called me & said what are you doing for funding? It just sort of happened from there & he introduced me to other people.  The round happened in that way. As far as gender issues, I don’t think that it would have mattered whether or not I was a woman in this particular case because what they were excited about was the technology. They understood it because they had been involved, at least my professor had been involved from beginning. They knew it was breakthrough technology that had several market applications across different industries.  So he was very excited about the market opportunity & the technology.  So I don’t think that gender played a role there.

Jennifer Toney

Torben Rankine: Portuguese Startup Culture

Torben Rankine Country Manager Leadership Business Consulting/Coordinator Global Strategic Innovation Programs focused on Portuguese startups.  Angelika Blendstrup interviewed him about Portuguese startups & women entrepreneurs.  Torben is a financial and Management consultant with over 12 years experience. He has worked in investment sales and management and as a project director in the financial, insurance, transport, telecoms and public administration sectors. He has a deep understanding of the Iberian markets and is fluent in Spanish and Portuguese.

This interview was reposted @TheNextWomen

Pedro Gordo,CEO g3p technologies has come from Portugal to Silicon Valley

Pedro is a 42 years old Mechanical Engineer with a Post Graduation in Logistics and a MBA in International Management. He worked for different industries: automotive, railways and ATM. He is the co-founder of 3 companies: g3p consulting; Centro Gamma Knife Radiocirurgia and g3p technologies and now also CEO Centro Gamma Knife Radiocirurgia.g3p technology is a Portuguese startup that designs cash management and payment solutions. The company has a very experienced team with more than 100 years of combined experience in engineering and banking industry. They started the company in 2010 and already have several customers in Portugal where their solutions are working.In 2011 they took the decision to introduce a cash management solution for small retailers through their new Deposit ATM and launch it in the US. Since April they are at Silicon Valley in Plug and Play Tech Center with very positive feedback.

Thanks to Angelika Blendstrup for doing both interview

Alison Davis: Difference in Female & Male Brains Reflect Funding Issues

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.

Giovanna Forte: Make Sure You Raise Enough Money

Giovanna Forte is MD of Funnelly Enough Limited, the company that developed and sells Peezy , the medical system invented by her GP brother Dr Vincent Forte. The business launched when Peezy won the first Medical Futures Innovation Award, presented by Nichola Horlick, in 2002. NHS aproved, British-made Peezy offers Right-First-Time urine sampling for women, the elderly and the very young. It reduces contamination and retest rates, saves money and improves front-line care and infection control. The dignity and hygiene Peezy brings to an unreliable process has made it attractive to UK healthcare markets; on trial in France, Portugal and Korea, it has also excited interest from the USA. You can find Giovanna on her blog and on Twitter @Giovanna_Forte

Transcript follows & video below

What personal lessons being a woman have you taken out of your successes &/or failures in raising investment?

I have a bit of an issue with the whole ‘as a woman’ thing because I don’t go & do it as a woman, I go & do it as somebody running a business. I don’t think it should occur to anybody to invest in me or not invest me because I’m a woman. It’s the business that I’m asking to invest in. If the business facts & the business plan are as good as it should be then that’s the reason they invest. The fact that my front looks different than the bloke with the tie has absolutely no bearing on whether or not they would invest. I’ve had absolutely no issue, I’ve had no obvious problem or doubt with anyone thinking they should or shouldn’t invest because I’m a woman. I think that I’m making a product for women actually works in my favor. That’s the think I don’t think that your gender is relevant & I don’t think that you should consider it to be relevant either. Because if you go into something like that thinking I’m a woman therefore I don’t think I’ve got that good a chance, you’re immediately putting yourself at a disadvantage. That’s your problem & not the person you are presenting to. The chances are is that it’s going to be women you’re presenting to anyway. You don’t look at your potential investors & think ‘Well you might not invest because you’re a woman or you might invest because you’re a woman.’ You’re looking at them as a check book sitting there & that’s reciprocal.

Giovanna Forte

That’s really great advice, thank you. In total with all the rounds of funding you’ve got, how much have you raised?

So far we’ve raised GBP870k. Most of it is friends & family. After the first round I’ve kind of slightly resented writing checks to people who’ve raised money for me. I’ve done it myself. It’s quite a lot of work. Sometimes it is worth haggling with your vc or whoever is doing it for you & reducing my percentage because people talk to you in industry dialogue. Sometimes they’ll go what about this or that & you’re thinking ‘What are they talking about? I can talk about urine but I can’t talk about this.’ But I have done most of it myself. It’s friends & family & people you meet. If you’re looking for funding mention it to pretty much anyone you meet because if someone is attracted to your product & your business & they can see that you have a passion, chances are they will say ‘Well I know someone who…’ That’s how a lot of my funding has come along, just someone you meet in the pub.

Giovanna Forte

So you’re a great networker, that’s fantastic! You were just mentioning that other people have been raising funding for you & you’ve been giving them percentages. Has that been the majority?

No, no that was the first two. Since then I’ve just launched into another round to raise GBP400k. Now I thought we needed GBP200k we’ve now started to get some good contracts for Peezy in private health care & we’re inching our way into the NHS so I’m thinking we’ll be selling this many by the end of the year we need this much money. One of my CoDirectors said we keep making this mistake, let’s assume we make no sales this year & make sure we can survive that. Then if we do it will be fine. And they’re absolutely right. I launched my business plan on Friday, I’ve already got 2 meetings this week with people wanting to invest. So I think we’ll be fine.

