Female Founder Office Hours — What we did, what we learned, what’s next 🌍
Across two events — June 4th and June 24th — Playfair Capital and Tech Nation hosted 800 one-on-one office hour meetings for 200 female founders with 60 VCs. It’s the largest event of its kind for female founders across the UK and we hosted it all fully remote.
This post is a quick summary of everything we set out to do, what we achieved, what we learned in the process, and what’s coming next.
What we set out to do
Our full mission statement for Female Founder Office Hours can be found in our original post, but can be summarised here:
There are two key problems:
- A lack of funding and wider support for female founders in tech
- A lack of access to investors, especially outside of London
This is our solution:
- Access 👐. No warm intros needed.
- Remote 🌍 . Geography is not a barrier.
- Collaboration 🤝. All investors, groups and initiatives working together.
- Founder driven💡 💰. Ask for feedback, pitch for funding or anything else.
What we achieved
This is the impact of our two Female Founder Office Hours events in June 2020:
🤝 800 office hour meetings
👸 200 female founders
⌛ 200 hours of mentorship, support & pitching
👫 60+ VC investors from the UK’s leading funds
📣 93% of founders would recommend to another female founder
We started Female Founder Office Hours in October 2019 with the same aim, just on a smaller scale, with 45 female founders and 11 investors joining us in our offices at Warner Yard (pre-Covid 19).
Since then, we have grown the initiative and the office hours events in response to the overwhelming demand from founders, investors and the broader ecosystem.
After our February 2020 second edition, we met the team at Tech Nation and we decided to go nationwide and part-remote to render geography a non-issue. Covid-19 pushed us to go fully remote and we’re so glad we did.
Going fully-remote, via Zoom Breakout Rooms, gave much-needed structure to the scale of 800 one-on-one meetings and allowed founders to share materials more easily. It also enabled us to host a second event at short notice to accommodate huge demand from another 100 founders and 30 VCs.
“Remote-first could be as big a jump forward for diversity in tech as the Covid-19-led move online has been for retail.”
What we learned in the process (Feedback)
We have received some humbling positive feedback across our two events from founders:
“Hands-down one of the best remote events I attended in the last 30 days…Super efficient and fit-for-purpose. Amazing job.” — Shiti @ Breathe Happy
“This is a great initiative and surely a milestone in terms of promoting female founders and giving them avenues to strive and thrive.” — Priya @ Intelliaqua
“This is very efficient, I love it” ; “we don’t waste people’s time and they don’t waste ours, it’s great” — Anonymous founder
“Highly recommend the Playfair Capital Office Hours to #femalefounders. Such a well organised event that I got so much value from. Huge thank to you Emma Steele, Erica Young, Katie Kim, and Simon Blakey for taking the time to chat with me and give super valuable insights.” — Sam @ Moneyed
“[Female Founder Office Hours] is one of the few industry events I’ve attended which grants a fair playing field for female founders at any stage of the startup journey. Pre-Covid, I would never have had the chance of so easily accessing and pitching to a main partner of a large VC firm let alone four within one hour. Office Hours not only gave me and my business great exposure but I also took away solid advice, which I consider pivotal at such an early stage of my startup journey.” — Chanella @ On Beaute
As well as from investors:
“Went really smoothly. Everything was thoughtout from every angle. Overall went really well. I’m impressed. I had some good conversations and I’m following up with a couple of them.” — Katie @Forward Partners
“A very impressive and smooth application of Zoom and great to chat with so many founders in one session.” — Amelia @ Amadeus
“Literally seeing 200 [female] founders come out of the woodwork if you just ask is making me think what more we can do here.” — Briehan @ KEEN Venture Partners
We were also proud to team up with Landscape, a new Glassdoor for VCs and founders, to provide fully transparent and anonymous feedback. The results from the second event are below. For the first event, we reached an NPS of 9.6 using Slido.
We are incredibly proud of this positive feedback, but even happier at the consistency. Only 2/800 meetings were affected by a technical interruption and both were fixed within five minutes. Playfair also committed to covering any missed or disrupted meeting to ensure every founder had equal opportunity.
