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Real queens fix each others crowns. We live in a competitive world, but the simple truth is women are more powerful when they come together and make amazing things happen.
Last year when we hosted this event, the question was can or can’t because of gender. This year, the needle has moved to choice and access has become a lot easier. There is a consortium of women willing to invest and advice at any stage of your business and that’s what we’re trying to build with Expresso - a community of women founders and funders expressing themselves and bridging the gender parity one conversation at a time. It wasn't a co-incidence that we hosted the event at the Subko Craftery :)
This year we got phenomenal mentors and startup founders and had an open conversation to understand what female founders are looking for, where the challenges are and how the ecosystem can help.
Lizzie Chapman, co-founder of Zest Money, raised her first round when she was having a baby. Very candidly put, it was a hard struggle – raising money and a child at the same time. It taught her 2 things:
1. To become disciplined about time and plan meticulously
2. Value work as well as the little things.
Ahana Gaudam who co-founded OpenSecret, had a unique story starting off in a smaller town in India. Everything for her started with a - Why? Having grown up in a small city in Rajasthan, her experiences led her to start out on her own. Raised by a working mother and role model, in a city with very little female literacy, she wanted to give back to women and build a brand that told her story.
“We have high speed internet in our houses, but look at the snacks our kids eat”
There’s a myth that women can only launch the softer products – like fashion, food etc. They stay away from the unsexy stuff like finance and AI…the hard stuff is not for them.
That’s not true at all. We’ve seen women do the hard, unsexy stuff and have come across businesses with women co-founders in construction or take an example of the recent unicorn Ofbusiness which provides financing to SMEs co-founded by Ruchi Kalra. Ankiti Bose from Zilingo, Pooja Rao from Qure AI are a couple others that are a part of a growing list. Many times entrepreneurs start a business out of learning from their experiences which has alot more value than their educational background.
Here are some questions we answered over the course of the evening
Angel money or venture funding – what’s right for me?
Decide if you want to take someone's money that’s NOT a friend or family member. They’re probably anticipating money in return. Angels start earlier in an entrepreneurs journey where they help with accelerating and advising on financial terms, finding the right investors and a platform to connect founders and funders.
Then as you go up the ladder of raising money, you'll find that venture capital is slightly more structured. But the closer you are to the ground, the more the ask in terms of equity.
“If you’re getting in a relationship with an investor, your job is to know beyond just the person. It’s also your job to know the documentation, the law, financial terms and what exactly you’re signing”
Advice that you wish you knew when you started out as a women founder.
1. Don’t be afraid to ask friends and family for funding when you start out.
2. Be really careful about who you take money from because that plays a huge role. Look for red flags like cynicism or disrespect in your first meeting. Are they asking you defensive questions or optimistic questions? They should be asking how big the business could be and not if you have a male co-founder
3. As CEO and co-founder, you spend a lot of time fundraising. Ask other founders, what their experience has been with investors.
Are you better off taking a lot of money from a few people, or a little money from many people?
A smaller number of people giving you lots of money, but you need the right people to guide you through your journey and not just throw capital at you. Its not about the number of people as much as the value of their mentorship
How involved should an investor be in your business?
Involvement is a double edged sword and its important to be careful how much involvement you want in your business. Make sure you drive the relationship with your investor, not the other way around. Investors that pick up a huge stake in your business, also become your strategic advisors and mentors, but make sure who those investors are and what role they can play for you.
How do you retain confidence in your product when investors ask you the hard questions?
Conviction and persistence. Have faith in yourself, act on the problem instead of reacting to it. In an entrepreneurs journey on the funding ladder, the lower rung investors or angel investors usually look at founder personality more than the product. They are investing more in you than your product. Once you create that confidence in yourself a VC at the higher rung of the ladder can see that idea and fuel it with more funding, technology and marketing savviness. But being who you are, having that confidence and credibility in not just your product but also yourself is very important.
“You have an idea and you run it without any savvy technology or funding and its sort of making some waves, a VC will come along and say – Wow, imagine if I funded it with technology and marketing savviness, what could happen?”
At what stage should I raise funds?
"It depends. But you really get the big bang for the buck when you’ve taken the idea and already started making it work" - Anjali Singh, angel investor
“ We raised $5 million dollars on a pdf.” – Lizzie, founder
“We invested in a company seeing just a power point” – Sid, investor
How much of my business should I give up?
The obvious answer: As little as possible. Below 20% when you start with, but the bigger you get the easier it gets. Don’t worry about hearing no from them – just ask.
To summarise, have faith and conviction in yourself and your product. Don't let financials overwhelm you and build your network. Don’t be afraid of the boys club. As your enterprise matures, choose your mentors and don't be afraid to ask for advice. Societal expectations and norms keep women from dreaming, don’t let that happen. Women up!
Anjali Singh on takeaways: https://lnkd.in/evtdpUpk
Lizzie Chapman on Funding: https://lnkd.in/ebti8WN5
Ahana Gautam on changes : https://lnkd.in/exMTkYDK
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