How to Increase VC Funding When the Odds Are Against You?

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We’ve read the statistics: only 2 to 3 percent of the investment capital goes to companies founded exclusively by women; companies co-founded by men and women attract another 10 to 15 percent. And while the pool in Europe is growing rapidly, there is simply less money available from European venture capital funds than US ones.

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Where is a female first-time founder from Eastern Europe?

In 2018, I co-founded Zowie, a no-code customer service solution for digital retailers, and immediately got L’Oréal as our first customer. Even with this success and my track record – Forbes 30 Under 30, ex-IBM, founder of a successful software development firm – the odds were against me in the VC financing arena.

I started by raising pre-seed funding closer to home and reinvesting in our growing team. Last year I set my sights on raising additional capital and started pitching for VC firms in the US and Europe. It was an uphill battle, but it paid off: We announced Zowie’s seed round in January 2022, led by Gradient Ventures (Google’s AI-focused fund) and 10x from Germany.

Along the way, I’ve learned a lot about what it takes to raise VC funding when the odds are against you.

Don’t listen to imposter syndrome.

With imposter syndrome, there is no other way but through. Many of us, especially women, feel inadequate when faced with major challenges, but that voice in your head isn’t telling the truth.

The harsh reality is that some of these feelings are socialized. There are real reasons why someone might reject or underestimate us, such as unconscious biases about gender, race, or ability. Language can be another barrier; as a native English speaker, I know what it’s like to try and convey my skills and intelligence in another language. I have no control over how my accent is perceived by others, but I can remind myself that I have something valuable to say.

Set expectations for yourself instead of others setting them for you. When you hold yourself to your own standards, it changes your behavior, gestures and attitude. It’s not about changing who you are, but about appearing as yourself.

Think of yourself as a founder. Talk to yourself in the mirror if that helps.

Know your numbers.

Investors expect founders to be data-driven and rational. These traits are not exclusive to one gender, but unfortunately the false stereotype is that women are illogical and don’t understand data.

This is a barrier, but also a potential advantage. Because technology is so dominated by men, investors are used to seeing men on these pitch calls. It is clear from their questions and behavior that they are surprised to see a woman. They’re even more surprised when you throw numbers at them, know your data inside out, and show your rational decision-making.

Storytelling is valued (in my experience more by US investors than European ones), but it must be backed by data. The kinds of tall tales that are perceived as charismatic when they come from a man can be labeled irrational or soft when they come from a woman.

Women shouldn’t have to behave like men to succeed, but our social ideas about success and ambition have been influenced by gender dynamics. The best thing female founders can do is be aware of these dynamics and be willing to overemphasize the numbers.

Remember, empathy is a superpower.

Investors are people too. There is no one-size-fits-all approach to pitching, because every meeting is different. The investors before you have their own priorities, personalities and histories. You need to be able to read them and adjust your pitch. Know when to ask questions, when people are bored and it’s time to move on, and when to end the pitch.

Mentors will tell you how important it is to adapt your approach, but you have to learn this yourself. I practiced these skills while working in sales for the software development company I founded. Some founders don’t like to hear (or say) it, but: pitching is the same as selling. During sales calls I always asked myself, “What is important to this person? What are their concerns? What will help them understand me better?” Presenting to investors now. I ask myself the same questions.

The ability to understand and read people is also important outside of the finance world. The empathy that helps us tailor a pitch is the same skill that helps us identify customers’ needs and design products for them. Empathy will serve you well in many aspects of your business.

Get comfortable with the reality of rejection.

Fundraising is a constant rejection. And rejection is hard, but this is the life we ​​choose as founders.

The hardest part is getting the first investor, especially the first American one. Once a company has invested in your business, it validates you for future investments.

Like everyone else, you need to have everything in order for your pitch: a great product, solid proof-of-concept data, a compelling story. But that is no guarantee of success. What matters is what you do with the rejection.

Use rejection as an opportunity to think about how you can improve. Then go back outside. Repeat your pitch every time and remember that financing is like looking for a job or dating: it’s a numbers game.

It’s not easy to prove the stereotypes wrong, but the struggles make the successes more satisfying. Mentors can help you navigate the ups and downs of the hyper-competitive world of VC financing. But ultimately you have to learn for yourself what works for you.


This post How to Increase VC Funding When the Odds Are Against You? was original published at “https://www.entrepreneur.com/article/423591”

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