Giovanna Forte

Good. What qualities do you think women entrepreneurs need specifically for sourcing investment?

I think the same as anybody else. Just to be dogged, to be determined, believe in what you do, write a bloody good business plan & be honest. If you don’t know the answer to any question (this goes for anything) then put up your white flage & just say I don’t know or yes I’m wrong. Then you can overcome whatever that thing is & get it right & carry on. Just complete candour is a good thing.

Giovanna Forte

Brilliant that’s really good advice. I really appreciate your contribution today & good luck with raising the next round of funding.

You’re very welcome, thankyou

Giovanna Forte

Paula Fitzsimons: Women Tend to be Less Ambitious than Men

Video interview with Paula Fitzsimons, National Director, Going for Growth Paula  is the founder and managing director of Fitzsimons Consulting, which specializes in areas related to entrepreneurship and growth.   A recognized expert on entrepreneurship, Paula Fitzsimons has been the national coordinator for GEM for Ireland since 2000. The annual GEM report is recognized as giving a unique insight into early stage entrepreneurial activity in Ireland. Paula is a former President of the consortium of GEM national teams, and a former Director of GERA, the governing body for the Global Entrepreneurship Research Association.

Transcript follows & video below

Could you talk about Going for Growth & how it supports Irish female entrepreneurs?

I’d be delighted to. First of all the context why Going for Growth was set up. Going for Growth was set up because you realize clearly that less women start businesses than do men. And of those women who start businesses fewer have an aspiration for growth. So we wanted to do something of a concrete nature which would support women to have the ambition in the first instance, the mindset & the capability to achieve growth. The way it goes about doing it is that we realize that entrepreneurs learn best from each other. So we bring entrepreneurs at more or less the same stage of development together. But if they were just to meet with each other, they would be in a circle that wouldn’t bring them further along the road to development. What we do is we bring them to a lead entrepreneur, as we call it. This is an entrepreneur that has achieved significant success in her own right. She facilitates & leads a group of about 8 women. It allows them in the first instance to have a real concrete role model that they will meet once a month. It is quite amazing when they meet a person once a month, they begin to realize that she too is a real person. She’s no longer someone that you see on television or you hear about on the radio or read in the newspapers. She’s a living, breathing person who is perhaps is also a Mom, managing & balancing many of the same issues & challenges that they as women also have to balance. But she has achieved success in terms of developing & building her own enterprise. That I think is one of the most important things. The second thing is because it’s around a group, you have a group dynamic. That helps to break down the isolation in the first instance so that the person doesn’t think that they are the only person who ever had these particular challenges. They learn from each other & that breaks the isolation. The second thing is that it actually increases their ambition so that you get good peer pressure round the table. And they constantly push & encourage each other to achieve their milestones & their growth goals. What you find coming out of a cycle of Going for Growth is not only that the isolation has been reduced, that the concrete steps are being put in place to meet those milestones & those growth goals. But often they have actually lifted their ambition. So where before they were looking to export to the UK market, they’re now looking further in Europe & perhaps to the United States.

Paula Fitzsimons
  • What are your aims for your organization & how it will continue to benefit women?

Our aim in the first instance for the participants who are in it, I suppose is looking at something like the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year in Ireland. We have one winner who was a woman. We have one finalist last year who was a woman, both of them are Leads in our Going for Growth. I want that there are many finalists in Ernst & Young type competitions that are women to the extent that it’s not even commented upon. Looking further then, what we want to do is to link (because Ireland is a very small island with a population of just over 4million & if you want to grow a business you’re going to have to very quickly look off the island of Ireland). So therefore we want to take Going for Growth into other countries both within Europe & across the Atlantic with a view of getting connections between women entrepreneurs who are focused on growth. By strengthening their network & allowing them to develop business contacts with each other, lift all of them together.

Have you noted differences with women entrepreneurs in how they build businesses?

Certainly there are differences. I’m involved with the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor & from that I can tell that women & men tend to start different types of businesses. Now that’s the first thing. The type of business that you start has a great degree of influence on the type of business & the way that you might grow it. So women for example, women are much more involved in consumer oriented businesses. In Ireland a third of women startups are in the sector of retail, hotel & catering. For that reason, you find that many of them are excluded in Ireland from financial support from the Development Agencies because they focus almost exclusively on manufacturing & internationally traded services for their financial support. Many of the women here are focused on locally traded services in the first instance. That’s one of the first points, the sectors tend to be different. They’re less involved in the innovative, high tech sector certainly here. That doesn’t mean that there’s none of them. The second thing I would say is that women compared with men tend to be less ambitious. So if we think of 3 men setting up a new business for every 1 woman. That’s the way it is in Ireland. Now in the United States it’s 1 for 1 virtually. But in Ireland 3 men setting up a business for every 1 woman. When you dig deeper & look at the number who want to become employers, moving beyond self employed to become employers, about the same ratio. However when you dig & look at who have significant ambitions for their business & you measure that in terms of those who expect to be employing 20 within 5 years, then you find that that’s 16% of the men & just 8% of the women. Given that less women start up & fewer have an ambition for growth, much much fewer are going to be in that pool of significant growers.

