How I Overcame the Challenges of Being a Female Entrepreneur
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Reuters' PE Hub recently ran an article titled “Hot or not? Why good-looking men get all the funding.” The author cited a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science that suggests “female entrepreneurs’ funding challenges [will remain unless they] lean into a sex change operation that leaves them looking like George Clooney.” No joke.
What is even crazier, is they may be right. The following number might shock you, or, more distressingly, not surprise you at all: The percentage of funding to women entrepreneurs ranges from a piddling five to seven percent. Fortunately, my company MovieLaLa, a social network for movie fans, managed to raise a significant amount of angel money. That said, it wasn't easy.
While it was challenging getting that meager single-digit percentage of the funding pie that goes to female founders, the obstacles still come my way. But it is worth it. The rewards of birthing ideas are great, and we get into startups for the same reasons men do: We can and want to have it all.
For women looking to jump in the startup world, here is four pieces of advice:
Celebrate other women. There aren't many of us in the same role, so it is important to embrace each other and provide support.
I remember attending a Silicon Valley Bank event in Palo Alto and being one of two female entrepreneurs there. We were in different stages of our startup and quickly became friends (and still are to this day). We are both able to bounce ideas off one another and provide advice, introductions and other forms of support because of our openness to one another and trusting of your own kind. You both ultimately can become mentors for each other: fellow female entrepreneur mentors are key.
Be prepared for A LOT of questions. Many times investors will ask you more personal questions. Part of it is curiosity and part (probably subconsciously) is worried that you might pop out a child and disappear off the face of this earth. Take the questions in stride, and don’t feel you have to directly answer each one. Mystery is sometimes good!
Grow a thick skin. Like any startup, people will insult your idea, the way you started or how much time it’s taken. Sometimes for females, it can be a tougher challenge. Just keep going. Trust me, some companies take longer than others to develop. Not one company is perfect when it comes to finding product fit, user adoption or the perfect engineers.
I remember when I was first pitching my company MovieLaLa. I would get comments like, “Nobody goes to the movies anymore,” “I can’t remember the last time I saw a movie” or “Why don’t you focus on oil?” Literally people will throw crazy new ideas or try to entice you to pivot or change your idea. In these situations, we all tend to second-guess ourselves and over-think situations. Make quick, fast decisions. Be confident, move on, believe in yourself and keep heading toward your goal. Remember you just need one person to say “yes”. Then it will all get a lot easier.
Being a female has a lot of advantages. Since it’s less common to see a female, people will always remember you. Because of this rarity, you have the responsibility to become an important role model to others in your family, friends, industry and generations to come.
Don’t assume that I am anti-man. I have built really strong relationships with my investors over time and appreciate all their unique advice along the way.