3 Ways to Build a Strong Female Entrepreneurial and Investment Ecosystem
Women need to stick together and use these tools to continue to increase the number of successful women entrepreneurs.
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When I launched my first business in 2010, I had no idea what I was doing. I saw a need in the market and thought I had a unique way to solve it. But I didn't know the first thing about writing a business plan, finding my customers, hiring the right talent, or heaven forbid, raising money. Everything was foreign and scary for me as a first-time entrepreneur. I felt very alone.
However, when I sought out advisors, investors and mentors throughout the years, I found a continuously growing number of tenured women in my community willing to help. These women taught me not only how to run my businesses, but how to communicate, how to sell, how to manage, and now ultimately, how to invest in businesses myself. Over the past eight years, through good times and bad, I have become so grateful for my network of female entrepreneurs. I'm confident that I wouldn't be where I am today without them.
I share this because it was hard, at first, to tap into this wonderful world of female entrepreneurs. Meetups and investor group events were nearly always populated by men. And while men have also played a meaningful role in each of my businesses' success, it is the women who have been my rock through the years.
If you are just starting out, either as an entrepreneur or as an investor, you are not alone. You just have to know where to look for your sisters and friends. Follow these three tips for tapping into the female-focused entrepreneurial ecosystem:
I was very lucky in 2012 to be introduced to Springboard, an accelerator for female founders in tech. It was through participation in this program that I learned how to identify and articulate Key Performance Indicators, pinpoint key inflection points in my business and polish my presentation for venture investors. Since that time, a number of accelerators for women have also surfaced, including Aviatra Accelerator, Hera Labs and The Refinery.
2. Angel groups
Many of the accelerators mentioned also have related angel groups, which can be very helpful for both female entrepreneurs and aspiring female accredited investors. When I first started investing, I joined the Hera Angels, a group of accredited investors in San Diego focused on sourcing strong deal flow from companies led by women. This group helped me learn how to diligence deal and offered me the opportunity to meet other women with varied backgrounds to look at a company from a number of different angles. Other similar funds include Golden Seeds, Belle Capital, and Illuminate Ventures.
3. Training courses
Just like any new skill, fundraising and investing requires training and education. It is important to learn how to present your financial projections, and, for the investor, how to appropriately read them. It is important to know which documents are imperative for a proper due diligence, how to value a startup that has no true assets, and how to protect yourself from being crammed down in future investment rounds. A number of the organizations mentioned herein offer specific trainings for this purpose, but Pipeline Angels and 37 Angels focus on providing specific education around these topics.
Hera Angels, the group to which I belong, is also hosting one such event this September, the Hera Venture Summit, focused on providing education and guidance to both female investors and entrepreneurs, as well as provide a meaningful forum for the two to connect.
I strongly encourage my fellow female entrepreneurs and investors to seek each other out. We can only improve the entrepreneurial ecosystem for women if we work together, and to do this, we have to find one another. Together we can strengthen our portfolios and our voice.