Funding women entrepreneurs: Investor Views

Have you come across women led businesses that have been funded by VCs or angel investors? When I first attempted to list such companies, I thought that I could easily get a dozen from my first and second circle of connections. But, to my surprise, I found that this was not the case.

This set me thinking, is this situation because of a lack of women entrepreneurs, a lack of women led business that could scale and grow or because of a gender bias? I talked to a few investors to get a better understanding of how investors perceive women entrepreneurs. Here are some of the points we discussed.

Q. Do you see gender as a barrier in raising VC/angel funding?

Bharati Jacob, Founder-Partner, Seedfund, “The review of the business plan is based on its merit and on competence of the team; gender is not a factor.”

Samir Kumar, Managing Director, Inventus Capital Partners, “We do not see gender as an advantage or disadvantage because we are gender neutral.”

Dr Rajesh Srivathsa, Managing Partner, Ojas Ventures, “No. All we look at is the competency of the person and the validity of the idea/product/service.”

Other investors that I connected with also indicated that they do not see gender as a barrier to funding a venture. I know, I know, Dear Reader, you may say… “Which investor will admit to a gender bias?”… But, let us give these persons the benefit of the doubt. In fact, the set of investors I have quoted are all recognised and known for their professionalism.

In summary – Today, we have women role models in every field: corporate, political, bureaucratic, entrepreneurship, media, films or the social sector. Investors have also realized that there are successful and committed women whom they can support. They would therefore (one hopes!), focus, more on the qualities of these promoters rather than the gender.

Q. Have you funded women led businesses, do you expect to?

Samir, “We have not yet invested in women led businesses; this is more by chance, rather than by design as we do not use different standards for evaluation of such proposals.”

Bharati, “Our portfolio includes a couple of companies with women in CXO positions, including one with women having the majority shareholding.”

Rajesh, “We would be very pleased to fund them. The issue has been that we have not seen enough women entrepreneurs approaching us for funding for technology start-ups that meet our criteria.”

In summary – Women entrepreneurs who are keen to grow with external funding should take courage from the fact that investors told me that they would welcome proposals from women led companies. Many investors are actively looking to fund women owned businesses.

Q. What would you say to women entrepreneurs who seek funding?

Rajesh, “There would be no difference in terms of advice from what we would offer any male entrepreneur. Fundamentally, the building of a business is not a gender issue — it goes back to how well the entrepreneur has thought through the problem, did an analysis of the ecosystem (including customers, partners and competition), the competencies and the commitment of the entrepreneur and the management team she has put together. Other issues are not relevant.”

P S Madhusudan, Executive Partner, Green Tree Ventures, “An idea or venture will get the same treatment from us irrespective of whether it has a man or woman behind it. We would definitely be cautious about going into the project in more detail to see if the women entrepreneur has the ability to overcome roadblocks. The word ‘ability’ here means seriousness and the drive to overcome hurdles. In short, we would look for serious commitment from the women.” (Disclosure: The author is associated with Green Tree Ventures as advisor)

In summary – If a business has the potential to be funded and the woman entrepreneur is committed, she should not assume that her gender will be a barrier to fund raising. While some investors might not like to take the risk of funding women led companies, there are also some investors who see women as committed and trustworthy.

meet Anjana Vivek – Anjana Vivek is the founder of VentureBean Consulting and a guest faculty at IIM Bangalore. To write to the author, please send an email to dare@cybermedia.co.in with the subject line ‘Anjana Vivek’.The views expressed here are that of the author and do not represent the magazine’s.

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