What we learned in the process (Outcomes and Improvements)
This is an area which we are committed to continually improving. While the feedback above is highly encouraging, we want to measure how many follow-ups there are and ultimately how many companies get funded.
From this edition: over 50% of founders are following up with 3/4 or 4/4 of their investors. 80% are following up with 2/4 or more.
We will be sending out a survey to measure how many companies are funded as a result of Female Founder Office Hours. We already know anecdotally of three companies that are closing a round since applying for this edition.
We have also shared all 200+ applications with every participating investor; nothing is proprietary here.
What to improve
We see three key areas to improve for the next event:
- Pre-event preparation
Key to the success of the individual founder-investor meetings is the preparation level on both sides.
We set up a Notion page to host all resources, internal and external, for both founders and investors to best prepare for the event.
Female Founder Office Hours - Resources
Welcome! Below you will find some resources created by Playfair, Tech Nation, the 50+ VCs attending the event, as well…
This included ‘A guide to getting what you want’ and a ‘Meet the Investors’ series where investors answered five key questions on their fund & individual investment thesis, how to pitch them and top tips for office hours.
We know this is an area that we can always improve and that is why the Notion page is a working site — please do share any recommendations so we can include.
We are not reinventing the wheel; we are building on the best of the ecosystem’s existing support to ensure real impact for female founders building their businesses.
2. Founder-investor matching
We are speaking to a data science team to see how we can improve our relatively limited capacity to match founders and investors.
All investors approach Female Founder Office Hours with a generalist hat and therefore every founder should be able to get great feedback, but the more overlap on sector, stage or business model the better.
3. Regional reach
We went fully remote to enable anyone across the UK to take this opportunity to meet investors. Nevertheless, 84% of founders were from London so we still have work to do to reach more founders nationwide. If you know a female founder at the early stages, please do share this with them so they can take the opportunity next time too.
What’s coming next
A global playbook 🌎 🌏
Many hours, spreadsheets, typeforms, zoom breakout room manuals later, we realised we had built a playbook to take this initiative globally.
Our amazing friends at Anthemis jumped on this idea and we helped them launch the first US edition of Female Founder Office Hours on 30th June.
Then our longtime partners and friends at Cocoon Capital reached out to take the initiative to South East Asia and we are happy to have played a part in launching their July event.
Female founders is a key starting point — 50% of the world is female after all — but there are so many other underrepresented groups out there that need similar support. As an example, 37% of founders who attended identified as BAME, a group with even worse funding statistics than female founders, let alone the two combined.
As a small seed fund, we at Playfair cannot hope to replicate this for every geography, stage or group. However, we are offering our playbook for anyone to run with and we would love to see others helping drive forward this initiative — just reach out and we will share.
Ongoing support for female founders
Access to investors and the opportunity to ask anything or pitch is invaluable, but equally important is supporting founders between events.
Our Notion page (details above) and the Slack channel we set up for this third edition will be the central point of our support.
Alongside curated links to the best online resources, we have plans to provide pro bono masterclasses from the many great companies who have offered their support already. If you haven’t yet, please reach out (email@example.com).
The next UK edition 🇬🇧
We have now held three editions of Female Founder Office Hours over the past year and having seen the impact for the early stage female founder ecosystem, we’re delighted to commit to running the events three times a year, in the spring, autumn and winter.
Our next edition will be launched in September, with the event taking place in October. Keep tabs on the Playfair events page and follow us on social for the latest.
Playfair Capital Events
Playfair Capital is an early-stage fund that commits to companies early and with conviction. Based in London, Playfair…
You can find out more about Tech Nation’s Founders’ Network and apply here.
One final big thank you to everyone involved in bringing this event together, what an amazing team effort: Lauren Nicholson, Serena & Esme @ Tech Nation / Founders’ Network; Amali de Alwis, Anne-Claire and Ian @ Microsoft for Startups; all 60+ investors for their time and advice; all 200 founders for their brilliant applications and their time; the Playfair team, especially Alexandra Baranowski 🙌 .