How I Overcame VC Gender Bias and Raised $5M for My Startup with an Initial Private Offering
Only 2.2% of venture capital funding goes to female founders. For example, in 2018, all female founders combined received just $2.9 billion in VC funding, i.e. $10 billion less than one controversial e-cigarette company, Juul alone. For Latinas, this percentage is roughly 0.4%. In short, as a female co-founder born in Argentina, I knew that my chances to get VC funding were negligible. So I decided to take my offer to investors directly.
In 2019, TransparentBusiness.com became possibly the first company to advertise its Initial Private Offering in the Wall Street Journal, Investors’ Business Daily, Bloomberg and other major publications. By offering individual investors a rare opportunity to invest in pre-IPO stock of an acclaimed SaaS company, I’ve been able to quickly raise $5 million, a crucial milestone in my efforts to make TransparentBusiness synonymous with the category of Business Transparency, globally. With this funding, my team has been able to compel legislators in 32 states to introduce bills that seek to make transparent verification of billable hours mandatory for government contractors.
The investors, in return, got a chance for returns exceeding 120,000%. While way short of the record-setting projects like Amazon, where the first 20 investors have seen the value of their stock skyrocket to over 10,000,000%, the projected returns in our project proved to be attractive for unquestionably business-savvy investors, including current and former executives of Morgan Stanley, Merrill Lynch, J.P. Morgan, Stifel, Bank of America, Barclays Global Investors, UBS, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Trust Company of the West, Deutsche Bank, CA Technologies and Accenture.
Obviously, nobody can ever guarantee the success of any new project and long-term projections are subjective. For this reason, we posted an ROI calculator that calculates the value of the investment in our company based on each investor’s personal option about the likelihood of the success and failure of the project. The page also features the comparison chart of TransparentBusiness and mega-success projects like Google, Uber, Airbnb, PayPal, Whatsapp, Facebook and Salesforce, which had more challenging set of circumstances at the inception.
Only big companies make a big impact, disrupt industries and change business models. Access to funding is the biggest challenge for most entrepreneurs and for women it’s almost insurmountable. I’m glad that I’ve been able to demonstrate to other female entrepreneurs that there’s a new alternative way to get funded. To bridge the gender gap, we need to learn to “Skirt the Rules” and to be creative.
If you are frustrated by being snubbed by VCs, think of alternative methods to fundraise and dare to be bold to grab the attention you need to reach new heights.
Business is a contact sport; use your people skills to build a network whose credibility will open doors for you and will expand your reach and access scope.
Don’t undervalue your opportunity. Many women lack the confidence to raise big amounts. Our asking is still timid, insecure; we often seek to raise the minimum amount necessary, whereas $100M is now a typical funding for startups. Travis Kalanick, often criticized for his macho attitude, raised $24 billion pre-IPO for Uber.
Think big and be confident. We must overcome the unconscious preconception that we are poor negotiators or not capable of running exponential businesses.
Build tech-driven companies even if you are not an engineer. You don’t have to be an engineer or a programmer to lead a tech company. I have a degree in Communications and my company is 100% tech!
Last but not least, find your passion. You will need a lot of resilience, motivation and grit to make your company succeed. I find the inspiration in the opportunity to change the rules and economically empower millions of women and disrupt global unemployment. Meeting a triple bottom line: #people, #profit and #planet is a key driver for my business and for myself as an impact entrepreneur.
While I root for equality, I cannot forget one of the biggest gifts that my father gave me. He taught me that true empowerment always starts with financial independence, with our ability to secure and earn our own money. I truly hope that this successful and creative investment strategy is a motivation for other female founders, to Skirt the Rules, to follow their dreams and reduce the bias in business.
By Silvina Moschini, President and Chair of the Board of TransparentBusiness.com