Deb Dutta

How Female Founders can beat Fundraising Bias

Female Founder Secrets
Jun 22nd 2022

Every week my team asks me to talk briefly about what's on top of my mind. As a female founder, lately I've been largely focused on building up my team at Criya, launching the first version of the product, and framing up our messaging to go to market. It sounds like a lot, but being in this place, to bring the company to this stage, is a luxury that few female Founders have been able to experience. Here’s why:

Women-led startups received just 2.3% of venture capital funding in 2020. - FORBES

This is not about quoting a number. Of the billions over billions of venture capital that goes into funding the thousands a startups just here in Silicon Valley, it is almost unacceptable how little access, introduction paths, guidance, mentorship, opportunity to succeed as a Founder is available to women led startups.‍

In the spirit of empowering more women to embrace entrepreneurship, our entire objective at Criya has been to put together not only the tools, but also resources to feel prepared and confident to launch your own business. A lot of us hesitate as we don’t know where to begin - and a lot of that is about the right tools & processes, but more often than not, it's about having the right mindset. Do not get discouraged by these statistics. I wanted to start by conveying to women everywhere that WE have all the skills, resources and the mindset to change the narrative for women entrepreneurs everywhere.

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For me, a large part of being an entrepreneur and raising venture capital, was really shifting my mindset from being someone seeking help, to being someone that the rest of the world needs to seek out. It of course did not happen overnight and I hit rock bottom before I started climbing up-but the climb up has built my founder persona to be a formidable, Relentless, Unstoppable entrepreneur.

I've summarized my 5-step approach to getting into the female founder mindset that really helped me go from Zero to multi million in funding from the most reputable Venture capitalists in the Silicon Valley.‍

  1. 80/20 Rule - Get comfortable with the fact that not everyone is going to get you and you're not going to get everyone. The good news is You don't need the 80%, you only need to find the 20% that are True Believers in your mission and your team's ability to make a difference. Don't spend your resources and energy convincing the naysayers-instead once you find your 20%, give them all the information, facts & vision to take them over and across the bridge.
  2. Conviction starts from you - You know your company better than anybody else in the world. You need to really, really believe this. You know it to be true in your heart before you speak about your company and vision to anyone else-that could be to an investor, to a customer, or to a potential hire. Oftentimes I have found myself in a position where I show up seeking advice which is misconstrued as lack of confidence and conviction on my vision. This mindset is particularly important because you are a leader, not a follower. You are a visionary, and you are here to bring people along with you.‍
  3. You don’t “Fit in”: A lot of what I have been told as a female product manager, engineer, making my way into any leadership positions as a woman has been ”you’re too opinionated, you are aggressive, you’re loud, you’re drawing attention”…. I spent a good part of my twenties and even early thirties masking my raw behavior so I could “fit in”. Unfortunately for the non-believers, entrepreneurship is about doing something groundbreaking. It's about disturbing the norm and disrupting an industry. So get comfortable with being different, And enjoy it every time you are told that you're different and you stand out from the rest. That's exactly who you need to be.
  4. Don’t be afraid to be authentic: We all live wholesome lives that showcase our biggest strengths as well as our weaknesses, every day. Being an entrepreneur and building a company is a marathon, not a sprint. It is important that when you present yourself in front of an investor who would likely be part of your journey for the next 10 or 20 years-has the appreciation and ability to support who you are and encourages you to power through your personal challenges. In the early stages your investors are more about access to Smart capital, than Cash. So choose them like you are choosing your team members.
  5. Be Kind & Formidable: this is something I learned at Y combinator. Seemingly opposing traits, but there’s magic when you put them together. YC coaches their founders to be formidable, Unstoppable entrepreneurs. Whether your idea is going to be a billion-dollar business or this is a learning opportunity to your next big milestone, you are unstoppable. It's really a game-changing approach and mindset to bring into any conversation. It sets the bar really high for potential investors and enables you to control the conversation. And you can really guide your potential investors to appreciate who you are, what your team has accomplished and where you're looking to go.
  6. Bonus: End every conversation with a warm invitation to be a part of your phenomenal journey.

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If you know me, you know that aside from being a technologist and a lifestyle influencer, I’ve dedicated the last decade to mentoring and supporting women through various stages of their careers. With Criya and my masterclass series, we are addressing women’s mindset and steps to take, to not only start their own business, but to be prepared to grow with the right tools and resources. For more information, don’t forget to signup for a Free Criya profile and access Founder resources curated by experts across various niches.