After a few months in the startup world I’ve learnt that it’s no point in thinking I could get venture capital funding for Diretto. Not because my startup isn’t unique or scalable, but because I’m a woman. I’m an optimistic person and have a tendency to believe that problems don’t really apply to me but the evidence is massive. The chances that I will get a share of the <1 % venture capital that female founders get are remote. In Sweden – women start 30% of the companies.
Investors will ask me “How are you going to avoid losing?” If I were a man I would be asked “How are you going to win?” It’s called preventive or promotive questions. Research shows that men get promotive questions and women preventive. This results in lousy funding of female entrepreneurs and great funding for men. Men who get preventive questions also get lousy funding.
My first experience of the startup world was DI digital pitch contest Female Founders this spring. I voted for a company called Globhe and they won. I thought it was a very impressive startup with a competent founder It’s an Uber for drones with UN and IBM as clients. I was then invited to DI digital Startup tour in September. A good intentioned arrangement and a great place for networking. Seven companies pitched – three women and four men. In round one all the women were knocked out. A cool dude from a tatoo company won. I can’t judge if the jury did the right thing but I was stunned that Globhe didn’t even make it to the final.
This was depressing news. A team from GGF was at the event. The others have more experience from the start up world than I have so I asked them what on earth had just happened. They were not the least stunned, they said that this is what it’s like. I thought that I clearly have to make my way on my own and not count on any funding. But I also heard that there are ways around the problem if you do want funding. I learned about three tricks:
-Answer like a politician and turn preventive questions into promotive
–Invent a male co-founder and possibly use an app to distort the voice when “he” has to make calls
-Bring out your “inner white dude” when you pitch
I tested the voice distorsion app and I really did sound like a man but it made me laugh too much. Also how do you handle IRL meetings? Then, I was invited to pitch in front of a jury for the Stockholm Innovation Scholarship My first ever pitch! I googled a lot about ”inner white dude” and I tried to remember how the tatoo guy did it. But I did not feel confident that I could do it correctly. I thought better safe than sorry and brought my husband. I titled him the CTO. He kind of is the CTO for real but I didn’t actually need him for the pitch as there are no questions that I need his help to answer.
I have no idea how it went or if it made any difference to bring him along. I will know if I win at the end of the month. If it goes well maybe I can rent him out to other female entrepreneurs who are pitching? He has an impressive CV and learns stuff quickly. I would be interested to hear if anyone else has some other idea how to overcome the situation?
It turned out to be a success. We got to meet new people that we otherwise never would have met, we got to try new and exciting food and we provided some people with their first job since they arrived in Sweden. Others also showed interest in becoming employers but when I explained how to do it they thought it was too complicated.The idea to build a platform for P2P employment was born. I named it Diretto. Diretto automates the administration and tax payments to help more people become responsible employers. No need to go through a company and no VAT. I hope it will help create more jobs and contribute to a more cosmopolitan, inclusive and socially sustainable society.