The New York Times published an article "Out of the Loop in Silicon Valley" way back in 2010. The article stated:
"Networks are crucial for fund-raising, because most investors don't look at pitches that come over the transom."
And countless articles, blogs and tweets since then have been written about the closed-door, pattern-matching investment strategy in the Valley - and the good news is that much has started to evolve, from the Silicon Valley influencers aggressively investing in women-founded ventures (500 Startups #500Women fund) to creating conferences targeting rising star female founders (Y Combinator's Female Founders Conference) plus, more significantly, the launch of female-founder venture capital firms (Aspect Ventures, Rivet Ventures). While there are more resources for women seeking VC (or angel) funding - to get into the loop - the networking tactics being used all to often to break into these closed communities remains unproductively, the same--a cold email, the lukewarm "do you know anyone" ask to the annoying "I'm looking for a woman investor for my cap table".
Case in point. Recently I received this email from a founder I've never met (online or off):
How's it going? There's a lot of excitement right now around X! We've had a successful response to our mission: to re-define the beauty industry by connecting the online and offline worlds of beauty....
We're about to close our angel round...raising the cap on the SAFE ... I'd love to meet with you this week and connect before we close this tranche.
I think that your interest in women-focused startups would make you a great fit for X and I'd love for you to help us with our mission! Let me know if any of the following times work for you this week?
- Monday before 1pm
- Tuesday 12pm-3pm
- Thursday 2pm- 6pm
I can also try to move things around to accommodate you, just let me know! Can't wait to hear back from you :))
No, I did not schedule a meeting to learn more about this tranche closing soon investment opportunity.
The cold email (and bold assumption that just because I'm a woman who has made some angel investments, I'd have an interest in any female-founded company) leaves me and not surprisingly, other women investors--cold. To quote 37 Angels founder Angela Lee -
Don't ask me for introductions to so and so because she is a woman. Ask me for an introduction to her because she invests in edtech and has a ton of value to add.
So how do you get in the network when you're looking for that elusive female investor?
As a starting point, forget looking for a shortcut and be careful with the "just toss it out there" emails --even when you have the urgency of a "round closing soon". To find investors, you need to put in the work - which means more than simply securing an email address or jumping at the first offer for an introduction. Do your research then craft your outreach strategy. Read their blogs, tweets and interviews to be better informed on how they invest (and in what sectors). As software startup founder Mackenzie Burnett notes in her post on Medium: "I found with a little digging that the information I was looking for was there--it was just scattered across the internet".
Start digging for information. And start building strong networks with your peers.
Albuquerque, New Mexico based entrepreneur, Lisa Abeyta is the founder of civic tech startup AppCityLife and the co-founder of Hautepreneurs, a networking group for women entrepreneurs, thought-leaders and innovators. To scale the vision of her startup, Lisa frequently jumps on a plane to network with investors and founders in New York City, Silicon Valley, Denver, Miami...yes, the list of cities (and numbers of flights) goes on. As a startup CEO who puts in the networking time, Lisa offers this advice to other female founders:
Put yourself out there as a professional, a CEO, a founder - and start sharing value with the network you want to connect with. Show up for events that women leaders attend, because women leaders usually have women investors within their own network. If you live in a remote location, get connected on social media. Don't lead with what you need. Lead with what you want to contribute, and do it authentically. Here's why: money is fuel, but it is only fuel. Network is so much more than fuel, and when you are generous with what you have to offer, whether it is showing up to support someone else or going to coffee to talk to somebody just getting started, you can begin to build a network based on gratitude that will continue to benefit you for years to come. You will be far more likely to receive a warm introduction to a woman investor or to develop a relationship with someone who will want to learn more about your company and why it might be a good investment opportunity. When that happens, make sure you have your act together, because if you don't, you won't get another chance with that investor - or another warm introduction from that contact.
To help you out, I've put together a list of resources to jumpstart your own research on not only the women who are out there investing in early-stage companies, but the networking opportunities to authentically connect with peers and communities committed to the success of female founders. There are resources for women investors as well, as more women need to get off the passive investing sidelines. I've included networking options for everyone - from angel funds to Twitter handles.
Mackenzie Burnett's List Of Female Angel And Early-Stage Investors in Tech and the Twitter list of investors she created.
Tech.co's Comprehensive List of Women Investors Who Blog (as Tech.co notes, the list was curated by Joshua Henderson, VP of Springboard, after CB Insights released its Periodic Table of VC Bloggers where only five of the 89 blogs were female VCs).
Global Invest Her, the first online platform only dedicated to Funding for Women Entrepreneurs.
Colliders Accelerator, a pre-accelerator connecting women to the right customers, investors and acquires (and it does so all online).
