A trickle can widen a crack, increasing the flow and further weakening the dam. Then all of a sudden you have a leak of torrential proportions.
That's basically what's happened in Silicon Valley the last month as whispered stories of VCs' bad behavior towards female founders gathered into a flood of disclosures about inappropriate advances, unequal treatment, and straight-up sexual assault.
A round of resignations was the first consequence of the revelations, with others taking concrete steps to develop more robust anti-harassment policies. All of which will hopefully lead to real and last changing. But what if you're a female founder with a great idea and a need for capital right now?
If you don't have time to wait for the industry to get its act together, then Cowboy Ventures partner Aileen Lee has some pretty specific advice for you. At Y Combinator's Female Founders Conference recently she condemned the behavior of some of her colleagues and called for change. But she also offered female founders specific advice for prospering despite the less than enlightened current state of things, TechCrunch reports. Her tips include:
- Learn to be a good storyteller. "If you are not a great storyteller, you can become one. It's just a matter of feedback and practice," she told the mostly female crowd. Tons of great resources exist to help you.
- Make sure your company's story includes the essential elements. You need to get across your vision, the size of your market, and the problem you're trying to solve, among other essentials. Check out the TC post for a complete list.
- Tell your personal story. Why are you the best person to start this company right now?
- Be confident (but not too confident). "If you're a little too arrogant or you puff things up a little too much, [male investors] will ding you for being an exaggerator," Lee warned.
- Don't be "too shy." It's a sad reality, but according to Lee, "guys,can get away with [being shy]. It's like, 'Oh, he's just an introvert,'" while women are judged more harshly for being less personable.
- Have your numbers down pat. Another unfairness is that women "have to work twice as hard to convince men that they are quantitative," TC says, paraphrasing Lee. "If someone asks you, 'What's the CAGR, what's the LTV, what are the margins, what's the revenue plan for next year,' just know it. Practice it," she told attendees.
- Follow up. "If someone asks you questions [during a pitch meeting], take notes, and send a follow-up the next day saying, 'These are the things that we discussed; I wanted to follow up on these points.' Show that you're super-conscientious, and you're on it," Lee instructs.
- Build your network. Focus especially on getting to know other female founders and investors.
TechCrunch has a full write-up of Lee's comments if you're interested in more details.