Soft Pitch or First Date? 

The number of startups with at least one female founder has more than quadrupled in the last five years, yet it can still feel like uncharted territory. While it’s exciting and inspiring to be a pioneer, the protocols can be confusing and the signals misleading. As founders, we obviously want all eyes on our product, but only for the right reasons. And our passion and enthusiasm for our company’s mission shouldn’t be confused for coquetry. Whether or not gender should be part of the equation, double-standards can make navigating these waters murky.

Take, for example, the recent experience of a female founder friend of mine. (Let’s just call her Anne.)

Anne met an esteemed investor at a pitch event who seemed interested in her company. As the event came to a close, he suggested they continue the conversation next time she was in town. She took him up on the offer a few weeks later, and got in touch. When he invited her to meet up at 8:00 pm that night, she thought it unusual, but her male friends often had business meetings over a pint. She agreed.

During the Uber ride to the meeting spot, she learned it was a wine bar. Some of the reviews said it was “romantic.” Unnerved but undeterred, she walked in.

After about 20 minutes of her inquiring about industry trends, investment advice and the changing landscape of SaaS, there was an awkward pause. “Wow, this sure feels more like a business meeting than a date,” he said. Gulp.

That night, Anne looked back at all of the emails the two had exchanged. Even with 20/20 hindsight, nothing jumped out at her as being out of the norm, besides the time and venue. She made a vow to keep future meetings during business hours, but feels slighted that she can’t do something that her male counterparts can. After all, Anne’s success is largely due to the fact that she’s been proving this tenet wrong her whole life.

And she has her work cut out for her. Only 10% off startups to raise a Series A last year had female founders. This despite the fact that women CEOs outperform their male peers three to one in the S&P 500, and businesses with a woman on the executive team have 64% higher valuations at Series A. With these encouraging statistics on her side, Anne is excited to meet her next potential investor…for coffee.

On a side note, I really enjoy learning more about female entrepreneurs especially when it comes to fundraising. A great article by First Round Capital highlights how female entrepreneurs actually outperform male entrepreneurs when it comes to running a company! Worth a read read here