It's a chilly weekday morning as I zip across San Francisco's Union Square, dressed head to toe in a new outfit purchased to combat the unexpected weather. A Southern California resident, I left 80 degree temperatures two days earlier, only to find it nearly 50 degrees as I arrived in town. In all the many trips I've made to the Bay Area, I don't think I've gotten the weather right once. As I duck into the hotel for the conference I'll be speaking at that morning, I have two things on my mind: Getting to my scheduled speaking event on time and getting warm.
An hour later, I've accomplished both and we're well into a discussion with a packed room of mostly women writers and entrepreneurs. The energy is like nothing I've experienced at past speaking events like South by Southwest Interactive and MIT's Futures of Entertainment 4. For the first time in my career, I'm addressing a room full of women entrepreneurs and executives versus one that's predominantly male. More than once, people compliment me on my bright pink shirt just before going into a highly technical discussion about some aspect of their business or blog. At one point, the conversation shifts to attracting investor interest and ultimately raising money. Outcry fills the room as people describe being ignored by the Silicon Valley VC and investors.
"They don't 'get' women, they don't understand the women's market," one said. Another added that the investment community is an "Old boy's club."
As a person who has never had any issues with VC or investors taking interest in my work, networking with me, etc, I knew first hand what might be wrong. I share the warm reception I've received from some of the top firms in the country, and point to the many firms that specifically exist to support women entrepreneurs, like Golden Seeds. Most of all, I am reminded of the importance of understanding how to convey the message to investors and venture capitalists.
"The thing with VC and investors," I start, "Is that you've got to speak their language not the other way around."
It's something that I've learned in my own work as well as in advising startup companies. I talk about the type of things investors like to hear, what key points a company needs to get across. I share anecdotes and examples based on my own experiences, including concrete areas where I made mistakes, many of which were being described by others who have made them as well. I share that I see the same issues among the male entrepreneurs I mentor as much as the women. It's also something I constantly learn myself.
"The key is to always know how to speak to what's of value to the listener. It changes all the time depending on who you'd like to listen to you." Here are my three go-to points:
1. Understand your value in their world, not yours.
2. Create concrete message points specific to that value and practice speaking them until you deliver them like a pro.
3. Always, always bullet proof your ideas - take your time and make sure you have every base, every gray area, etc. covered.
Getting your point across can be as easy as that. As I head to the airport in the car awaiting outside, I realize it doesn't just work in business but everywhere in life.
My three favorite VC blogs:
This is the start of a new fun series where we'll be tapping past experiences, experts and all kinds of other cool sources on trends and topics women entrepreneurs face and can benefit from