Paula Fitzsimons

Some points that Paula mentioned previous to her interview:

  • Men are more likely to know someone who has become an entrepreneur in the previous two years (42%) than are women (27%).
  • Men that know a recent entrepreneur are twice as likely to be entrepreneurs compared to men who don’t know a recent entrepreneur.
  • Women who know a recent entrepreneur are five times more likely to be an entrepreneur.
  • More men are confident that they have the necessary skills and knowledge to start a business (57%) than women (42%).
  • Men who believe that they have the knowledge and skills to start a business are nearly four time more likely to be entrepreneurially active than men without such self-belief.
  • No entrepreneurial activity is evident among women who do not have this self-belief.
  • A higher proportion of women (43%) than men (34%) report that a fear of failure would prevent them from starting a business.
  • Men who don’t have a fear of failure are nearly three times more likely to be entrepreneurs.
  • For women a fear of failure is associated with very low levels of entrepreneurial activity. Women who state that fear of failure would prevent them from starting a business are nine times less likely to start a business than are women who do not report this inhibition.
Paula Fitzsimons

Jessica Jackley: Being a Happy & Successful Founder/CEO/Mom

Jessica Jackley is Founder and CEO Profounder.  Prior to ProFounder, Jessica cofounded and served as CMO of Kiva, the world’s first peer-to-peer microlending platform. Since its launch in 2005, Kiva has facilitated over $200M in loans, connecting lenders and entrepreneurs in 209 countries. Jessica is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a 2011 World Economic Forum Young Global Leader, and serves as an active board member on several organizations including Opportunity International, the International Museum of Women, and Allowance for Good. Currently a Visiting Scholar at Stanford University’s Center for Philanthropy and Civil Society, Jessica has also taught Global Entrepreneurship at the Marshall School of Business at USC. You can find Jessica on Twitter @jessicajackley

Transcript follows & video below 

This interview was generated after Paige Craig published a post Putting Women First about his thoughts investing in a pregnant Jessica. Jessica’s response & comment was inspirational for me.  Jessica had just found out she is pregnant with twin boys when I interviewed her.

I guess I just want to acknowledge you really because I just found that the comment that you put on Paige’s post was just really awe inspiring. That’s what made me want to reach out & interview you. I’ve been interviewing vcs, angels & women about the shortfall in funding for women. Adeo Ressi from TheFunded.com made a really salient point. He said that

The startup culture was actually created by men & the only way that we are really going to encourage more women into being entrepreneurs, having startups & going for funding, is actually to change the culture. I just thought Wow, no-one’s said that but it’s actually so the truth because you have to be manic.

Adeo Ressi

I have to make sure that I read that.

Jessica Jackley

I’ll actually send you the link. But it impressed a lot of us when I posted it. I thought it was really spot on because you have to be really insane to be an entrepreneur these days, the workload. So that’s what really spoke to me & I just wanted to read your comment for people that possibly hadn’t seen it.

I know that Paige said:

“A pregnant founder / CEO is going to fail her company”) that popped up in his head, I’m glad he asked the specific question he did – specifically: “…how in the hell is this founder* going to lead a team, build a company and change the world for these businesses carrying a kid around for the next few months and then caring for the kids after?”

Paige Craig

And your response:

There’s another aspect of this conversation about a founder of a company to have the goal of achieving balance at all when in start-up mode, and I’d like to address that too. Do I work long hours? Weekends? Of course. Pull all-nighters when needed? Sure. But working until I fall asleep on my laptop and doing nothing else on a regular basis makes me less effective. Turns out that getting at least a little sleep, exercising regularly, having healthy relationships outside of work, spending time with my family, reading a book for fun now and then, etc. makes me a better Founder/CEO.
The next paragraph I really loved: In fact, this isn’t just how I run my life, but it’s how my cofounder Dana and I run our company. We created ProFounder with the intention of shaping a healthier – and more efficacious – culture that gives everyone on our team the opportunity to be a full person, not just a cog in a machine. We not only encourage but celebrate each other’s victories in and beyond work.  At our last team retreat, we reported our proudest moments personally and professionally; on the personal side of things, every single individual shared some detail about how the most important relationships in their lives had become better since they began working at ProFounder. This model is working. Business is thriving. We are flourishing. And we’re trying to give every entrepreneur we work with through the ProFounder platform the same options for their own endeavors, starting with the chance to include investors who care about them as human beings – who are invested not just in their business but in them as people.
The last paragraph that really spoke to me: I have no desire to fit that old stereotype. I desire to live a life that is rich in relationships both in and outside of work. I desire to reap the many different rewards that are abundant in my job, working in this incredible start-up every day. I want to surround myself with a team, including investors, that challenges me and helps make me better. I want to live my life transparently, and if being a happy, successful Founder/CEO/Mom serves as a helpful example to anyone who wants to use me as such, great
.

Jessica Jackley

Well you’re definitely a role model for me!

Thank you for saying that, it means a lot. You’ve already been down this path but that means a lot to me!

Jessica Jackley

Yeah I’ve been down this path, but I have to say I was much more driven. So I’m going to put my hand up for that! I wondered if you could just talk to me about your past history sourcing venture capital & how it’s been for you as a woman?

