How did Vicki Saunders Hack Her Way to Venture Capital?

We’re delighted to meet you Vicki. Can you tell our readers about yourself and SheEO?

Vicki: Hi! I’m vicki saunders; a serial entrepreneur. Over the years, I’ve created a number of tech companies. While doing so, I’ve seen how incredibly difficult it is for female entrepreneurs to fund their own companies. Only 4% of venture capital goes to women. When I made up my mind to solve this problem, I realised that the only way to do this is if women start to write checks for other women!

It’s challenging to convert women into investors. We don’t take the same kind of risks. Many women wouldn’t bet $25K on a high risk, early stage start-up.

To make women invest, the investment experience had to be re-defined; including the risk profile. It was around the time when crowd- funding was emerging, so we took this model and tweaked it.

What if a thousand women contributed a thousand dollars each? That way, we could pool a million dollars of capital to be invested in ten local companies from that region. That’s how the Radical Generosity movement was born.

We provide founders with 0% interest loans which they can pay back over 5 years. Once paid back, the money is loaned out again.

This is a revolving fund for female entrepreneurs. Investors pick the startups they want to invest in.

This holistic model solves multiple problems; including providing a support network for women entrepreneurs. With this model, you go from being a start-up entrepreneur just trying to get it going, to having a thousand radically generous women on your team. There is a lot more to fundraising than money. The entrepreneurs that have been through the first cycle understand that funding has helped them but in reality, it’s having all these women around them as a support group that has been a game changer.

Do you think female entrepreneurs face gender specific challenges?

Vicki: Yes. This world was not designed by women. Almost every institution and every structure out there was designed by men. Women were not at the table when the business rules were set. It’s not surprising to see that it doesn’t really work for us.

As millennial women, we have everything we need to cause change. We have more capital than ever before. We are half of the universal population. We are half of the work force. There is this huge opportunity to tap into women’s innovation and unique perspective.

What does building a community mean for you? What lessons have you learnt so far in your journey?

Vicki: Building the Radical Generosity community has been a fascinating experience for all of us involved in the campaign. We’ve all learnt to be generous; to pay it forward without expecting something in return. We’ve also experienced how contagious this generosity can be. When we start giving ourselves, we encourage and influence others.

One thing I’ve realised is that we women struggle to ask for help.

Go into a room full of women and ask them for help. Everybody’s hands will go up. On the other hand, when it comes to asking for help, all the hands go down.

Business can be very unforgiving. We tend to put our heads down and say we’ve got it all covered up. Imagine how much more could be accomplished if we all started joining forces and work together helping each other!

I don’t know one single woman who’s reached her true potential. I am nowhere near my full potential. I feel like I am just getting started. What if we were surrounded by people who wanted to help us reach our potential? That is the kind of spirit we are trying to create in our network and that’s what Radical Generosity means to me.

If you could change one thing in the start-up arena, what would that be?

Vicki: The revenue generation model in companies is not emphasised enough. The start-up world tends to dismiss the value of revenue generation while idealising ‘rock star’ projects. You can see this clearly with Uber.. 1.5 billion dollars have been invested into it, to win the market. If they lose it’s huge lost, if they win it’s a huge win. It’s a big risk to take.

From my perspective, focusing solely on this model is an ineffective use of capital.

Most entrepreneurial women reach profitability much quicker than male-led start-ups. We are capital-efficient and use money efficiently to create impact. This is very important in my opinion.

How can women entrepreneurs join your organisation?

Vicki: We organise a campaign each year to select our ‘activators’. These activators invest a thousand dollars each, and support the campaign for that year.

Once our activators are selected, we open our admission process for entrepreneurs. We do this through our website via a simple introduction form.

Our activator network reviews these applications, voting to select the start-ups they want to back. We then pick our winners for the year who get access to our 0% interest loans.

What kind of events do you offer?

Vicki: We have various events we’re offering. You can visit www.sheeo.world to see a list of all our events.

Any tips on fresh entrepreneurs on choosing event to attend?

Vicki: Find the people that share your values and resonates with your world perspective.

It’s very important to find your tribe; the kind of people who encourage you to follow your dreams. It’s difficult to reach your potential, if you’re surrounded by people that bring you down.Also, hang out with other entrepreneurs because they have that kind of risk taking, crazy mindset!!

How do you manage your time? What does your to do list looks like?

Vicki: I spend a lot of my time on strategy and the design of SheEO. About 25% of my time is dedicated to consulting our network and the community to make sure that I’m understanding their needs and following their energy.

I pay attention to ideas and advice from others around me. That is how I make my strategic decisions. When someone asks me what cities SheEO will go this year — I answer by saying; “We are following the people that will not stop emailing us. That’s where we’ll go!”

What are your daily reads? Any newsletters, websites you’re subscribed to?

Vicki: I read the Guardian, New York Times, TechCrunch, Atlantic and the Inc. I read a bunch of other blogs, including some on Forbes, and Fortune. I look at Product Hunt for the latest products that are emerging.

Could you give one piece of advice to an entrepreneur looking for capital?

Vicki: Decide on what kind of investment you need. Do you want patient money? Or do you want smart money?

Be clear on the values that you associate the capital with. This will influence the relationships you build with your investors.

Don’t assume scarcity. There’s enough for any kind of investment for everyone out there of any kind.

What’s the best way for entrepreneurs reading this interview to get in touch with you?

Vicki: LinkedIn. I love to connect with people and if there is anybody on my network that can help you, I’m happy to make an introduction.

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Next Week on Ladybirdlist : Christine Tsai • Managing Partner 500 Startups

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