It’s inevitable that sometimes women tech entrepreneurs will face gender bias when they’re out pitching investors. Still, it pays to be persistent. Because, like their male counterparts, women can still gain contacts and feedback that will be helpful in the future, even when they don’t get the answer they want.
While the blogosphere is filled with posts about how women can’t secure funding, the truth is women simply aren’t pitching enough, says Natalia Oberti Noguera, founder and CEO of the Pipeline Fellowship, an angel investing boot camp for women. In 2012, only 16 percent of the startups that pitched to angels in the U.S. were women-led, according to the Center for Venture Research at the University of New Hampshire. Out of those, 25 percent secured funding. (Similar figures weren’t available for men.)
The best way to head off bias, says Noguera, is to get more female angels and venture capitalists on the scene who will, in turn, be more likely to consider women-owned tech startups for funding. In 2011, only 12 percent of U.S. angels were women, according to the Center for Venture Research. But Noguera says things are starting to change. “Fast forward to 2012 and the numbers went up to 22 percent,” she says.
One way to increase that momentum is to encourage more women to become angel investors, suggests Darlene Gillard Jones, marketing director for Digital Undivided, an organization that exposes woman investors to woman-owned tech companies. The solution to gender bias in investing, she believes, is “to create our own opportunities.”
For now, men remain the bulk of investors — angel or VC. That means women need to know how to make the most of their pitch, just like men. Says Jones: “It’s important to know that the VC you’re approaching has invested in similar ideas before. Also, be prepared to show how the idea will make money and, if possible, have a minimum viable product. If the investor declines, find out why and be prepared to make changes for the next time.”
Like men, women entrepreneurs need to be prepared to hear “no,” she says, but they also have to bear in mind that’s not necessarily a sign of bias. “Many times we feel rejected and don’t have the resilience to come back and ask again or to go to another investor. That needs to change.”