Astia founded in Silicon Valley in 1999 as a non-profit organization dedicated to identifying and promoting women high-growth entrepreneurs. Astia is now a global organization providing capital, guidance and connections.
Springboard Enterprises is an expert network of innovators, investors and influencers who are dedicated to building high-growth technology-oriented companies led by women.
The Jump Fund, a Chattanooga, TN-based fund with a mission is to invest women's capital in female-led companies with growth potential in order to generate a strong financial return and elevate the role of women in business.
F3 / Female Founders Fund invests in the exponential power of exceptional female talent.
Pipeline Angels is a network of new and seasoned women investors which is changing the face of angel investment through its signature, hands-on learning 6-month bootcamp for new investors.
37 Angels is a community of over 50 women investors with early-stage investment education at the heart of its mission. 37 Angels conducts an intensive 1-month angel investment bootcamp. 37 Angels weekly event newsletter is a comprehensive list of startup and investor happenings in New York City.
Golden Seeds is an early-stage investment firm with a focus on women leaders.
New York Angels is one of the most active angel groups globally and is committed to finding, funding and mentoring great young companies. New York Angels portfolio includes female founded startups such as Keaton Row, The RunThrough, Modalyst and Beauty Booked.
Portfolia, a collaborative investment community and an investment platform which enables you to invest in companies you believe in. Portfolio's CEO Trish Costello is also part of the team launching the Rising Tide Fund.
Vinetta Project sources high potential female founders and provides them with access to capital through exclusive networking events, as well as providing online resources.
SheEO is a radical funding model of generosity for women entrepreneurs. SheEO is raising $1,000,000 to fund 10 Canadian-based female founded ventures through 0% interest loans.
Women Entrepreneurship Fund, a partnership initiative of Startup Canada and Dell Canada, the fund invests in high-impact, grassroots initiatives across Canada that advance women entrepreneurship through education, investment, mentorship and access to growth opportunity.
Intel Capital Diversity Fund, at $125 million, is the largest venture capital fund ever created to focus on female and underrepresented minority entrepreneurs.
theBoardlist, accelerating the gender diversity of technology startup boards.
Blackbox Connect is a two-week, residential program in Silicon Valley designed to immerse global founders in the startup culture, and to connect them with potential partners and investors.
Mergelane discovers, accelerates and invests in female-founded companies.
Women Who Startup, based in Denver, CO, is a community of Female Entrepreneurs, supported by local startup ecosystems, accelerators and investors.
Hautepreneurs is New Mexico's Premier Peer Network for Woman Entrepreneurs, Thought-Leaders and Innovators - helping you become the designer of your business and your life.
So Gal is a global platform to fuel the next generation entrepreneurs and investors.
Make Mine A Million is a year-long business growth marathon.
Plum Alley Investments offers new and seasoned investors the way to invest in outstanding companies led by women entrepreneurs and gender diverse teams.
Angel Academe is the UK's leading angel network for women.
Topstone Angels is a female-founded and led group based in Fairfield County, CT.
Ingrid Vanderveldt is a successful entrepreneur on a mission to empower one billion women business owners by 2020.
Built By Girls Ventures is an early stage fund focused on consumer internet and mobile startups with at least one female founder.
Digital UnDivided runs the FOCUS Tech Entrepreneurship Incubator and Accelerator, helping diverse women founders raise angel and venture funding.
The Refinery, based in Connecticut, is a 4-month accelerator program with a mission to fuel the growth of female-founded companies.
Valor Ventures invests in female founders at the intersection of technology and lifestyle (particularly, fintech, healthtech, and consumer tech entrepreneurs).
Project Entrepreneur is a 5-week accelerator initiative created by Rent the Runway co-founders Jennifer Hyman and Jenny Fleiss in partnership with UBS.
Change Catalyst is an online platform for women changemakers, helping women around the world to start, scale and fund world-changing ideas through three programs: a seedling incubator, impact accelerator, and peer to peer investment platform.
The NEXT Lab focuses on providing corporate grants to women led and co-led companies to develop innovative technology initiatives in partnership with L'Oral USA.
Tory Burch is empowering women entrepreneurs through the Tory Burch Foundation and its programming, online resources and networking events.
Savor The Success empowers women to dream, do and savor their best lives through education, empowerment and success tools. PR School is an initiative of Savor The Success' founder Angela Jia Kim, together with former Oprah Magazine editor and entrepreneur, Rachel Hofstetter (plus their inner circle of handpicked creme-de-la-creme major editors) designed to teach female founders an organized A to Z formula to get PR buzz.
Ellevate, a global professional network of women dedicated to the economic engagement and advancement of women worldwide.
Dreamers & Doers, a high-impact community of trailblazing entrepreneurial women.