I’ll tell you this, with Kiva, the company I started before Profounder, it was really interesting because I got to interact with everyone as a donor in terms of high net worth individuals who helped fund Kiva’s operations. Or I spoke with people as lenders & really I should have flipped that. First & foremost everyone can be a lender, right? So that’s how I interacted with everyone & that lending relationship, I have a lot to say about that. How to promote the connection of equality, the connection of dignity & respect as the business partner not that traditional donor/beneficiary power thing that can happen. That’s the first level but then with a lot of folks in Silicon Valley that did serve as also serve as professional investors, maybe they’re vcs, I often interacted with them as volunteers through Kiva’s board. Or as advisors or donors for the organization which again was a non profit. What was interesting about that experience & I think feeds into how I’ve interacted with our funders now for ProFounder which are a collection of more than 30 friends, family, community members, angels, some professional venture capitalists as well.
So I interacted with donors in a charitable way for them to contribute financially. The focus was about the social return, that’s just what it’s about. So I think that served me well & it served Dana & I well in interacting with our investors because they’ve self selected & we’ve chosen them. We’ve said no to some very major funders because we didn’t think that there was a cultural fit. Lots of money on the line there! We really wanted to include people who believed in the vision & who want the mission of what we’re trying to do that they’re committed to that. When you look at our funders (& I know your question was what is it like as a woman to interact) so part of it is, I know I can speak about our specific experience & I am a woman so this will be at least one data point, how’s that? I know for me the social part of it & the idea of the big picture change for the world that we want to cause is always front & center in this, always part of the story. Yes by the way, & it’s not by the way, it’s central we don’t want to be intellectually lazy about it & not have a robust, strong, scalable, profitable institution. By the way I find it funny coming in a very non-traditional order of things like doing non-profits first & then doing a for profit, you have to reiterate over & over again ‘No, no, no I mean profitable even though Kiva at many points & will be in the future a sustainable organization. It’s the same concept it’s just a different word right? I think that that’s been really helpful to us & I think perhaps that is more of a natural fit as a woman leader. It feels very much like a natural fit for me to talk about the story, to talk about the point of all this & then get into the structure of the business & why it’s a great business model, our revenue, how we’re going to make money, that sort of thing. Our collection of funders now is awesome. We really wanted to prove not only that crowd funding could be done but that it has value above & beyond just actually getting the funding that you need. We have true friends & family investors in our company right now, all the way up to the lead funder in the first round. We’ve raised a total of $1.3m so far. We’re actually still wrapping up a bridge round but in the lead round a third of it was taken by Kapor Capital Mitch & Frieda Kapor & Stephen DeBerry on their team, are true advocates in so many ways for women entrepreneurs. Frieda Klein is just a phenomenal woman, I could do a whole interview just about her. Her background is just incredible. So we felt really good about that fit. So far my experience has been, I think I’ve been using the same values, the same framework, a lot of the same language that I’ve always used & always will use. I don’t want to fit stereotypes & I’m not trying to fit anyone else’s model per se. Dana & I are just trying to do what we want to do in the world & I think naturally we are 2 women who believe in the same things & believe in the same change that we want to see. It comes out as the whole package, when you invest with us, when you partner with us in that way, we really believe it’s partnership. We really engage our investors a lot & they’re ready for that which is great. We’re not just talking about here’s the money you’re going to get back. We’re talking about here’s the thing that we’re going to go do together in the world.

Jessica Jackley

I really like the idea that you’re focused on finding a great fit with an investor. That’s a baton that I’ve been waving around a lot, is that you really do have to find a good match with an investor & I talk about the chemistry between investors & founders. In the course of trying to find those funders did you come across any bias or any challenges in being a woman approaching investors at all?

Well it’s so funny, I don’t know if you can see the gears turning but I’m trying to think what to quote anonymously. We almost thought at one point, oh my god we need to start an anonomyous blog about all the things that were happening. Let me screen what is appropriate. The short answer is yes. I generally believe that everyone’s out there doing their best & doesn’t have bad intentions. So when people offend or put their foot in the mouth or something, it’s good not to be reactionary & so offended that you just sort of fight back with something but to use it as a chance to get on the same page with someone & tell them what you believe & why you would see the world differently than what they just did or something like that. I think a lot of people just get angry & stomp out & cut things off. If & when you can have an ongoing dialogue then that’s the thing, keep the dialogue going. This is why I was so excited to have that conversation out in the world, publicly with Paige, one of our investors. The dialogue itself is the thing. Yes we’ve had some interesting struggles & interesting comments to us. We’ve been asked out. We’ve had the flippant comments here & there about being women. One funder who we’re not working with, made a comment about that he was worried about future funding (even though he wouldn’t do this) conversations going down a different path & us being hit on by other funders. It was just such a strange sort of cop out for it. But again in general it’s a big wide world out there & there are a lot of people. Even though you might be sitting across the table from someone who doesn’t look like you, is not the same gender as you, I feel like i learn all the time from men who themselves would fit that old stereotype funders entrepreneurs & teach me about how to treat people the right way. I have absolutely had mostly a positive experience. I wish selfishly that there were more people that looked like me. I sometimes when I give lectures & I talk about both Kiva & Profounder & entrepreneurship overall I have a slide that’s supposed to be funny. I’m not a comedian but it’s a picture of the Madmen cast actually & it’s about men in suits & I talk about how a lot of the traditional funding world doesn’t look like me. I’m not wearing a suit, I’m not a guy, what does that mean. it would be nice to encounter more women. I think in about 70 plus meetings with investors, we actually only met with 2 who were women as we were raising our seed & our bridge rounds. It would have been nice to talk to more women. But we’re going to make that happen.

