Question: What's one thing female founders need to know before pitching their company to investors for the first time?
Question by: Ashley
Know Your Non-Negotiables
"Get clear on your company's vision, mission and values -- these are your non-negotiables. If investors believe in the strategic direction you've set, they'll want to see more. I see too many women wait to pitch until the business plan is at 80 percent. If you know what is core to your company, the business plan can evolve. Get out there, tell your story, get feedback and iterate."
Do Your Homework
"Unfortunately, women are underrepresented in the startup space, particularly for businesses that require large amounts of startup capital. Female founders must do their homework and know their product/service, their industry, and their options inside and out. Some people will assume that a young female is less qualified, but preparedness is an opportunity to prove this assumption wrong."
Being a Woman is Advantageous
"Many women get nervous when pitching to investors because of the statistics about how most funding goes to men. However, women should realize that being female can actually work to their advantage, as many women-led startups have seen huge successes recently -- like Gilt Groupe and Rent the Runway -- and investors are eager to identify the next female entrepreneurial leaders and back them."
"Pitching investors is not for the faint-hearted. Get ready to be persuasive, tough and persistent. If you hear "no" or "maybe" from an investor, press to understand why a particular response is given. Pushing to get into the feedback loop will help you to improve your business, gain mentors and garner respect while navigating the fundraising process."
Call That Chauvinistic Relative
"Want to really prepare to pitch as a woman? Go find that relative who has made it clear that you should be home, raising a family, with no other interests. Tell him your idea, and keep calm through what comes next. Some investors want to see how you'll hold up under tough questions, but if you've already calmly faced someone who doesn't believe women need college degrees, there's nothing worse."
Confidence Is Crucial
"If you don't believe in yourself, why should I? Be confident and assertive. If you don't entirely believe in what you're pitching, no one else will. You have a great idea -- don't be shy to tell people why it's a great investment. Man or woman -- it doesn't matter who you are or who you're pitching, a good idea will sell itself."
Familiarize Your Numbers
"It's one thing to be excited and pumped about your idea or business, but if you don't know the numbers then you're in trouble. Knowing your sales figures and projections is not only good for the pitch, but it's also what helps you scale your business as you go. A real businessperson knows their numbers backwards and forwards."
Get a Coach
"Take advantage of pitch coaching online. This will give you the framework to use to prepare to pitch to investors for the first time. For example, pitch coach Nathan Gold offers free virtual round tables every Wednesday, providing live feedback on your short pitch. You will also hear live feedback on other founders' pitches."
Focus on Facts, Not Feelings
"It's okay to talk about your feelings -- with your shrink! Not while you're pitching your company to investors. Stick to the facts instead. It's easy to get wrapped up in the emotional aspect of building a successful company, but focus on factual customer validation, business models and execution plans instead. Let your passion and zeal serve as a value added bonus -- not the main event."
Make It Relatable
"Find a way to make your pitch relatable to those you’re pitching. I find that using examples and analogies can bring any story to life, especially if your product or target market is female-centric and you’re pitching to a male investor. Compare user or consumer behavior to what they might recognize in the women in their lives to help them make the connection."
Watch ABC's Shark Tank!
"Go watch episodes of Shark Tank on ABC online and consider how the women pitching their business interact with the "shark" investors. These experts are not any less direct or demanding of female founders. Watch and learn from how the women react to the feedback and inquisition when they're in the hot seat!"
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, the YEC recently launched #StartupLab, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses via live video chats, an expert content library and email lessons.