Female investors and start-up founders on raising capital in Australia, how to balance fundraising with company growth, and how to get the most from your investors.
“Not all funding is created equally so it is important to understand what is right for you, and your company at the stage and the size you are at. Then, depending on which type of funding you pursue, what are some of the things you should know as it is very different to try and get funding for a company when you are a woman than a man, as the stats around female funding are pretty execrable.”
These are the prudent words of Mina Radhakrishnan, ex-Head of Product at Uber, investor, mentor and current co-founder of :Different, spoke at the recent Antler, General Assembly and ConnectedWomen event.
She continues: “The stats were pretty bad in 2019 and actually got worse in 2020 post-Covid for a number of different reasons, but it was down 27% year on year to only 2.3% of VC dollars going to female founded businesses — that’s less than $5bn in total which is not very much at all. Therefore founding a business as a woman is going to be different and that is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is something that you need to be aware of.”
Not necessarily a bad thing, but it is something you need to be aware of.
This line succinctly summarises one of the main barriers that prevent women from pursuing entrepreneurialism in the first place. Fuelled by lack of confidence and visibility of other women taking the leap and launching a business, this issue is something Antler, through partnerships and events such as this, is extremely passionate about changing and is moving the needle on.
Mina, who moderated the discussion, was joined by panelists Sally-Ann Williams, CEO Cicada Innovations, Skye Theordorou, co-founder and CEO of Upcover, and Jenna Leo, co-founder and CEO of Like Family. Women passionate about encouraging and enabling other women to launch their ideas, build their startups and raise capital to grow their businesses.
Cicada Innovations is a program led incubator for DeepTech.
UpCover brings fit for purpose insurance products to gig economy workers. The startup was built with Antler in 2019, and since then they have raised $1m and launched at the end of last year.
LikeFamily is a tech enabled social care and community platform that has been operating for five years, and in March last year it raised a $2m seed round.
Through the event, these funders and founders talked about challenges and insights around raising capital in Australia, they shared advice on how they balance fundraising with venture growth, and also revealed ways investors can work with you, beyond just handing over cash.
Below is a summarised transcript on the questions asked at the event. It has been edited for clarity and length.
Q: How do you balance running a business with fundraising?
“Fundraising is a long and all consuming process and it starts way before the coffees. We spent four years relying on our own revenue and grants, but then needed to take things to the next level. It starts with modelling and testing your assumptions on what you are doing to go and how you are going to grow, then you start meeting the investors, most of whom were people I had met at the beginning of the journey four/five years ago,” says Jenna.
Q: How many investors did you speak with versus how many you received investment from?
“For us, it was around 40 investors as there are only a certain number in Australia wanting to lead a round for a business of our type. Speaking with investors creates an important network effect. This led to us having 12 on our cap table,” says Jenna.
“I spoke with many, over 100, and we came up with some efficient ways to do this such as a virtual session where I addressed 40 investors using a Loom video. A tip is to make sure you put an end date on the round so conversations don’t trail, securing a round can take 4–6 months, and maintain contact as those we spoke with 12 months ago for our previous round now invested in our current round,” says Skye.
Q: What tips would you give founders about fundraising?
“Learn as much as you can before taking any money as cleaning your cap table is challenging. Learn what is the right money for you, what is the right timeframe for you and who do you want on your cap table,” says Sally-Ann.
“Fundraising is a long game — hold out with revenue and grants for as long as you can. Then, approach it as a strategy. The best founders do not approach fundraising as a one time transaction. They use six month updates to build a community around them and take potential investors on their journey. This creates a warm leads list, think of investors as you would your customers.”
Q: What is the biggest thing that you have asked for from an investor that was not money?
“Recruitment was a big one for us because as co-founders we are both co-technical. An investor helped with the sourcing and interviewing of our Tech lead. Another held a strategy day with us which was very important to give more perspectives around what you are doing as a business because when you are working on it day to day it is hard to get that external perspective,” says Jenna.
Q: How do you hone your message and get to specificity?
“Know your why’s. You need to convince me, why it’s a problem, why should I care about it. Why your solution is the best, why is it going to save me time or effort. I shouldn’t have to ask you five or six times ‘why’ as it means you as a founder have not thought deeply enough about how to articulate your message,” says Sally-Ann.
Q: How do you find work-life balance?
“I do not think there is such a thing as work life balance, it is instead work life integration — like a seesaw, as when one is up the other is down and you can only remain in balance for a couple of seconds. What you must do is find your tribe and find an artistic, fitness and creative release, says Sally-Ann.
You know it’s going to help you be the best you can be as the only way your business is going to grow and thrive is if you are showing up the best you can, if you rob that from yourself, you are also doing so from your business and from your team”.
Q: How do you find balance in co-founder relationships?
“The best thing someone said to me around equity is don’t think of it as giving away equity, it is actually investing into the human capital in your business, how much do you want a person to be as invested in the business as you? My co-founder is as invested in the business as I am and has the skills I don’t,” says Skye.
In just three years, Antler, globally has produced more than 250 startups. Of these companies, 39% have a female co-founder. In Sydney, 43% of the companies Antler has invested in were built by female co-founder, and 88% of those women were also the CEO of the business.
If you are interested in founding or scaling an existing, early-stage company with Antler, our fifth intake starts June 2021 which you can apply for here.
This article was written by Adele Moynihan, Director of Recruiting, Antler Australia.
Antler enables exceptional people to create exceptional companies. If you want to become a startup founder, find the perfect co-founder and create impactful companies to shape the future, apply now and begin your Antler journey.