Jessica Jackley

Wendy Tan-White, Moonfruit: Ups & Downs of Fund Raising

Video interview with Wendy Tan-White, Founder of Moonfruit, a simple and powerful DIY website builder for SMB’s who expect better design tools to produce better designed sites. Moonfruit was founded in 1999 and recently raised $2.25m from Stephens (US) in Sept 2010 for accelerated international growth, and backing from Silicon Valley-based 500 Startups. She is a 500 Startups mentor and Astia advisor.  Wendy was Marketing Director of Gandi Group, help start-up Zopa.com – first European P2P lending site and Egg.com – first UK internet bank. She sold her soul to Arthur Andersen after getting a BEng Computer Science from Imperial College, London. Wendy’s also a designer for fun and has a MA in Smart Textiles from Central St Martins. She lives in London with her husband and their 6 yr old son and 3 yr old daughter.  Wendy was awarded CWT Everywoman’s Entrepreneur of the Year for 2011. You can find Wendy on Twitter @wendytanwhite

Transcript follows & video below

Could you tell me briefly about your past history in raising investment for your company Moonfruit?

Yes sure we’ve got quite a long history. I actually started Moonfruit in the first dot com boom in 1999. I actually came out of the first UK Internet Bank which was called Egg which was one of the biggest floats around that period. I had a background in computer science but I moved through different financial services & consultancies & then to banking. I looked at the area of community because we were looking at what drove people to do things online for the internet banking world. And really Moonfruit originally was about people trying to share their passions online but also about trying to remove the barriers of technology. For a lot of people the thought of actually trying to publish anything online 10 years ago was virtually impossible. That’s how we really started. We were quite lucky I think, my old mentor Egg actually seeded the business along with our founders ourselves we also seeded the business & we built our first prototype. We were quite lucky at the time, Bain Consulting had set up an incubator & they kind of discovered us in our attic in Soho. Then invested the first GBP400,000 of seed funding. The only problem was as with the wisdom of those days, I think a lot of people coming out setting up internet companies in those days came out of corporate. Also technology was expensive. There was no such thing as variablized costs of cloud computing. You really had to buy the hardware. So the wisdom then was to raise an awful lot of money. Also the other thing you have to remember is there wasn’t anything like online advertising. You couldn’t pull people who were online to your product. A lot of people were offline & you were using traditional marketing methods of print, tv, etc, which is very expensive as well. With the help of Bain Consulting, we actually packaged up a serious business plan. Then we actually raised another GBP6m from LVNH, Louis Vuitton the big luxury brand investor. At the time we were using flash to build our product which in those days was cutting edge. The reason we used flash was because we wanted to do a literal drag & drop sort of product so you didn’t need to code. So basically it’s a website builder a bit like powerpoint, building in powerpoint. Because of what we were doing, really pushing the boundary with flash, Macromedia who owned flash, who have now been bought by Adobe themselves, invested GBP1m too. So we actually raised a lot of capital. However we actually scaled extremely quickly for a small business we went from zero to 60 people in about 6months. It was quite extreme, we got good press & we had something like a couple of hundred thousand users straight away. But the product was slow, basically we didn’t have broadband in those days & we were trying to monetize through ad revenue visitors. To be quite honest it wasn’t getting a lot of traction in those days. Many companies who did the same thing at the time. When the dot com crash happened, our portfolio investor LVNH decided to close it’s portfolio of about 52 companies. It finally did that because it had already made it’s return of full fund by selling LibertyServe, one of the biggest ISPs in Europe. It was a difficult time, it was obviously a difficult time for us. But I think we were unusual because we had a good relationship with LVNH & we also had people actually using the service so they actually gave us the option of buying back the assets of the business for a fraction of the price. It was a difficult choice to make because it meant we actually had to take the original business insolvent. So we had to go through the whole insolvency process which was pretty painful. We had to let go 58 out of our 60 employees so we went back to myself & my cofounder Eric. I had to actually sack my future husband, my future mother in law & a lot of people I was very close to. I think when you start a company like that & you grow that fast, people aren’t just giving you their money, they’re giving you their hopes & their dreams as well. When something collapses, that goes to. So it was quite a difficult period cleaning that up. But I think we made a choice that we hadn’t finished yet & so we carried on. So we went back to our attic & started again.

Wendy Tan-White

Amazing, what courage & I certainly know that heartbreak but yours was on quite a big scale. Amazing that you survived that & still have that spirit of adventure & willingness to give it a shot again.

Yeah we had our moments where I did wonder whether I should just let it go but I think we just felt we hadn’t finished yet.

Wendy Tan-White

What personal lessons being a woman have you taken out of your successes &/or failures in that regard?

I’ve always been in the worlds of technology & finance and I suppose I’ve always felt that you always do your job or your skills very well. Some would say maybe you have to do it better, maybe? But I think particularly the technology industry & found it pretty supportive. Maybe it helped because I’d had a computer science background. Most people never pull the can’t dev card, so that helps. And in some ways you can actually stand out if you’re clear & you know what the business is about that can actually help in a way, particularly nowadays to so many people. They remember who you are. I think also it’s about having the right team. I think it’s the same for anybody, male or female, you have to make sure that you have the other skill sets around you. I think Dave McClure puts it very well, he talks about a founding team needing a dev, basically a hacker, a designer & a hustler or a marketer or sales person. I think that’s right, I think you just need to know that yourself. On the whole I would say what a lot of women are better at is communication, whether they’ve got a dev background or not & also people skills. What happens is the female entrepreneurs get naturally pulled into a role of communication or sales or team management. I think maybe that’s where that makes a difference.

