Female Founder Office Hours Edition V: Meet the Investors Part III (ft. SFC Capital, Soho Ventures & Stride.VC)

It’s official: Female Founder Office Hours Edition V in collaboration with Tech Nation and Google for Startups is well underway.

With 90 investors signed up, this is our biggest event to date. On 6th May 2021, we will bring together investors and founders with four key pillars in mind:

  1. Access. No warm intros needed.
  2. Remote. Geography is not a barrier.
  3. Collaboration. All investors, groups and initiatives working together.
  4. Founder-driven. Ask for advice, feedback, funding, or introductions.

After the success of the first four events, we are more focused than ever on ensuring that this initiative leads to meaningful relationships and more pounds being invested in women led businesses. As a result, each participating investor is committing to mentor at least one founder from the event on an ongoing basis and we will use AI matching to generate relevant meetings between investors and founders.

In preparation for this event, we want founders to know who they will be meeting and what to expect. Therefore, we have created a public Notion page collating useful information for this event and for those approaching their fundraising journey overall.

Additionally, relevant not only for this event but for any founder on their fundraising journey, we published our team’s tips and advice when we first launched and are releasing weekly ‘Meet the Investors’ series, where we have been interviewing investors. This week, we sit down with investors from SFC Capital, Soho Ventures & Stride.VC.

Read on for insights into their investment strategy, what they enjoy discussing with founders and their top tips for office hours.

1. What is unique about your fund?

Ed Stevenson, SFC Capital

SFC Capital is known for the number of investments that we do and the speed at which we invest. We are one of the most active early-stage investors in Europe, typically doing around 100 deals per year, and we have an average time to investment of 4 weeks from the point of a first meeting. We are very broad with our criteria, investing in sectors all the way from FMCG to space stations and into companies from pre-product through to revenue generating. In fact, all you need to be is a UK-incorporated company and eligible for S/EIS and we are always happy to consider a company for investment.

Sheetal Mehta Walsh, Soho Ventures

Soho Ventures is the UK’s first all-female lead technology fund. We invest in founders delivering global solutions reaching wider communities in a sustainable and socially responsible way. We have deep global networks and international experience having been founders, operators and investors ourselves. We support our founders to test and validate their businesses to reach wider audiences in new geographies.

Pietro Invernizzi, Stride.VC

  • We are a very small team (3 people on the investment team) and so can move extremely fast.
  • We make very few investments every year, and so like to see ourselves as ‘artisan VCs’ vs ‘factory VCs’.
  • We try very hard to take the nonsense out of Venture Capital: we don’t use jargon or intransparent deal terms and try to always make founders feel at ease talking to us or working with us. Our mission is to give founders the freedom to be themselves and the focus to build companies they can be proud of.

2. What investments do you enjoy looking at?

Ed Stevenson, SFC Capital

Ed Stevenson, Investment Manager at SFC Capital

We are a ‘people business’ and look to build long-term relationships with entrepreneurs and investors. We are looking for teams that combine expertise with the right entrepreneurial mindset to build successful companies that will deliver significant returns to investors and a positive impact to the world. Diversity is at the core of our strategy and we invest in high-potential founders regardless of their background. SFC is a signatory to the HM Treasury’s “Investing In Women Code” and we are committed to support the advancement of all forms of entrepreneurship in the UK.

Sheetal Mehta Walsh, Soho Ventures

Sheetal Mehta Walsh, Founding Partner at Soho Ventures

I’m passionate about businesses that take a long-term approach to social and planetary impacts. I believe this positively affects sustainability and profitability.

Socially responsible companies that provide access to services and products for underserved markets; economic inclusion and online safety are key. Also technologies that target the efficient use of our world’s resources is really exciting.

Pietro Invernizzi, Stride.VC

Pietro Invernizzi, Investor at Stride.VC
  • I’m a very product-centric investor, and love to see founders obsessed with creating user experiences that wow their customers (whether B2B or B2C).
  • I love learning about new industries, and therefore am very founder-driven when it comes to the spaces I look at. Spaces I’m curious about include Future of Work and Collaboration, Creator Economy, Low-code / No-code, Fintech, Climate Tech Software, Wellness & Mental health etc.

3. Which part of a business do you most enjoy discussing with a founder?

Ed Stevenson, SFC Capital

Given that we are very early-stage, we focus largely on the team and their background. We especially like founders who have experienced first-hand the problem or market that they are looking to tackle. We like to see a good team with a complimentary set of skills, so we focus on their backgrounds and the roles and responsibilities of individual team members going forward. We like to discuss what has been achieved to date and see that founders have put some skin in the game and got to the point where they have some initial validation — this does not need to be traction but we do like to see early evidence of the product/service or proof of concept/proposition.

Sheetal Mehta Walsh, Soho Ventures

I really care about why they are solving the problem they are tackling — the personal story behind their creation that drives them. I also am very interested in how they plan to scale globally and tap into other markets.

Pietro Invernizzi, Stride.VC

I love detailed conversations about a company’s product (or how the founders imagine the product will be).

4. What are your top 3 tips on how to make the most of office hours?

Ed Stevenson, SFC Capital

  • Work on getting the company’s proposition and your vision established quickly with investors. If they do not understand this early on in the conversation, they can easily become lost.
  • Ask the investors what they feel are the top three things that make a company a really investable proposition. There will likely be consistencies here and then focus on them moving forward. Likewise, ask them what are the major red flags that they look for. Again there will definitely be consistency here so that you know what to avoid.
  • Keep the pitch brief (in relation to point 1), and then fire them with as many pre-prepared questions that you can fit into your time. Don’t just let them listen to you.

Sheetal Mehta Walsh, Soho Ventures

  1. Know your audience and who you are pitching to — make sure its a relevant conversation.
  2. Pretend you are in a lift: speak succinctly and be specific about your asks.
  3. Share your passion but be transparent about the challenges you face.

Pietro Invernizzi, Stride.VC

  • Go to the meetings prepared with a few questions.
  • Also have an open mind in case the meetings turn into whiteboarding sessions around the topics that seem most important to you (vs covering *everything*).
  • Ask me questions you would not necessarily ask other VCs because “they feel like stupid questions” — no such thing as a stupid question!

5. What advice are you giving to startups on how to navigate Covid-19? Are you giving the same advice to scale-ups (post-series B)?

Ed Stevenson, SFC Capital

We are advising our companies to take a good look at their cash position and have a look at a variety of scenarios from a cashflow perspective. At the moment, it does not look as though the funding environment has taken much of a hit, however we feel that this will start to bite as everyone tightens their belts in the medium-term. Therefore, cash burn and runway is going to be key and companies should always look to maximise this as relying on equity funding for continued growth is likely to become harder and harder as the economy takes time to recover from the effects of the last year.

Sheetal Mehta Walsh, Soho Ventures

Don’t use COVID as an excuse not to perform, you are an entrepreneur and you are agile and resilient.

Be realistic about your runway and refocus your financial projections based on the new environment.

Be as agile as you can and focus on your customers; ensure you are giving them the best user experience so that they stay with you during these tough times!

If you either are or know a female founder who would like to join us for Edition V, please register here.

You can follow the Playfair team on LinkedIn, Twitter, Forbes, Vimeo and here on Medium. If you’re a male founder and would still like to pitch us, please submit your application on our open-to-anyone pitch page.

You can find out more about Tech Nation’s Founders’ Network here and Google for Startups’ Immersion: Women Founders programme here.

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