Natalie Wood, ThoughtNet: Lessons for Women Sourcing Venture

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

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

Qualities are that they need to have an understanding of what type of funding that they need to get from a venture & they also have to understand what they have to give up. Because anyone that gets venture knows: there is an old saying ‘You can either have a small piece of a big pie’ (which is what a vc is all about) or ‘You can have a big piece of a small pie'(which is more about getting angel funding & doing your own thing) but you’re not going to have that big of a pie!

Natalie Wood

That would be the most critical point there?

And you have to let go because a lot of vcs after a year or two, if you don’t have the experience to run a large corporation they will shift you. You have to realize that that is part of what you are getting into.

Natalie Wood

As you know my background is in the online dating industry and I am very interested in the chemistry between entrepreneurs & venture capitalists. There may possibly be an opportunity there through further investigation, to help women to access venture more easily? What have you observed or do you sense is the best chemistry for a woman entrepreneur to match with a VC?

Just like dating, women really need to know, just like a man, what a venture capitalist, wants, what are they looking for?   Which is different for each venture capital company, they have a profile. Just like men, we have our facebook profiles , each vc has their own profile, like a dating profile. Because you can say ‘I’m only into playing tennis & I like hiking’. Well vcs say ‘We’re only into the telecom business & we only like companies who can go up to $50Billion or $8Billion or whatever the number is. So you really need to understand the dating profile of the VC & get involved with them based on are they a match for your profile? Instead of just throwing it out to the wind.

Natalie Wood

So it has to be an authentic match is what you are saying & you have to try & research that beforehand?

Oh my gosh, you’re kinda dumb if you don’t. If you want to go out on a date with somebody, or get married to someone or have a relationship, you’ve got to go out on dates & you need to do your research. Are they a fit? Check, check, check. Does it fit with what I’m looking for?

Natalie Wood

And obviously you have only been on one side of the table as an entrepreneur, like myself. What do you think the vcs want in the chemistry they want?

Well they usually have a chemistry of the type of person that they want to see & usually that has to do with somebody if its a person that’s starting a company theres a different chemistry than with somebody who is running a large corporation. And so somebody who is the entrepreneur, they want them to be a person who is creative & understands that market & where it’s going & is a part of that creative process.

It is said that women entrepreneurs need to take more risks & be more bold in pitching their startups. Do you think this is the major issue holding women back from sourcing venture?

Well sure just like anything, if you want to take it back to your dating metaphor again, it can be scarey especially like me when I got started, you don’t know what you don’t know. And so how can you go out & try to get involved with vcs when you’re saying ‘Hi I’ve got this idea’ & they’re saying ‘Ok send us your business plan & if we like the business plan then maybe we’ll talk to you?’ Oh my gosh I must have rewritten my business plan about 50 times at least. So getting that relationship, you really need to understand the key things that you need to engage a vc. So you’re selling yourself, your team, your idea & you’re also selling your target market that you’re going after & if there is a match on that, they like your target market then you have a shot at getting in with an idea. But it needs to be something that they see as sustainable.

It depends on the woman & there are certain women who are not big risk takers. There are women who are younger than I am & they’ve come up in a different paradigm than I have. For them taking that risk if they’re in their 20’s is not as frightening because they haven’t had any failures to speak of. And they also may not have as much invested, maybe they’re not married, they don’t have children, they don’t have a mortgage payment? So when you start adding years & other effects, its not only yourself, that you have other people who will suffer if the risk doesn’t turn out, it makes you think! And that goes for men & women.

Natalie Wood

And also obviously I’m unusual, because most women would want to feel secure rather than take more risks than when they were young? So that makes sense.

It does make sense. But there’s one caveat to that & that is that true entrepreneurial spirit is always coming up with new ideas. So there are people that are just true entrepreneurs & can’t not not do it, double negative. You can’t not do it, in your spirit you have this idea & you have to do it.

Natalie Wood

So what you’re saying is some of us are driven that way?

Some of us are driven and you have to temper it with you have a husband, you have children, you have a mortgage, you have things. However there are great supportive husbands who say ‘I believe in you let’s take the chance!’ and you need to do your homework.

Natalie Wood

How could women leverage their already innate strengths to be more accepted & successful in the venture capital game? Because many people say because of women’s natural predisposition that often eliminates them. But I’m thinking that that looks at the problems rather than our strengths & so I wondered if you’ve got any ideas about how women can leverage those strengths?

Women are good at researching & so I think they can usually can come up with & understand who might be a good match for them. Also women are great consensus takers & so if we can go out & tap into other women who have made it, we can alleviate some of the issues & problems that we’re going to have to face trying to do it all on our own. And there are different women’s organizations like FWE Forum for Women Entrepreneurs & Executives & Bay Area women’s business groups & National women’s business groups. It’s important to get involved locally with women, you could even start your own group. Recently I’ve been part of starting a new group called WeCEO’s, Women CEOs & its just a very small group of us women who have all started our own businesses, all of us this is our 3rd business. Some of them are doing different things, obviously people are different, we have different backgrounds. So what we do is get together & talk & share information relating to asking questions & helping each other to get ideas on how to solve problems or get ideas on things we can do. It’s hard to do something in a vacuum by yourself & I would say that any CEO or entrepreneur who’s starting a business, there is a bit of a lonely feeling in that you are on your own. And you have to come up with & be a creator because entrepreneurs are really creators. You have to create the team, you have to enrol people to understand the idea, you have to get whatever software or programming done & you need to create the sales & marketing. And so in order to be able to put all of that cohesively together you need a touchstone, you need someone outside of yourself that’s done this before. Connecting with other women entrepreneurs & other men entrepreneurs, not just women, creating a way for you to have mentors for yourself & to network with other people who’ve been through this process is extremely important. You’re still going to go through mistakes because you learn more by making mistakes than you do by having success.

Natalie Wood

Thank you so much, I so appreciate your wealth of experience & background that you’ve brought to share with us today.

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