Wendy Tan-White

So there were no biases that you felt during that time & you think obviously your background & your degrees helped in easing that passage?

Yes I think so & I’d also come straight out of college I went to Arthur Andersens, the accountancy firm so I had a business & I had a dev background. So maybe the balance of the two helped? I think the stats are against it. I think of the 52 companies LVNH invested in, there were only 2 female cofounders. So it still statistically wasn’t pro-female in those days. But I think it’s also a lot about whether women want to do that role or not too.

Wendy Tan-White

Would you have any tips or any advice for women who are thinking about becoming entrepreneurs or who have startups that they are thinking of raising funding for?

Clearly statistically there are difficulties, less women go into raising venture capital. But I think a lot of that is about just believing in your own business. I kind of said the story about how we collapsed in 1999. We actually at that point grew through pure bootstrapping. We charged for our products & we actually grew the business so its 18-20 people & actually profitable. In the last 2 years we’ve actually had a lot of traction. We started increasing our revenues, increasing our growth. We then raised another Series A in September 2010 & recently an Angel funding from Dave McClure, 500 Startups to push our growth in the US. I would say going out raising money this time round. I actually think it’s a fertile time for women led businesses. Just looking at research & looking anecdotally our business a year ago 30% of our customers who were building websites were female. Today 42% are females. So there is definitely a movement of women setting up more businesses online & using software to do so themselves. Obviously we are a non-tech product so that helps but still. The other thing we are seeing in the US, I think women led businesses are the highest sector of growth right now in small business in the US. We’re seeing this in the UK. The other thing if you even take the top 4 consumer tech businesses, facebook, Twitter, Zynga, Groupon, more than the majority of their customer base is female. So there is female buying power out there too. I think between the growth of women led businesses & the growth of the consumer power of women, I think venture capitalists are seeing there is an opportunity out there. VCs are fundamentally opportunists, they’re about making returns from growing markets. If they see the potential in it, they will invest in it, which is an advantage for women who understand their customer base.

Wendy Tan-White

Yes it makes sense & other people have given me that feedback that this is a great time for female entrepreneurs. Thanks for that.

Jane Wurwand, FITE: Women Be Fierce with Your Own Reality!

Video interview with Jane Wurwand, Founder FITE. Jane is the Founder and Owner of Dermalogica and The International Dermal Institute post graduate training centers. In January 2011, through her foundation and in partnership with Kiva.org, Jane launched a global initiative to empower women worldwide called FITE – Financial Independence Through Entrepreneurship. The first microlending Web site that solely focuses on women entrepreneurs, FITE will help a minimum of 25,000 women to start or grow a business in over 57 countries around the world. You can find FITE on Twitter @joinFITE

Transcript follows & video below

Could you tell me how the idea of FITE came about & how it serves female entrepreneurs?

It’s pronounced ‘fight’ just like fighting for something! The word FITE actually stands for Financial Independence Through Entrepreneurship. It probably came about because first of all I am a female entrepreneur. I believe strongly in the fact that if women are not financially independent, they really don’t have their full empowerment. I believe it’s critically important. Also because in the professional skin care industry 98% of all skin therapists are women. Our industry puts more women into their own business than any other industry in the world!

Jane Wurwand

Wow that’s brilliant!

I know it’s kind of a huge social & economic powerhouse for women. So we wanted to do a global initiative that would be very authentic to our DNA, if you want. So it would definitely be centered around women. It would be centered around entrepreneurship. Because we have experienced such a lot of success with Dermalogica & we’re in over 86 countries now, we wanted to do something that would help women in other industries, completely potentially unrelated to the skincare industry, also experience that degree of financial success. We wanted to focus on empowering 25,000 women into their own businesses through micro loans. In a nutshell, in a very brief few sentences, that’s what inspired FITE. We partnered with Kiva which is one of the largest micro lending companies in the world, also a non-profit as is FITE, to just put as many women into their own financial independence as we could!

Jane Wurwand

Fantastic, so inspiring. I’ve been a great admirer of Kiva for many years & they’ve done amazing work as well. I have been an avid Dermalogica fan for years & I noted last time I bought some eye cream that I got to contribute to FITE by entering the code online. That was thrilling to see that I didn’t have any extra costs but that looking after myself also contributed to the wellbeing of other women’s businesses. Could you explain how the model works?

Yes basically Dermalogica funded the intial funding for the loans to be granted through Kiva in our partnership with them, on the FITE website. We wanted to make it as simple as possible & also wanted to make it as engaging as possible for the end user, the consumer that uses Dermalogica. So I already said that 98% of skin therapists are women & 92% of all our clients are women. So it’s women that really drive Dermalogica for success. We ear marked 5 of our top selling products including Daily Microfoliant which is our number 1 selling product. We decided that we would sleeve them in a special cardboard sleeve over the carton. It has a perforated edge & when you open it there’s a code number & a story about a female entrepreneur. You the consumer go on to the Join FITE.org website. You enter the code number that is on the product that you’ve already purchased. The loan has been funded by Dermalogica already. All you’re asked to do by entering that code is bascially direct the loan. You are asked who you would like that portion of the loan that is attached to that product. Who would you like to receive it? You choose by area of the world, by country & by the type of industry. For me the coolest thing is that you are sent an email that tells you about your female entrepreneur whoever she might be, what her story is. You’ll watch her loan become fully funded. Then once it’s fully funded you will watch her grow her business.

