I responded to a quote request from a journalist regarding women, women-owned businesses and venture capital. Here is my full response:
Women cannot shun the ask. Prepare your elevator speech and know it inside and out. You never know who you may be speaking to or who may be able to help you. Therefore, graciously let everyone know that you’re looking; do this by sharing your 45-90 second elevator speech whenever anyone asks what you do. Share this with your business network and at business networking events, but also with church groups, exercise groups, your hairdresser, whomever. Do not self-select! I have a former mentor whose friend’s father was a janitor for a Fortune 500 president. The janitor shared my mentor’s resume with the president and my mentor got a meeting!
In addition, begin attending angel network group meetings and venture conferences. At these events you will meet the individuals that can directly connect you.
Prepare a one-page investment profile.
I also highly recommend that women (everyone, actually) prepare a one-pager that succinctly states the funding need, market opportunity, money injected thus far, risks and opportunities, and exit strategy for the business. This can be handed out, or better yet, emailed to others. If those individuals are not personally interested but know of someone else who may be, they will gladly forward it on. Why? Because anyone can scan a one-pager! In addition, investors, including venture capitalists, often have specific interest areas in which they invest but their network includes investors who invest in other areas. By sharing potential investment opportunities, investors support and build their networks.
Furthermore, the one-page investment profile sheet often leads to a request for an executive summary. This can then lead to a request for a meeting or presentation.
Start with who you know.
Finally, start with who you know and ask for introductions. Keep going from there. Remember the six degrees of separation? If you truly have no connections, find similarities between you and the venture capitalists you’re pursuing. I once sought $7 million in private equity funding, which I ultimately obtained, by emailing a number of funds with Wharton grads as partners. I used the headline “Wharton graduates seek $7 million for $2.8mil. EBITDA firm acquisition”, and championed our alumni affiliation in the body of the email. Of the 26 firms I emailed, all but one personally responded.
Women must remember that their women-owned businesses are valuable. Women must treat their businesses as such and have confidence in the business’ ability to generate value for both them and their investors.
Do you have any experiences you’d like to share? I’d love to hear them! Please share them below.