Female Founders Use Their Collective Network To Help Each Other Raise Capital
Today, only 15% of funding goes to companies with at least one female founder and only 2% of funding goes to companies with an all-female founding team. One of the biggest hurdles to more female founders raising venture capital is the “warm intro.” Many investors are reluctant to accept a meeting from a founder reaching out to them cold, and prefer a warm intro from someone they know and trust. This makes it particularly hard for founders who don’t have the “right” connections. Investors justify this by saying that being a founder is hard and figuring out how to get in touch with the right customers, candidates — and VCs — is a test of will. There is some merit to that. However, that mentality also disproportionately affects women, minorities, immigrants and others who are under-represented in Silicon Valley and who may not be as connected.
The warm intro — that is so often needed to get in front of VCs — perpetuates the existing power structure in Silicon Valley. And while I encourage VCs to rethink the warm intro requirement, in the meantime, we are helping female founders hack the warm intro. We have created a way to connect compelling female founders with top investors, even if they don’t have the right connections today.
Several months ago, we shared that 180+ female founder mentors — who collectively have raised $4B in venture funding — had joined forces with Female Founder Office Hours and All Raise to provide fundraising advice and pitch practice to female founders setting out to raise money and start companies.
Now we are helping the next generation of female founders hack the warm intro in a systematic way: we’ve created the Female Founder Office Hours deal flow network. Those of us who are mentors have raised money from top investors already. We gave our collective investors the chance to opt into the Female Founder Office Hours deal flow network and receive pre-vetted female founder deal flow from us — many said yes. The women VCs involved with All Raise have also opted in, as have many successful female founder mentors who angel invest. So as we go through the mentorship flow of our regular 1:1s through Female Founder Office Hours (we’ve had 550 office hours so far), we escalate compelling founders to the deal flow network and share information about the founder and the company with investors based on their stage and sector of focus.
We’ve piloted this program with several founders over the last few months, and members of the deal flow network have already written over 30 checks into the first several founders who have surfaced from the program. The majority of founders receiving investments have been underrepresented women of color. Each of these women are incredible founders that investors have been excited to meet.
- Selene Cruz raised more than half her round for co-working + retail concept Re:store through Female Founder Office Hours. Her investors include Sequoia Capital and South Park Commons. Selene recently moved to Silicon Valley from Miami and previously built her own direct-to-consumer brand. For more on that raise, check out Selene’s personal story and the coverage in Fortune.
- Zahra Kassam raised money from angels via Female Founder Office Hours to build the educational toy company Monti Kids. Zahra has two Harvard degrees in psychology and education and used to be a preschool teacher.
- Polly Rodriguez of Unbound raised a significant portion of her last round through the Female Founder Office Hours network. Unbound is a women’s sexual health company, for women, by women.
Female Founder Office Hours is part of All Raise, a non-profit formed this year with the goal of accelerating female founders and funders in tech. All Raise has a number of initiatives around helping women VCs raise money from LPs, helping more women join VCs, and more.
If you are a female founder who needs pitch practice and fundraising advice, we’d love to help. To date, we’ve done 550 1:1 mentoring sessions with our incredible network of mentors, which includes amazing women like Julia Hartz of Eventbrite, Katrina Lake of StitchFix, Audrey Gelman of The Wing, and many more. Come to femalefounder.org to sign up for office hours. Then once you raise a successful round, you can join as a mentor and pay it forward. We can’t wait to meet you! ❤