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Ask Nancy: What’s your biggest advice for a female entrepreneur looking to raise seed capital?

According to a 2023 Harvard Business Review Article, women-led startups receive less than 3% of all VC funding. While the statistic is staggering, based on my experience fundraising and other women in my network who have successfully fundraised at early stages, one thing we all had in common is: we came over-prepared to pitch. Based on statistics, the odds of successfully raising capital as a female aren’t in our favor. Because of that, when go you to pitch, you need to be buttoned up and bullet proof your concept to help build investor confidence from the start. You rarely get more than one chance to sell an investor on your idea, so you need to make your first pitch count.  

I’ve been on the receiving end of several very compelling pitches and I will say that confidence ensues confidence. Your confidence in your business concept and the way you deliver your pitch will likely impact the perception of the investor. I find that I present most confidently when I’m over-prepared and feel like I can answer any question that comes my way without fumbling.  When I’m in a high-pressure presentation environment, I often go through my presentation materials and put together a list of questions I think the person on the receiving end is likely to ask and ensure I have a solid response that can’t be torn apart.  

“I find that male-investors generally don’t care if they’re not the target demographic, however, they don’t want to invest in something they don’t understand.” – Nancy Twine

If you’re pitching a product to a male-investor that isn’t your target customer, be sure to come prepared to educate on why the product matters to your demographic and the whitespace your specific product is filling. I find that male-investors generally don’t care if they’re not the target demographic, however, they don’t want to invest in something they don’t understand. So that’s where you come in — be prepared to over-educate.

Regardless of whether your investor is within your target demographic or not, the reason why your product or service is a great concept shouldn’t be totally subjective. I highly recommend pressure testing your concept with data and research to objectively substantiate the idea’s reason for being and why your product or service, specifically, is filling a gap. Where you can, include market statistics, quote, and other relevant data in your pitch deck to back up your assumptions.

A well-organized and nicely-designed pitch deck does say a lot about your level of preparedness and readiness for capital. A solid pitch deck should contain a few things:

1. An overview of your product or service

This may seems obvious, but a detailed, holistic overview of your product or service and its unique point(s) of difference are critical to a successful pitch deck.

2. An overview of the market

In addition to an overview of your product or service, be sure to include a detailed, research-based overview of your existing or potential market competition, potential retailers, and points of distribution.

3. An introduction to your team

Team work is essential to a successful business venture — no one does it all on their own. Be sure to touch on any team members, consultants or advisors who’s helped you along the way.

4. A profit-and-loss projection model

Provide a profit-and-loss project model for around 3-5 years out.

5. Any early proof-points

Include any early proof-points to help support your pitch, such as points of distribution, press, awards, etc.

6. The fundraising terms

Outline the fundraising terms you’re looking for, such as valuable, raise amount, terms, etc.

Lastly, I’ll say that so much of fundraising happens through networking. I do believe that a large percent of male entrepreneurs who successfully fundraise do so by tapping into their network and leveraging connections. Often, that’s how I find the female-led businesses I ultimately end up investing in. As you create your short-list of potential VCs and seed angel investors, be sure to tap your network to see where you may have a leg-up with an investor through mutual connections. I find that building rapport and belief in an entrepreneur I don’t already know comes a lot easier when they’ve been vetted by someone in my network that I trust.  

Don’t let the statistics scare you. With the right preparation and mindset, you’ll have everything you need to land the right investor and gain the critical capital to help you take your business to the next level. We’ll soon be writing an article with the nitty gritty details on creating a perfect pitch deck — but for now, this is a must-have outline for your content.  

What’s the best piece of entrepreneurial advice you’ve received? Share in the comments.