Here’s the stat that was on everyone’s lips at the Girlboss Rally this year: In 2017, only 2.2 percent of all venture capital dollars went to female-founded startups. The world needs more successful female founders. And Girlboss and Uber are determined to make that happen.
We’ve been working passionately together to get people to #RethinkTheRatio and close the funding gap. That’s why we asked the best in the business to deliver a startup crash course at the NYC rally recently. In two jam-packed days, seasoned venture capitalists and successful entrepreneurs covered every topic a founder needs to know from pitching and funding, to recruitment and culture.
Every female founder across the globe should hear these lessons. Ahead, some of the best (and most actionable!) parts of Startup Studio, presented by Uber.
Session One: Seven steps to the perfect pitch
So, you’re ready to pitch your idea and business. And you even got the big meeting. Now what? We asked Sutian Dong, a partner at Female Founders Fund, to tell us how to deliver the perfect pitch. Here are her top takeaways:
Do your research. The pitch process starts before you even enter a room.
“The first step in crafting the perfect pitch is to research who you’re going to pitch to.”
“When you start the meeting, I would suggest everyone to always ask questions first. It gives you an ability to, in real-time, craft your pitch and craft your story so that you’re hitting those points that they’re interested in.”
Prep your deck
“I always tell people when they go into a pitch meeting to have their deck ready. I would encourage you to have a deck versus a business plan. No one has ever read a 40-page business plan except for the person who’s written it. I swear.”
Tell a story
“The deck should be a story. What you’re telling and what you’re selling is a story and the story arc of why you’re here. That will go on to change hearts.”
Leave them with the three big things
“Please end your slide deck with something other than, “Thank you,” and then your email at the bottom. That’s gonna be the slide that is on the screen when questions are being asked. You want people to take away three big things that they should remember about your business. Is it your massive market size, how you’re the best team to do this, or how it’s an incredible opportunity to invest at this early stage?”
Session Two: Money money money
Navigating the fundraising process when you don’t know anyone in venture capital can be daunting. So we asked entrepreneurs with proven fund-raising track records to have a conversation about it while we listened. Here are some of the highlights.
Look for non-dilutive capital
Ita Ekpoudom, partner at GingerBread Capital and Uber Pitch advisor said we should all love the phrase “non-dilutive capital.”
“Look for things like Uber Pitch that’s happening today where, can you imagine getting $90,000 cash with no strings attached plus $5,000 in Uber credit? That is good for everyone. That’s good for me, the investor, because that means Uber didn’t get a cut of your business. And that’s good for you because that’s money that you can spend without having to go tell them what you did with it or you have to go have them own a piece of your company.”
Be clear on your mission
Danielle DuBoise, co-founder and co-CEO of Sakara Life said, “There’s nothing free so when you sell equity, you are often times selling some type of control. For a company like Sakara that is vision-based, it’s important to us that the product is the highest-quality product on the planet and I say that sincerely.”
Be ready for the commitment
Michelle Cordeiro Grant, founder and CEO of LIVELY compared taking on an investor to getting married. “Those first couple of dates feel very friendly and things are going well and so forth. Those are the moments you need to put it all on the table.”
Session Three: Can you hear me?
More women are starting businesses than ever before. But the stats on inequality in the venture capital world remain shocking. Only 16 percent of VC-backed companies had a female founder between 2009 and 2017. Only 8 percent of partners at VC firms are women.
As Morra Aarons-Mele, founder of Women Online and author of Hiding in the Bathroom: An Introvert’s Roadmap to Getting Out There (When You’d Rather Stay Home), said, “Many, many rooms where you’re going to get money are pale, male, and stale. And full of bias.”
Here are Aarons-Mele’s tips for winning those rooms over by making your voice heard and wielding influence.
Center on your mission
“Right before you walk in, you tap into the mission. What I call your why. Why am I here? Why am I making my life so hard? Who am I doing this for?”
Remember, there’s always more pie
“Privileged white men come from a world of abundance. If one meeting goes bad, there’s always more pie. If you’re feeling nervous about walking into that room, tell yourself, there’s always more pie. This gets you in the headset of not needing it and you project confidence. Remember, there’s always more pie.”
Disarm and build trust
“Pause and breathe. Smile. And be happy to be there. There is nowhere else that you would rather be than in this pitch meeting. You are so happy to be there, you are going to ask questions, and you are going to be charming as hell to set the tone.”
Tame the alpha dog
“This is my alpha dog trick: Calm, assertive energy with the alpha dogs in the room. Again, I’m not rushing to sell you, I’m not rushing to show you that I deserve to be in this room, I’m happy to be here. I’m asking questions, I’m listening. This is how you actually own the tone. So pause, breathe, calm assertive energy, calm that alpha dog and take back the room.”