Jane Wurwand

It’s a brilliant idea, isn’t it?

We’re very excited about it because FITE has actually now become a platform that we’ve invited other companies to join us on, helping them figure out what makes sense for them to do it. How do they want to do it? We’ve done it by coding products. They might do it by deciding a certain percentage of sales in a given month or whatever it might be? We have an open platform on FITE & we have a number of other corporations & individuals who are also coming on board to FITE with us!

Jane Wurwand

That’s great, so it’s spreading virally. That’s wonderful! I have been in different businesses most of my adult life. The first time I encountered how difficult it can be for women to source funding was when my marriage finished about 28 years ago & I tried to get a credit card in Australia. I was considered a bad risk because I had been left with 3 small children & was working for myself. Needless to say I was turned down by the bank. Women certainly can be marginalized as regards funding & there is the other side of things that people have talked about in my interviews, that women don’t like to ask for money. I can identify with this, do you have any suggestions to antidote this issue for us?

I think it’s a common problem & it’s also a misperception because women actually are very good loan risks. We pay back loans. Kiva generally lend well over 83% of their microloans to women & they have a close to 99% repayment rate. So it’s a myth that women are bad credit risks. I think that we do ourselves quite often a disservice in the fact that we don’t establish our own credit history, our own credit record independently especially when we’re married. So my advice to my 2 daughters (I have 2 daughters who are 17 & 12) the advice that my mother gave to myself & my 3 sisters is own your own bank account in your own name & make sure that you are building up a relationship with your financial institution independent of your husband or your partner. So we, my own relationship I’ve been married for 20 years, & my husband & I each have our bank account. We have a joint bank account that we both contribute to & expenses are paid out of that. But own your own bank account, establish your own credit rating, open store credit accounts even if you don’t want to have a credit amount that you pay off. Even if you buy a couple of pairs of tights & you pay them off straight away you are establishing a credit history. Then when you go to apply for a loan or a small business loan for example, you already have a credit score in your own name & that’s critical.

Jane Wurwand

Yes, yes, thank you very much. Also many years ago in Melbourne I participated in a small business course for women. The trainer highlighted how wonderful women can be as business owners. We have all this experience raising families, balancing budgets & juggling so many balls in the air. You are obviously passionate about women being in business. Could you tell me why this is so dear to your heart?

I love the expression, it’s not the first time I’ve heard it, that women can be quite wonderful in business. It’s kind of condenscending, as if ‘Wow, quite smart for a girl!’ My favorite question I’ll get asked sometimes when I do a panel for example, ‘Do I think that business does enough to accomodate women?’ which is my favorite thing, as if we are some kind of liability that needs to be accommodated? I think a critical issue for all women in business & it comes back to something that we spoke about a couple of minutes ago when you talked about women not liking to ask for money. I like to rephrase it as far as ‘money’ & call it ‘funding’ because I think funding immediately takes it onto a business platform.

Jane Wurwand

Yes it takes away the emotion, that’s very good.

I think money if it feels hard for us, whether you’re a man or a woman, call it funding. Because you will quite often find that men call it funding rather than money.

Jane Wurwand

That’s a really good point, thank you.

I think that as far as operating & owning a business, the benchmark for me about having women included, why is it excluded? It doesn’t make sense to exclude about 50% of your talent pool in any business, in any country or on any planet if you own a company. I’m a company employer of 1,600 people & I would say about 70% of the workforce at Dermalogica Corporate are women. But in any regard it doesn’t make sense to exclude 50% of the talent pool which is what women are on the planet. And to have women included at a conversation around the table as well as men, you have a much more balanced approach to business. It’s critically important. When I see a business table or a conference table with only men around the table, it’s not diverse & it’s not balanced. If I see it with just women around the table, it’s also not diverse or balanced. We need both voices.

Jane Wurwand

Yes, exactly. Obviously Dermalogica is an extremely successful international business. Do you have any stories about the early days & how you overcame challenges that might inspire other female entrepreneurs?

Oh my gosh, sure. Dermalogica is 25 years old this year in 2011. So certainly there were a lot of challenges, especially in the early days. I think for me as an entrepreneur & it’s probably different if one works for a corporation, but I think as an entrepreneur & as a woman the critical thing is to look at your industry & look at a business that you’re pretty savvy about the area that you’re going to start your business in. I was very savvy in professional skin care. It’s all I’ve ever done. I can’t imagine starting a business in an industry that I knew nothing about. Because sometimes people will say to me do I think it’s a good opportunity in hotels, in guest houses. I don’t know anything about it. So I say to them I’ve stayed in them but I don’t know anything about that industry. 1) Be savvy about your industry. 2) Be passionate & committed to what you are going to persue. Because in the early days, we didn’t draw any salaries out of Dermalogica for 3 years. I started Dermalogica with my then boyfriend, who is now my husband. He had a job as a sales rep. We lived on $1,000 a month in a 1 bedroom apartment. We put everything else from Dermalogica, from The International Dermal Institute which was our training business for 3 years & we lived very frugally. So be prepared to live frugally & if you can’t do that after month 5 you’re probably not going to see the best of your endeavor. Stay focused on what your game plan is. Don’t get distracted by the next new fun idea. Stay focused on what you’re meant to be doing & be determined to drive it home.

