About a year ago I was on an investor panel with hundreds of women founders in the audience. A woman stood up and asked “What do you recommend to us women who are about to fundraise given the odds are against us?” As this question was asked, the women around the room looked like deer in headlights. What have we investors and the media done? While raising awareness of a very serious issue (in case you haven’t heard, the vast majority of venture capital has gone to male founded companies v. female founded), we have helped perpetuate the exact cycles we mean to call out and squash. Fundraising is challenging enough but if you are deflated before you begin, it is guaranteed to be brutal.
Better to know the facts, right?
False — ignorance is bliss. When my business partner (also a female) and I were fund-raising in 1998, we didn’t know how few women received venture capital, so we went at the process believing the world was our oyster and came out with terms from top-tier VCs. An entrepreneur’s job is to not let reality get in her way and make the unimaginable happen. I can guarantee you that getting funded as a woman is not the hardest obstacle you will encounter as an entrepreneur — it is just the beginning.
What should you tell yourself given everything you read and hear?
The valley is not proud of itself at the moment. The numbers are an embarrassment and great people are working to right the wrongs. Many of us are witnessing what now happens when a woman with a strong business goes out for funding — VCs literally trip over themselves to win the deal, even more so than if it were a man at the reins. Right now, being a woman is an asset. Rub your temples and say that to yourself 20 times a day.
Don’t be a victim.
I once had a women entrepreneur tell me “If I were a man, I’d be funded by now.” Bzzz…wrong answer. Who are you going to blame when you can’t land that key account? Rejection is part of the funding process and you should learn from it; many founders change their product, strategy or hiring plans based on the wisdom they gleaned while hearing “no.” If you assume any rejection you receive in the funding process is because of gender — even if there is truth to it — you are missing out on knowledge and growth. That attitude is not going to move us forward.
Case in point: I worked with a woman entrepreneur who was sure she was not funded solely because she was a woman. She said “Jenny, tell every woman founder you know to hire a male COO so they bring some balls into the room with them.” That is what she did, but unfortunately he was actually a pr*ck and the plan did not produce venture capital. Years later however, with no man on her executive team but all her business metrics up and to the right, the VC money came in.
So, what should you believe?
The author and life & business strategist, Tony Robbins says “You can choose beliefs that limit you, or you can choose beliefs that support you.” I agree (and also highly recommend more Tony Robbins reading if/when you find yourself short on faith in what you believe you can achieve.) Believe me when I tell you that your gender is an asset right now. I am a woman VC and am selfishly rooting for every woman to succeed. The more of us there are, the more successful we will all be. I am not alone. There are many of us VCs (and not only women) who are dedicated to making the world change, one deal at a time.