Women own 40 percent of US businesses, but they receive just over 2 percent in startup funding and SoGal Dallas’ chapter kicked off Wednesday with a conversation to help look for solutions.
SoGal is the largest global platform for the education and empowerment of diverse entrepreneurs and investors, according to Kelley Henry, executive director of the SoGal Foundation.
SoGal hosts events, starts initiatives and offers free webinars to its 40 chapters across the globe. Their global network includes founders from Los Angeles, New York, D.C., and Chicago. Austin’s chapter will be introduced Thursday.
“In short, we’re a nonprofit on a mission to close the diversity gap in entrepreneurship,” Henry said.
The organization hosted a panel discussion on how women entrepreneurs can take steps toward raising capital at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Dallas location of Capital Factory.
Panelists included Elizabeth Galbut, Founding Partner of the organization’s venture capital arm, SoGal Ventures. Galbut’s firm has portfolio companies across the globe and mainly invests in pre-seed companies below an $8 million round.
Inobat Igamberdieva was also a part of the discussion. Igamberdieva is a principal at Dallas-based Interlock Partners, who focuses on Series A funding for B2B software companies.
“We like to say we work for our CEOs so I hope a lot of you beautiful ladies (and gentlemen) can become one of our portfolio companies soon so I can actually work for you,” Igamberdieva said.
Samantha Colletti, Senior Vice President at Silicon Valley Bank rounded out the panel and said that by working with entrepreneurs through the commercial bank she gets to enjoy the startup process, albeit secondhand.
“I am not entrepreneurial natured myself but I live vicariously through my clients who are,” Colletti said. “It’s super exciting to see them overcome the many challenges that come with being the founder of an early stage company and watch them get to a later stage of that life cycle and eventually exit.”
Monica Kozy moderated the discussion and is Director of Business Development at Delta-v Capital and SoGal Dallas Lead.
Kozy asked the panel of women funders what some of the boundaries are for women entrepreneurs looking for funding and how they can overcome the obstacles. The panelists shared insights on everything from networking to what to include in your pitch. See the list below for some of their thoughts.
- “Networks are your highway for your company to get funding. So think about it this way– a lot of us started out at a corporate job. We didn’t just send our resume into Indeed and hope somebody would reach out to us. It’s the same thing when you’re raising capital, the jobs and the funding, everything goes to people you know.” -Colletti
- “A lot of people actually send us LinkedIn requests. Establishing that warm introduction on LinkedIn is a great way to do that. We actually get quite a lot of deal flow through that. The best way is not just to send a deck and wait for an answer. I think the best way is to establish the contact, invite us for a coffee, maybe ask for a 15-minute phone call and introduce yourself… We do essentially invest in people. We want to like you.” -Igamberdieva
- “I don’t want everyone to walk away from this thinking you have to have this big network, because at least in our cases, we found that not to be true. We just needed to be absolutely relentless and targeted in how we built that network… I’m sure you each have your lists of women entrepreneurs you admire… like 50 to 100 of them and one by one can you somehow get in contact with these people? You have to be relentless about it.” -Galbut
On why venture capital may not be right for everyone:
- “You have to decide–do you want to be a venture-backable business? Because that’s a very different thing than other types of business and there are very different expectations. The expectation is going to be that you’re building something that can be worth hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars… When you’re taking VC-backed money, it’s like you are a rocket ship and I am giving you rocket fuel. So I expect you to travel at the rate of a rocket ship and if you’re not traveling at the rate of a rocket ship it’s going to be hard for you to raise the next round.” -Galbut
On how women may have an advantage when pitching to male-led firms
- “Because you’re a woman, I feel like actually us females have that kind of unique feature. In the U.S., it has a trend right now that everyone is going and supporting this diversity and inclusion right now… I feel like this trend is actually growing and yes those numbers aren’t as high as we want them to be but just because there is no female investor in a venture fund that you’re looking at, it shouldn’t discourage you.” -Igamberdieva
- “A lot of these male VCs don’t have a lot of great deal flow in these categories. So your realm of competition is actually a lot less because they’re like, ‘oh, we’re only seeing one female founder a week’ versus ‘we’re seeing 30 male founders a week.’ So you actually stand out.” -Galbut