Welcome to our new series exploring news and views on men, women, start-ups and the entrepreneurial experience.
In July of 2015, Startland News collaborated with WhiteSpace Consulting to conduct a whiteboard conversation with women entrepreneurs in the Kansas City region. Women entrepreneurs shared their perceptions about launching and leading companies, and identified topics for ongoing discussion. As a result of this conversation, Startland News and WhiteSpace Consulting have developed (S)heStarts, a blog series that explores the entrepreneurial experience that women and men share, as well as perspectives on how their experiences are unique.
Regardless of an entrepreneur’s gender or industry, investors consistently look for opportunity in a pitch: solid management team, sizable market, scalable business model and numbers that point to momentum. But what happens when entrepreneurs pitch to investors with demographic and professional backgrounds different from their own?
For women founders, that can mean pitching to investor groups who are predominantly men. Based on the informal conversations with both founders and investors, a successful pitch entails a nuanced understanding of the investor’s point of view.
… A successful pitch entails a nuanced understanding of the investor’s point of view.
Small Steps or Big Vision
The investors perceive that women founders sometimes focus their pitch on the company’s history and the initial steps to building their business. As one investor expressed, “This may or may not be the case, but when I hear a pitch that begins this way, my take is that the founder is executing small steps and that she may be developing a niche business. What I want to know is, how are you going to impact your marketspace?”
Longtime Kansas City business advisor, entrepreneur and investor Joe Kessinger, agrees. “It’s a generalization, but men founders seem to talk more about revenue goals, and have higher revenue goals. They tend to talk more in terms of numbers that indicate what they’re doing and where their company is heading.”
Women may also need to consider ways to generate interest from male investors if their target markets are predominantly women. Kessinger observes that male investors may initially find it challenging to be interested in a product or service that they don’t envision using themselves. They may be more engaged by the metrics and growth momentum of the business. Reframing your pitch to tell your story from this point of view can be especially useful for women entrepreneurs.
Tips for the Pitch: Build Your Credibility
Callie England, founder of Kansas City-based Rawxies, has successfully raised funds to expand production of her company’s line of healthy, vegan snack products, Rawxies. England advises, “Sell investors on your own credibility before you sell them on your company.” Establishing your credibility, for England, includes building a relationship with your potential investor. If you’re approaching a group of investors, get introduced to one of the investors and establish a relationship of trust. Be open and honest, and learn from their advice, even if it’s not what you want to hear. Cultivating a relationship takes time, but as England notes, “eventually, the contacts you build this way pay off.”
Let the Numbers Tell Your Story
Stories are compelling – and numbers tell a powerful story to investors. Center your pitch on describing your vision and the metrics behind your vision. Don’t gloss over these details; they are what investors want and need to hear. If you tend to focus on your back story, keep it short, and play that story forward into the future.
There’s much more to explore on these and related topics – please share your thoughts, and watch for more news and views on the experiences of women and men entrepreneurs.
Elizabeth Usovicz is a topline revenue strategist and principal of WhiteSpace Consulting. Her career includes leadership roles in corporate, start-up and consulting environments. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @eusovicz on Twitter.