Inge Geerdens: Play Like the Boys for Venture Success

Transcript follows & video below

Could you tell me briefly about your past history in sourcing venture capital?

I looked for money in 2006 to start up my company CVWarehouse & I raise Eur1m in 2007. I bought back my shares in 2008.

Inge Geerdens

Wow good work

And I’m preparing for a next round of VCs in 2011.

Inge Geerdens

Very good & did you source that in Europe, obviously if it was in Euros? in your own country Belgium?

Yes I have contact with VCs within Europe & I raised money in Belgium.

Inge Geerdens

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

I can only speak about Europe but it surprises me a little that women are looked at differently in this case. I think I got some very strange questions. But I also think I got huge visibility as I was the only woman.

Inge Geerdens

So it had its advantages & disadvantages. And you were successful which says a lot for you. What attitudes towards you being female have you noted from venture capitalists when you have been sourcing venture?

Well they ask more questions about my private life, my kids, how was I going to solve things & they were a little afraid I would spend too much time on my family I guess?

Inge Geerdens

Dreadful isn’t it? It is what it is!

What can I say? It’s not only VCs that ask that question. It’s more in general that I’m confronted with these types of questions as a female entrepreneur.

Inge Geerdens

Interesting, interesting, but they wouldn’t ask men those questions would they?

Well not at all I guess, no, no. They wouldn’t even think about it.

Inge Geerdens

What qualities do you think women entrepreneurs need specifically for sourcing venture?

I’ve been thinking about that question just before your call. I think we have to act like men. We need to be proud. We need to be very self confident. We need to have excellent communication & presentation skills. We need to say that we are better. We don’t need to be emotional. So just go to the point, show facts & figures & move further.

Inge Geerdens

So copy what the boys do & make sure that we’ve got all our bases covered is what you’d suggest, yeah?

Well do better than the boys do because we have female disadvantage.

Inge Geerdens

Thank you that’s a salient point. Do you think that the challenges that women entrepreneurs/startups have historically faced, mean that we will always be under represented sourcing venture?

I think a lot of women will always be underrepresented in any business context. Not only but of course also sourcing but already in companies, in boards, in setting up companies, in positions in companies.

Inge Geerdens

Ok, no problems. Have you noticed any changes in the last couple of years since you did your first round in attitudes from the venture community or angel community towards women in Belgium?

The period you’re talking about is of course the height of 2007 & I’m in the erecruitment sector in Europe. So we got a major crisis in 2008 & 2009 so everything closed from a money point of view. I guess it’s not only towards the women. Something that I notice is that the venture capital world in my eyes is very macho, very white male but I guess they’re macho towards other male entrepreneurs as well. So I don’t know, I’m not sure.

Ok no problems. You are a non-technical CoFounder, do you believe that it is easier for technical women founders to achieve venture funding than non-technical? If so what are your reasons for this?

I don’t think it’s easier for them. What I did when I was looking for venture, was I really started doing competitions & contests on presentations & pitching. Because I realized after my first presentation to venture capitalists that 90% of me raising money would depend on my presentation skills.

Inge Geerdens

Very good, so thats a real key point.

I did a contest & I won a prize in elevator pitching amongst 500 business plans & people pitching all over Europe. I really did it in order to raise money. I think the more technical people are, the harder they find to explain in human words what they exactly do & what they’re looking for. So I think being extrovert, having excellent presentation skills rewards much more in finding money. Because in the end they invest in a person or a team of people & not so much in a company or the technical part of a company.

Inge Geerdens

That’s a really good point, thank you. Could you list some of the advantages of gender diversity in a startup? Are there any disadvantages?

I think the balance would be the best. Not too many women for obvious reasons. Not too many men for obvious reasons. With balance I think women are much more long term. I also think that’s why we have so much difficulties with venture capitalists. Because venture capitalists from the business plan are short term anyway. So men are in the middle, women are very much in that long term strategy keeping an eye on the customers, the company, the employees. So I think having women is an advantage for the long term strategy. Having men is an advantage for the short term strategy because you need both.

Inge Geerdens

Fantastic, so what you’re saying is that the balance is the best, most optimum in any startup?

The real situation is to have the best people. Unfortunately in a startup, you have the people that want to go with you.

Inge Geerdens

Exactly, that’s great! Thank you so much for your time today, I so appreciate it. I wish you all the best for your next round.

Thank you.

Inge Geerdens

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