I have been picking up the pace on fund raising and I am coming up against some interesting resistance. I have seen this before in my ten+ years in other environments but this is my first foray into fund raising as the Founder/CEO. I am curious about experiences that other female founders have had during the fund raising process. And men, if you have something to add - please do! I am looking for insight and perspective from everyone!
Sorry Lydia, I definitely can't say I've encountered that kind of prejudice before.
But as a short man, I've encountered the "look down the nose" from a table of 6'4" VC's.
And I know the power of the "cow in the kitchen" -- that objection will cause your time to be wasted if you don't address head on. So my recommendation would be to smoothly and concisely incorporate it into your pitch:
Take 15 seconds to add in your Team slide, "Now I know some investors are stuck in the 1900's and only invest in male CEO's, but for those of you who recognize a savvy leader who can build a team and bring home the bacon, let me tell you who else is on board..."
In general, I have observed that some VCs do seem to feel more comfortable or confident dealing with other men (most VCs are male).
However, I try to turn being a woman to my advantage by pursuing investors who are specifically interested in helping women. There are quite a few of them out there. Also there are non-profits who want to invest in women.
The other action I've taken is to bring in male advisors. I am working in a field that merges medical and IT technology. While I have the medical/science background, I don't have the IT background. There are more men than women in IT. Thus, it naturally happened in seeking out high profile advisors that I now have respected men endorsing my firm and my abilities.
Finally, I addressed the main complaint I heard some years ago from VCs. I went to conference after conference and was told I lacked a solid business background despite having working at management level, being an intrapreneur at a VC backed firm and working in a wide range of functional areas. So I went back to school and got an MBA from a top-tier business school. I haven't heard that complaint recently. If I do hear it, I can point to the MBA on my nametag and say that combined with 20 years of industry experience provides as much proof as anyone could possibly need that I have a solid understanding of business.
Well, being addressed as 'sweetheart' for one ;) Lack of eye contact, questions about why now with two kids do you want to do this? ... I have had a long and successful intrapreneirual (startups inside corporate companies) so I know the drill. I guess was hoping to get a sense of other's experiences.
“That correlates more with any other success factor that I’ve seen in the world’s greatest entrepreneurs. If you look at Bezos, or [Netscape Communications Corp. founder Marc] Andreessen, [Yahoo Inc. co-founder] David Filo, the founders of Google, they all seem to be white, male, nerds who’ve dropped out of Harvard or Stanford and they absolutely have no social life. So when I see that pattern coming in - which was true of Google - it was very easy to decide to invest.”