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"Don't let men get all the money"

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I was running my third business before I found out what venture capital (VC) and angel investment were.

Before that, they were all a bit otherworldly; something a certain kind of man talked about along with the FTSE. Shamefully feeble and sexist of me, in retrospect, but I’m sure I’m not alone here, especially as more women set up businesses on the back of their personal credit cards than with independent investors.

Indeed, women-led companies receive less than 10% of all investment. So why do men get the lion’s share? I’ve always had a hunch it’s because VCs and angels assume only a single or wife-at-home man can give them the intense commitment they need. But with a little courage we can change this, because for women with big (read expensive) business ambitions, VCs and angels make sense: a specialist investment company (VC) or private investor (angel) agrees with you what your company is worth and buys a percentage of it, enabling you to reinvest with their cash while they become part-owner.

It’s a risk for them so they will want a chunk of your company at an early stage, but negotiate and you can gain money to fund your growth (anything up to £500,000 is typical for VCs, or £5,000-50,000 from angels) and you often get an experienced business partner, too, with your usual shared objective being to sell the company, or float it on the public markets after about five years.

Forget Dragons’ Den – no VC or angel wants to humiliate you. As a young company we presented in some sniffy boardrooms but we ended up with our first investor, Tom Teichman of Spark Ventures, who saw our potential. Two more rounds of investment and £9 million later, the money is out there, but finding the right investor is vital.

Here are my tips:

  • Word of mouth: We emailed everyone we knew for help in finding a great backer. Introductions cut out months of pitching and pleading.
  • Business summary: Devise a two-page document to send as a taster. Include any achievements so far, a brief financial history and forecast. Also prepare a slick presentation to explain your vision for the company’s future as a business and a brand.
  • Network: Astia supports entrepreneurial women through a variety of networking and coaching sessions. Seedcamp runs an investment fund and mentoring programme through regular events. Both could lead to great exposure and funding. Good luck!

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