Last year, female entrepreneurs raised $1.5B. That’s a lot of cheddar, but here’s the catch… male entrepreneurs raised $58.2B (according to Pitchbook). So, yes, the gender gap is still wide and deep when it comes to raising money. I understand that there are more men out there seeking investment funds than women, but the scale is still incredibly lopsided. However, lopsided does not mean impossible. I’m here to share what I learned while securing a $150 million piece of that pie for my company.
As co-founder & COO of KindredBio, I’d like to think I’m doing my part to shatter misconceptions and break (or at least crack) glass ceilings, particularly as they relate to Wall Street and the biotech industry – neither of which has a stellar reputation in the gender equality department. My business partner and I raised net proceeds of approximately $66 million in our IPO (NASDAQ: KIN) in 2013, $58 million in a secondary offering in 2015, and another $30 million in 2017. KindredBio combines my experience in biotech and my passion for animals. We leverage the billions of dollars spent in R&D for human drugs to develop breakthrough therapies for pets, substantially increasing the likelihood of success and decreasing costs and timelines.
So how does one garner attention and close the deal when it comes to fundraising… as a woman?
- Know your stuff: This goes way beyond just regurgitating your business plan or marketing brochure copy back to potential investors. You want to succinctly communicate your company’s short- and long-term vision to potential investors. Investors want to see that you know the ins and outs of what you are selling – from the industry and your competitors, to your product/service and customers. Do your homework – all of it. The secret sauce here is to show your true passion for what you are doing and to articulate why. Combine knowledge and passion for maximum impact.
- Leverage your strengths: It’s not enough not to be a good salesperson. As women, we are often better listeners and more empathetic. This might be one of those times being “sensitive” or “emotional” can be put to good use. Tap into these strengths when meeting with potential investors. Get a sense of what fuels them to make a contribution – in what causes or industries do they engage and support? Don’t just pitch; make a human connection.
- Don’t focus on gender or the gender gap: Like the difference in money raised by female vs. male entrepreneurs last year, you may encounter other challenges when it comes to gender. However, do not focus on the discrepancies or let them distract you. For example, you may be tired of being the only woman at the table. Rather than let it upset you, flip it to a positive. Do your part to get that piece of the pie by being knowledgeable, passionate, and resolute. We can change the metrics. It may take a while, but wallowing in the divide does not do anything to move you or our gender forward.
- Close the deal: Oh, girl. This is not only the most important part of any potential investor or donor meeting, but the most challenging and often completely overlooked. Don’t wing it. Practice making “the ask” just like you prepare for your elevator speech, your financial presentation, your case studies, etc.. Be direct but polite. When the meeting is said and done, do the follow-up. Provide them with answers to any questions that came up, send additional marketing materials, and make the ask again.
Listen, entrepreneurship isn’t for the faint-hearted. Fundraising isn’t either. But if you’ve got the heart and passion to start a business, you can do this. In fact, women often have “mama bear syndrome” and are innately driven to care for and protect others. Consider this your way of raising and providing for your business like it’s your baby. Because it kind of is.
Denise Bevers, Co-Founder and COO of KindredBio, is an expert in clinical operations, medical affairs and scientific communications. She oversees the organization’s clinical operations, data management, pharmaceutical development, commercial operations, investor relations, human resources and IT. Along with KindredBio’s CEO, Denise has raised approximately $150 million in public offerings to bring the very best science and medicine to animal companions.