Be clear on how much you need and who to get it from
When it comes to fundraising, your first port of call should be research. Different sources of capital have different requirements, aims, and methods, so identifying which one suits your business the most is crucial to maximising your chances of success.
“You need to be clear about the type of capital you’re looking for”, Camilla explained. “VC, for instance, is only really suitable for those types of [ultra-high growth] businesses, so no matter who you’re pitching to, you need to understand the funding model behind them and what they’re looking for.”
Once you have determined which source of capital you need, you can then look for investors of that ilk. Joining a database, like Crunchbase, is incredibly useful here because investors frequently search these platforms for companies to invest in, Camilla revealed. This is one of the best ways to boost your enterprise’s exposure to investors and garner organic investment opportunities.
Camilla’s final point on this area was to make sure you know how much capital you need. “A lot of female founders are quite conservative when it comes to how much they want to raise”, she said, “but if you don’t raise enough money, you can’t execute into the scale you need to.” The knock-on effect is needing to hold further fundraising rounds, which not only takes time and resources, but also dilutes the founders’ ownership of the business much more than necessary.
“Most investors have a rule of thumb of about 15-30% dilution”, Camilla explained, “and how much you give away depends on the demand during the round. If you raise £500k, for example, you’re probably going to end up giving away the same amount as if you raised two and a half million because of this psyche of each round being 15 to 30% dilution.”
Confidence is key
Once you’re clear on how much capital you require and where you need to get it from, the next step is your pitch. Camilla explained that the female founders she invests in are typically very direct. Which can sometimes be mistaken for overconfidence. It’s about showing how much belief you have in your idea, which is often infectious for potential investors. “Be bold from day one”, she advised. “Be clear about your vision, what you want to achieve, and the true scale of it, even if you’re just starting.”
But confidence in your idea is just the beginning; according to Camilla, you must also show confidence in yourself. “Female founders often present as very collaborative – whether they really are or not – but you need to remember that we’re backing you as an individual or founding team”, she shared. “Sounding too reliant on non-members of the core team can definitely be unhelpful.” The key is to demonstrate that you can drive the business forward without the help of external advisors, so if your pitch includes a lot of information about your advisors, you should consider reducing that slightly.
Play to your strengths
A reliable way of boosting your confidence when pitching is to focus on what you do best. This could be concentrating on your corporate background, for instance, because as another of our Volunteer Advisors who joined the session explained, “Founders I’ve worked with that have the most success are those who have worked in large organisations and sat around the board table”. However, although Camilla largely agreed with that interpretation, she was keen to emphasise that it is not essential to secure funding.
“Experience is definitely valuable, both from the fundraising and management perspectives, but we do still back founders that only have entrepreneurial experience”, she explained. “If you don’t have significant business experience, that’s okay, but you must prove that you have a spike on something.” She continued to clarify that those spikes can be anything, so long as they are “extraordinarily differentiated”. So, whether you’re a masterful marketer, or a superb salesperson, find your spike, lean into it, and articulate it well.
A natural advantage you can use – which you may not have thought about – is your femininity. “Many of the successful female founders we see really do own their femininity”, Camilla stated. “They aren’t coming in with power suits, trying to recreate being a man, they’re coming with a vision, a problem to solve, and because they’re a woman they have a unique advantage in achieving that.”
For example, if you are working on a product that appeals specifically to women, you’re likely to have an edge in terms of understanding the target market and how best to reach them. This differentiates your business and makes it much more appealing to investors, so articulating that point clearly is extremely beneficial.
Focus on what matters
The final drawback Camilla noted with female founders’ approach to funding is that they tend to make their pitches too detailed. “Female founders do like – probably to a higher degree than we see male founders – to share too much detail on the numbers, but not share the numbers that really matter”, she clarified. “Investors will only take away 3 to 5 metrics from a pitch, so it’s best to really concentrate on the key figures.”
Revenue, gross margin, customer acquisition cost (CAC), retention/repeat rates, and who your superhero customers are were the five metrics Camilla picked out as being the most significant to investors. Showing your awareness of these metrics will convince those across the table that you know what makes your product a success and how you can use the capital they provide to build on that. This creates a compelling narrative that proves the potential of your venture and will ultimately enhance your chances of securing investment.
For businesses that have struggled to match the fundraising success of their competitors thus far, Camilla suggested focusing on one more potent metric in their future fundraising rounds. “Capital efficiency is so important for investor returns”, she explained. “So, something really useful you can do is to show that you have achieved more on a per dollar basis than your rivals.” This demonstrates that, despite your competitors perhaps bringing in more revenue, you use the capital at your disposal more efficiently. The inference here is that if you were to receive the same amount of capital, your success would surpass the rest of the market.