Over the past two weeks, Henrik and I at Playfair Capital, alongside Tech Nation, hosted a two-part virtual event, facilitating introductions between 160 founders and 60 investors. In this blog, we discuss the story of Female Founder Office Hours to date and what happens next.
At Playfair, we saw female founders facing two key problems:
- Lack of funding 💰 — For every £1 of venture capital investment in the UK, all-female founder teams get less than 1p (Diversity VC and British Business Bank).
- Lack of access to investors, especially outside of London 🌎— Startups that land in VCs’ laps via so-called ‘warm introductions’ are 13 times more likely to be funded by them than startups which come to their attention via ‘cold’ pitch deck submissions (Diversity VC and British Business Bank). This has only exacerbated the need for founders to find ways of getting in front of investors and in doing so, restricting access to those who cannot secure warm introductions. This is an even bigger problem outside of London as typically most VC funds are physically based in London.
There are plenty of theories around this disparity, ranging from the lack of women in core-STEM workforces (representing only 24% of the total workforce)(Wise Campaign) to investors statistically being more likely to back entrepreneurs with similar backgrounds, putting female founders pitching to an all-male investment team at a disadvantage (Funders Club).
Regardless of the reason, we recognise that it is the responsibility of the entire ecosystem and all the players in it to make a change.
And that’s why we launched Female Founder Office Hours. Through our two-part events, we facilitate female founder-investor introductions with four key pillars in mind:
- Access 👐 — To circumvent the ‘warm introduction’ and ‘cold outreach’, we give founders direct access to VC investors.
- Remote 🌍 — Virtual Zoom meetings give founders the opportunity to join the event from anywhere in the world, even during a pandemic.
- Collaboration 🤝 — Playfair, Tech Nation and 60+ VCs working together to bring change.
- Founder driven💡 💰. With no set agenda, founders drive the meeting and have the opportunity to pitch for funding or simply ask for advice and mentorship.
It’s now officially a year since we first launched the initiative and since the first event, we’ve grown substantially to facilitate the following in Edition IV last week:
🤝 624 office hour meetings
👸 156 female founders
👫 61 VC investors from the UK’s leading funds
A special thank you to the investors who have supported the initiative from day one, including Oksana Stowe, Belinda Gurung, Bethany Greer, Alexia Arts, and to all the investors who have joined us along the way.
We’ve had some great feedback from the founders themselves on how well they thought the event went:
“Quickest hour of my life! Brilliant, thank you all😃” — Hannah Sutcliffe, Founder @ The Moon Hub
“Thank you so much! Great event, very well organised and informative!”— Freya Hickman, Founder @ Re;mind
“Thank you so much teams Playfair and Tech Nation. A superbly organised session and incredibly useful.”— Megha Prakash, Founder @ Earth Miles
“What a great morning at Playfair Capital’s Female Founders Hour! We had the best time and met some great funds and can’t wait to build connections. Thanks so much for creating space for female founders!” — Sophia Parvizi-Wayne, CEO @ Trado
“I just wanted to say thank you so much for all the hard work you put into organising such a promising initiative. Especially for founders like myself and my co-founder who have moved to London, it was very useful and we really appreciate getting the chance to participate in such a cool event! It went off flawlessly!” — Talitha Abraham, Founder @ Kalabarts
And some really useful feedback from Sarah Allali, Founder @ Think Confluent to her peers in our Slack community on how best to prepare for the upcoming event:
- Prepare a clear and precise objective for each call. In my case, I wanted to address my new pitch, my defensibility strategy, the way to present my team, a pitch in 2 minutes and all the trick questions that were going through their heads :)
- At the beginning of the call, I presented my company in one sentence and announced the theme of the call, and asked if it is ok with them.
- Make sure to answer as succinctly as possible, without digressing.
- Use the last minute to exchange emails.
- Don’t forget to send a follow-up email.
- Between each call, take 30 seconds to note the main point of the last call.
We were also proud to team up with Landscape, the Glassdoor for VCs and founders, to allow founders to provide fully transparent and anonymous feedback. It’s been great to read through the massively positive reviews — 91% of founders would recommend to another female founder!
What Happens Next
But we want to make sure that we’re continuously growing and scaling the initiative, in order to bring positive change to as many female founders as possible.
At Playfair, we’ve written a playbook explaining all the tips and tricks in organising an event of this scale. We’ve been making this available to other fonds who wish to hold events for underrepresented founders and we’re excited that Anthemis, Diversity VC and Ladies Who Launch; Cocoon Capital; Founders Factory; Grove Ventures; and Floww, Force Over Mass and Wayra UK have all made use of our playbook when organising their events.
We welcome funds to contact us if they wish to access this playbook and launch events in their ecosystems.
We have set up a Notion page to host all resources, internal and external, for both founders and investors to best prepare for the event. This includes ‘A guide to getting what you want’ and a ‘Meet the Investors’ series where investors answer five key questions on their fund & individual investment thesis, how to pitch them and top tips for office hours. We endeavour to keep adding to this bank of resources going forward.
We plan on holding 3 events next year, with applications for the next event in May opening in March. As we were oversubscribed on the investor side this time (proof that the VC ecosystem is invested in making change), we hope to expand the number of investors that take part next time from 60 to 90. This allows us to facilitate more founder-investor meetings and increase the impact of the events.
And finally, why limit the impact of Female Founder Office Hours to this side of the English Channel? In the next event, we’ll be opening applications to European founders!