You’ve just started your company. Now it’s growing. That’s great! That might not be enough if you are like many founders of startups. It’s possible to feel the strong desire to go to greater heights. You should roleplay questions and answer for worst-case scenarios. Practice your pitch by scheduling time for each step.
You can do it without any external funding. If you need external financing round and are preparing to fundraise with VCs, get advice from as many founder friends as possible. Eropa Stein, the founder of Hyre, describes the process as exhilarating, time-consuming, and sometimes demotivating.
Fundraising can be very stressful for young female entrepreneurs without any experience or reputation. Even more daunting is the prospect of investors feeling sexist comments during meetings. These situations can be very demoralizing. However, women should not allow their emotions to get in the way of a positive outcome.
Female founders might feel that they have much to lose by calling out inappropriate behavior. So, the sad cycle of devaluing and underfunding women continues.
What do you do then?
What to Expect When Fundraising
Eropa has encountered this many times in her career, particularly during her funding round for her employee-scheduling platform. But, unfortunately, it is pretty common for women and men to be asked different questions when they are battling it out at the shark tank.
Harvard Business Review researched the different questions that VCs ask female and male entrepreneurs and how this affects funding. For example, while women are asked questions about the possibility of loss, men are asked about the possibility of gains. These questions are known as promotion questions vs. preventive questions.
Europe’s network of women founders has shared their experiences with investors being bombarded by risk questions without them getting to share their vision for their company. The more assertive founders were referred to as aggressive. Others were meeker and were considered to lack leadership skills.
What can you do?
These are some questions you should ask yourself before answering a sexist query:
What does your response say about your long-term goals?
Women should not be treated differently from men. It would help if you remained focused on the prize and did not react quickly. Then, you can show that you can adapt your vision to the response, even if it isn’t asked for.
If you’re asked about your monthly or daily users, you might answer first with how you plan to acquire customers, then tell them where you are at the moment. You can also talk about customer retention when you are asked about churn. You should prepare ahead for questions that could undermine your credibility and be able to respond with authority.
“When investors asked about customer churn before I had a chance to present our growth to them, I was ready and willing to redirect them to our customer successes stories. I quickly jumped to a slide showing how Hyre helped clients reduce their team member turnover and were able thus to maintain high retention rates. It instantly redirected the conversation and got us back on track.” – Eropa
It’s not fair. It’s unfair. You can significantly impact the industry and culture as you move up in your career.
What do you want investors to take away from your pitch?
Concentrate on the essential points you want investors to remember. Every answer should clearly state what you and your team bring. It doesn’t matter if the questions you receive are less harmful than those directed at your male counterparts. It forces you to do more to make sure you don’t give them anything to latch onto.
The Harvard Business Review found that 85% of entrepreneurs answer a promotion question with an answer, and 85% answer a prevention question using a preventive solution. However, it can lead to confirmation bias, so you need to change how you respond.
How to prepare your pitch for strategic responses
Practice your pitch with your team. It would help if you connected with mentors and peers from your network who can give feedback based upon their experiences. No matter the question, you need to be clear about your answers. You should roleplay questions and answer for worst-case scenarios. Practice your pitch by scheduling time for each step.
1. Make a list of possible questions
Which questions do you enjoy answering, and which ones are most difficult? Both of these questions should be on your list. Ask your friends and colleagues what questions they’ve been asked that they didn’t expect. Research is essential, and you should reach out to other startup founders who have pitched to these investors in the past.
You may be able to share your questions and gain more information about specific investors. In addition, your network can help you in the future. When you receive help, be sure to give it back when you can.
2. Make a list of all the things you wish to convey
Your vision can be broken down into bullet points that you can use to answer different types of questions. You can practice different ways to capture a statement that you can use in other answers. Keep at least three points to illustrate your vision, each of different lengths. Practice adding points to another response if you have any questions.
3. Reminders and Affirmations
Make a list of what you want out of each meeting and the direction you wish to your career. Each session with an investor should have multiple purposes. Of course, you want to invest, but there are many other benefits.
It is a valuable experience that you can use to improve your pitch. It is only one of many meetings you will have throughout your career.
Even if they don’t seem to be the right investor for you, they likely have relationships. They may know of investors who might be a better match.
Make sure you plan for your pitch
You are more likely to get funding if you have a plan. It is time to get the budget that you and your team deserve. Women entrepreneurs make up 38% of all U.S. businesses and receive a larger share of funding (we are at 2%). Unfortunately, both men and women investors tend to have the same bias when asking the same questions. But times are changing, and investors will become more empowered.
Good luck with your pitch, and keep practicing. Europe, CEO at Hyre, would be delighted to hear that you found this helpful article. You can find her on LinkedIn, where you can get the most recent updates about Hyre’s workforce management and temp staffing software.
Disclaimer. The opinions and views expressed in this article are the authors Andrew Napolitano.