For a while I've been thinking, how can I make a difference for female founders? As a female founder who knows the pain points of starting a business first hand, I felt like I had to do something. I've been thinking about starting an accelerator/fund for early stage female-led startups, but I need to make my startup successful first before I commit to starting an accelerator.
About two months ago, a window of opportunity opened up for me to make a difference. Y Combinator (YC) announced the closing of their female founders FB group, so I opened a new one and had the female founders start moving there. Thank you, Cadran from YC for endorsing the new group which helped with the transition!
The active female founders moved to the new group, and we grew the group to 3,042 members in two months. I also gave admin to fifteen amazing female founders to manage the group with me, so it's truly a group by founders, for founders.
The group is a great resource for female founders to receive support, advice, and guidance from others. I believe it's a step forward in making a difference.
If you are a female founder or know a female founder who should join, here is the link: Female Founders Community
My goal is to grow the group to 10,000 members and make it the largest group for female founders in Silicon Valley and the world.
We're having many important discussions in the group that touch our everyday lives as entrepreneurs, from questions about equity, partnerships, and business structuring, to talking about what our startups do and what we need help with, to sharing our experience about the fundraising process.
Some of the inspirations and surprising insights I found through the group are:
A member posted an excerpt from an article that reminded me there are good people along the way that will believe in you and help you, you just need to seek them out, because it's worth it.
Here is the posted excerpt:
"Numa Said, founder of single-family office Nima Capital, recalled a mentoring moment she had with KKR co-founder Henry Kravis. Said was at a tough point in her career, having had two babies back-to-back and just launched Nima Capital."
At that time, she had lunch with Kravis, who helped talk her through the tough spot.
"I was struggling. He was so kind; he took me to lunch, I cried for most of it. He let his barriers down. He kept saying, 'I really believe in you, I see your numbers, I see what you can do.' He helped me with all these details and offered to be an adviser. Just knowing I had him in the wings, knowing I had his support, made such a difference. It was enough to have him for those two hours, have him lean in and say, 'I believe in you.'"
Said related the anecdote as a way to illustrate how men played an important role in helping her succeed in her career. She said that even as American society goes through a reckoning with rampant sexual harassment by men in power, women should celebrate those men who helped them in their careers.
"A lot of people take the time [to help out], and it's important to highlight that," she said.
Even with the rise of female focused funds, it doesn't seem to make a difference for early stage female founders. Here are some of the insights into what female founders are experiencing when fundraising:
- Female-focused funds tend to be more risk averse because they're newer funds and are trying to build a track record to raise their next fund. So they are not as relevant for early stage.
- For those who invest in women-only portfolios or are new venture capital (VC) funds, the need for higher return means they have less seeming ability to take risks the way a more established or larger fund may be able to. For many women founders it means they are left in the "soil" stage with no money to help them get to that next level. Sometimes it feels like the women-oriented funds have higher bars because all the companies have to do better than normal to show investors that investing in women has high yield. It is a challenging situation.
- Found that many female VC funds do not lead rounds, look for already committed investors to lead rounds.
- Some female-focused venture funds take too long to make a decision, sometimes as long as nine months.
On the bright side, founders are sharing that hustle pays off:
- A founder shared that she was able to raise a million dollars for her company by asking founders' friends for warm intros, proving that it's a numbers game. She met with 60 investors in a period of two weeks, seven of which ended up investing.
- Another founder shared how after six years of working on her company and the sweat and tears involved in building it, she successfully sold it.
Hearing those fundraising experiences from female founders made me realize that we still have a lot of work to do to make a difference for female founders. I hope the Female Founders Community will be a catalyst in making a difference, because we are stronger together, and we can start winning more by helping each other.
Please join me on the mission to make a difference for female founders.
If you are a female founder, please join Female Founders Community
If you're an investor or an industry veteran who would like to make a difference in supporting female founders, especially in early stage, send me a note on FB/Linkedin.
Now, back to the grind. :)
Helena Ronis is co-founder and CEO of VoxSnap—voice marketing made easy. Born in Ukraine and raised in Israel, she served in the Tech Unit of the Israeli Air Force. She worked in product management and marketing at Silicon Valley companies.