Black and Latina women founders received only 0.43 percent of the $166 billion in VC funding dished out to startups in 2020. That's according to ProjectDiane, a biennial report on the state of Black women and Latina founders by the organization DigitalUndivided.
Two women who are beating the odds are Kelly Ifill, the founder and CEO of Guava, a neo-bank and community platform designed to serve Black entrepreneurs and small-business owners, and Evelyn Rusli, an angel investor and the co-founder and president of baby food brand Yumi. The two sat down with All the Hats editor Teneshia Carr to talk about the best strategies for overcoming the hurdles to getting funding as a female founder of color. Here are three that stand out.
1. Be prepared to hear 'no' and keep pitching.
Rusli says she receives probably hundreds of rejections when pitching to investors, but encourages founders to stay positive nevertheless. "I think you have to pitch a lot of investors in the beginning, where not everyone is going to say yes. In fact, you're going to get many nos," says Rusli. "For every no out there, there is a yes. If you believe so strongly in your vision and that's why you took the leap, then you just have to continue to knock on those doors and try to find the angles."
Ifill agrees and suggests that pitching is a numbers game -- by pitching more, you'll come to understand what resonates with investors best. "Some investors will give you feedback, so you can scrap from your pitch what's not working and what you need to double click on," she says.
2. Find a compelling story.
Practice telling your pitch story to get it right and tight. Investors are humans, and they respond to stories that have humane aspects.
"We don't pay attention to the storytelling aspect of the pitches enough," says Ifill. "Try to tell stories of the lived experience of people that you're trying to change or an industry problem that you're trying to solve. I find that's [led to] the most successful moments that I have had with investors."
3. Leverage your network to find the right investor
LinkedIn can be your go-to platform to get to know people in your industry. Rusli urges being unafraid to cold call people you don't know. "People reach out less than you think they do in general. If an investor finds your subject line interesting, they might just respond."
In addition, Ifill suggests reaching out to investors who back companies similar to your own. "You should identify those investors and understand the stage at which they invest. If you're just getting started, you don't want to talk to growth-stage investors, you want to talk to angels and pre-seed investors. I made a spreadsheet of investors and shared it with my community. This is something that you can afford and should use as a strategy to get started."