Practice, practice, practice
“Shorter is better. Practice so much that you erase filler words. Practice it so that you nail it. Talk slower than you think. Start with inspiration and layer in proof points. Hold them with you.”
“This is my mantra, I have it on my wall: People respond to authentic leadership. They respond to your ‘only-ness,’ as Maria Merchant calls it.”
Session Four: Who the hell are you?
Ever heard “If you build it they will come?” Reality check—that’s just not true. As Nicole Williams, a brand marketing consultant, said, “Audiences today are inundated with marketing messages, new products, new brands.” Here is her key advice for building brand awareness and generating buzz.
“The answer lies in your brand purpose. Think about it like when you’re getting to know someone. Ask yourself as a founder, “Why do I exist as a brand?’”
Find your tribe
“There’s so much going on in the day and there’s only so much time. It’s literally impossible to go out and meet everyone. So, instead focus your efforts.”
Be where your audiences are
“The idea here is very much that we want to figure out where our audiences live and hang out, both literally and figuratively, online and out in the world.”
Keep it real
“It’s very much like you’re starting a relationship. You don’t walk up to someone you’ve just met and immediately list off facts about yourself and your resume and all your professional experience. You want to be able to have an honest chat and genuinely connect your interests. It’s the basis of a solid relationship.”
Be memorable and discoverable
“Because there’s so much going on, you want to make sure that whatever you’re doing and whatever you’re saying is leaving a lasting impression. A key factor to brand awareness isn’t just getting out there and getting in front of people, but also making sure they remember you.”
“Consider not only what looks good for your brand, but also what’s gonna make you feel different and look different from everyone in your category.”
Session Five: Hiring fast, hiring rockstars
So you’ve launched your business and you’re ready to scale. But how do you know if you’re making the right hires? Finding the right people is a lot of pressure when you’re desperate to get people in the door. So we asked two smart founders how to they did it. Maggie Winter is the co-founder and CEO of AYR. Sarah Larson Levey is the co-founder and CEO of Y7 Studio. Both women said their companies spend a huge amount of time and resources on hiring. Here are their top three tips.
Maggie Winter’s advice:
Hire good teachers
“Hire good teachers and they shoulder an enormous burden when it comes to building the team and creative culture.”
Forget the hard sell
“When you’re hiring, I’ve learned that it should never be the hard sell. If you’re making a hard sell, it’s not a choice on the other person’s part. It’s got to be elective, every day. What you want is for the person to be actively choosing to be a part of the team.”
Always hire for your destination
“A startup is like going on a really long road trip. At the end of the day, you want really great people in the car, but the most important thing to remember is that your destination doesn’t change. As you go, it’s really easy to get distracted. ‘It’s not good on the roadmap to hire for this girl, but she’s so great and I love her, and I know her really well. And maybe we could re-prioritize and make…’ Nope, don’t lose sight of the destination.”
Sarah Larson Levey’s advice:
Look to develop your culture
“I always say, hire someone who is not a culture fit, but a culture add.”
Take your time
I know a lot of times you want to make those few hires so you just get them done. But you need the right people around you, and they need to be there for the right reasons.
Could you take them to therapy?
“We have retreats where we literally sit down and have group therapy twice a year. And it’s important to us, because we talk about what’s working with our communication, what can we do better, how can we thrive as a team at a higher level. So when I’m hiring someone now, in my mind I’m like, can you sit down in therapy with them?”
Session Six: Help people
How do you build a workplace that people will love showing up to? There’s an art and science to creating positive culture and hiring the right people to protect it.
At Startup Studio, Lucia Smith said “Culture is your social norm. It’s your mindsets, your beliefs, your way of doing things. It’s not your perks, your swag, and your parties.”
Smith told the audience that a healthy company culture will have five core tenants:
“And I mean trusting that your employees can handle information. That they can roll with the punches. That they can take the ambiguity that comes with being an early stage company. And then hopefully in return they will trust you.”
“Having as much empathy for your employees, and encouraging them to have it with each other, as you do your customers or your users.”
“There’s respect for interpreting ideas, respect for people in general. But actually, technically respect for people’s time. The number one thing that employees want to talk to me about is their time.”
“You should see a fail as a team. You do not want to create a culture where you are finger pointing.”
“There’s a saying that ‘until everyone’s free, no one’s free.’ That is true with cultures. Unless a culture is good for everyone. It is not a good culture. You really do need to think about, is this something that is working for everyone?”