Jane Wurwand

Very good, that’s really great advice. I have had feedback that some of the issues that hold female entrepreneurs back from success is that some of us don’t have confidence in ourselves & don’t take enough risks & don’t shoot for a big enough vision. Do you have any feedback about what you have observed & any tips that would support us in changing some of these challenges?

Yes I think one of the biggest myths (& I think it’s changing now with younger women now coming into industry) but one of the greatest myths is that in order for a woman to be successful a woman had to behave more like a man. It’s a complete mistake because in order to be successful you have to be at your most, what I call ‘fierce with your own reality’. You have to be completely authentic to who you are! The minute we start thinking I can be successful if I’m more like this person, you’re already second best because you’re never going to be that person. Oscar Wilde had an expression ‘Be yourself, because everybody else is taken.’

Jane Wurwand

Yes you’ve got to love the Irish.

Your authenticity as a woman is that you are a woman. Make no apologies for it. Take no prisoners for it. Don’t try & behave in a way that is more obviously going to make you successful. Be yourself! If you have a feeling, I call it operating on intuition. I make no apologies when I do that because it’s a very powerful tool for me. Men may have that same level of intuition yes but I don’t believe that they act on it. We act on it. So be authentic, be yourself, be who you are. And don’t think that you have to operate as someone else in order to be successful.

Jane Wurwand

It’s simple but I totally agree with you. Thank you so much. Thank you again for your time today. I really, really do appreciate it. Fantastic points that you’ve raised. I really think that that could help a lot of us. Thank you so much again, Jane.

Thank you so much for the opportunity Pemo.

Jane Wurwand

Guy Kawasaki: How Can European Entrepreneurs Enchant Funders?

Video interview with Guy Kawasaki, Founder Alltop.  Alltop.com is an “online magazine rack” of popular topics on the web, and Guy is a founding partner at Garage Technology Ventures. Previously, he was the chief evangelist of Apple. Kawasaki is the author of ten books including Enchantment, Reality Check, The Art of the Start, Rules for Revolutionaries, How to Drive Your Competition Crazy, Selling the Dream, and The Macintosh Way. Kawasaki has a BA from Stanford University and an MBA from UCLA as well as an honorary doctorate from Babson College. You can find Guy @ his blog & on Twitter @GuyKawasaki

Transcript follows & video below.  This is Part III of the interview.  You can view Part II and Part I here

I originally came from Ireland & London & definitely there’s more challenges for women to source venture over there. And I know that you’ve spoken in European countries including Ireland. (I missed that unfortunately!) I wondered if you would care to give any advice or tips to entrepreneurs in general there about how to enchant European investors & how to achieve funding?

These are some data points from an American with the caveat that I could be full of shit. So one thing I’ve noticed about European entrepreneurs. I’ll be more general I’ve noticed in European societies that they really care about the legacy & heritage to the point where I think it’s a negative. There’s some people who I meet with & their whole shit is that their father’s sister’s uncle’s brother’s cousin’s nephew was Napoleon’s lietenant. So 500 years ago my family was with Napoleon & so that’s my claim to fame. And you know from an American investor’s standpoint we don’t care. In fact I prefer if your family ran a 711. The great stories are 1st generation comes to America, cleans yards, runs 711, maid, housekeeper, whatever, saves every penny. Puts their kids through college. Their kid happens to be very bright. Goes onto graduate school compsci, material science, electrical engineering, anything. In the middle of their masters or PhD they get this brilliant idea. They want to start a company. They tell their parents who are working in 711 that even though I’m at Stanford or Carnegie Mellon or Harvard or Yale whatever, Michigan, they say I want to stop this & I want to create this company. The parents freaking freak out ‘Five generations of our family it took to get you here into this college, into this Masters program & now you’re going to quit to start this company!’ That’s the guy or the gal we want because that person doesn’t have a sense of entitlement. That person is not copping this attitude that my relatives came over on the Mayflower, I’m a 3rd generation American, my father has endowed a chair at Yale, I have this huge trust fund, you should fund me! We want people whose parents work at 711, who scraped together, who left Vietnam in a helicopter in 1976. Those are the people that create great companies.
So we got on this question about Europe. We don’t care about your past. The other thing is we don’t care that you failed because in Silicon Valley everybody’s failed. A failure doesn’t tarnish your family for the next 5 generations. No more than success 5 generations ago will make you successful in our eyes either. It doesn’t count either way.
The second observation I have about European entrepreneurs is they often want to create the European version of an American idea. They want to create ebay for Germany, they want to create facebook for Germany so they are shooting too low. Their goal should be that they have such a great idea that the Silicon Valley entrepreneur wants to copy them. That’s what they should aspire to, not to be the German version of youtube (how hard is that?). True innovation occurs when the test is 2 people from Stanford say ‘Have you heard this great idea, we should copy this!’ That’s the test!

Guy Kawasaki

Brilliant, fantastic. That’s really great advice. I’m sure we’ll all appreciate hearing that. Thank you so much for your time today Guy thank you!

My pleasure

Guy Kawasaki