How to Confidently Raise Money as a First-Time Founder

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How can a first-time entrepreneur raise money from VCs/angel investors if she doesn’t fit the pattern of most startup entrepreneurs?  

How can a first-time entrepreneur raise money from angel investors if she doesn’t fit the pattern of the typical startup entrepreneur? The simple, real-talk answer is that you cannot.

No first-time founder can raise capital with total confidence, and I suspect almost all serial founders, even those with more than one successful exit, are still nervous about having to raise funding.

The first and the best piece of advice I can give to women and other minority founders is to have compassion for yourself and read up on imposter syndrome.

Impostor syndrome (also known as impostor phenomenon or fraud syndrome) is a term coined in 1978 by clinical psychologists Dr. Pauline R. Clance and Suzanne A. Imes referring to high-achieving individuals marked by an inability to internalize their accomplishments and a persistent fear of being exposed as a “fraud.” [1]

As a founder, you get to develop a checks and balance system to help you battle your insecurities. Build a trusted network of people who are willing to provide you with honest, direct feedback about what is working and what isn’t. Supplement that with metrics, meaning hard data that you can use to support and validate both your successes and failures.

You then get to take that information and own where you are with yourself and your company as neutral events. Because as a founder, time spent on what is fair or right or how it should be is time wasted. Take a look at where you are, be honest about it, and then look to your goal and figure out how to get there.

As a founder, you will have so many more tasks to get done in a single day than can be achieved that emotional or actual effort spent on things you cannot change just creates more things that you won’t get done.

Yes, it is and will be harder to raise capital as a woman or minority.

Yes, it is harder to raise capital if you’re over 30 and lack a significant track record.

Yes, you will have plenty of people saying stupid things. Thank them: they have made it super clear from the start they are not going to be resources to you.

When I had a VC start by telling me that I could only talk in a pitch meeting if what I had to say was factual and relevant, but gave no such instructions to my male co-founder who fit the stereotype, that was fantastic.

Not only did I get a funny story out of it, but I knew at that moment that this was someone I was never going to work with. All the sudden, the pressure was off, and that meeting became practice for us because we no longer cared about the outcome.

For all the bad actors, I have had other amazing experiences with people like Lo Toney and Tyson Clark from GV, Adrian Fenty from AH, and Tim Draper have all spent way more time than I ever had any reason to expect or ask for. You will get to find and build a network in tech that works for you. Don’t get attached to what you think it might or should look like.

The entire experience of being a founder is about going against the odds, embracing the delusional concept that of all the companies out there, you and your idea will be the next unicorn. So take that same faith and apply it to the idea that you will be one of the breakout women or minority founders. Do your homework and set yourself up for success, but if you think your idea is good enough to be the next unicorn, and you and your team have the skills and ability to execute it, then just do it, and don’t worry about it.

VCs are mere mortals; they are wrong all the time. Look at all the failed investments or at things like Bessemer Anti-Portfolio. Venture funding is far from the only way to build a business. If you can make the VC funding ecosystem work for you, then do it. If you cannot, then do it another way.