Unlocking key secrets for female entrepreneurs: How I raised capital to build a global company.
Almost a decade ago, I founded TransparentBusiness, the remote-work management platform valued at $1 billion in 2020 that became one of the 488 companies in the world with unicorn status and made me the first Latin American woman to achieve this milestone. And I did it in the midst of the pandemic by hacking the gender bias in financing and challenging the sad reality that only 2% of venture capital goes to entrepreneurial women. The road has not been easy. There is still a long way to go and many important goals to reach, such as ringing the bell at the New York Stock Exchange before the end of the year.
Here are some of the most important lessons I learned along the way.
- Bet on your passion. The first thing you have to do is to find a cause that you feel passionate about: one that makes your heart skip a beat. Startups are all about finding a passion and transforming it into an idea with impact. It takes permanent effort and courage, and you can only keep it together if it is founded on something that you absolutely love. I am convinced that the key to financial success for entrepreneurs is for them to not focus on generating positive social, economic and environmental impact (#People, #profit and #planet) instead of on earning money. TransparentBusiness was founded because I was on a mission to provide flexible work opportunities to the world: this is the driving force of my business and of my daily existence as an entrepreneur.
- Recognize your talent and your ability. “Impostor Syndrome” happens when a person is unable to admit his or her own achievements. It can affect women in any position or any form of employment, but it becomes all too evident when it comes time for a woman to request funding for a personal project. Women historically obtain less funding than men, and we also ask for less so whenever we get it, we get less. If you are a woman in search of funding, my advice to you is that you learn to ask: prepare until you feel comfortable talking about money and are able to negotiate, which also entails saying no. Women are still shy about asking for business capital, and we often limit ourselves to raising only the minimum amount needed to carry out our project.
- Create a personal brand. After conceiving the idea for a business, entrepreneurs have to work on their narrative (storytelling) and think about the platforms they are going to use to get their message out. The key here is to understand what your business is, what your vision is, how you are going to create and narrate your own story. Although we tend to be strong conversationalists, the narrative of women who are starting a business often lacks solidity. It is imperative that there be some value for the audience. With a real message, and through the correct channels, your personal brand is certain to have an impact. Once you achieve that, you are well on your way to succeeding.
- Bend the rules, but do not break them (“Skirt the Rules”). In our funding rounds, we follow this idea: bend the traditional rules without breaking them. We set out to raise capital through a global private stock offer, a legal tool that allows the stock sale of a pre-IPO company to be publicized to accredited investors in the United States and other parts of the world. Our strategy was to make investment more accessible in order to assemble an international army of brand ambassadors. The concept is so powerful that this is how we refer to the community of entrepreneurs that we will soon be launching, bringing together women entrepreneurs from all over the world to share the tools, the techniques and the knowledge that will help them take their business to the next level.
- Create a network of contacts. To successfully start a business, it is very important to build relationships and social capital. Businesses are a contact sport: if you cannot establish genuine, mutually beneficial relationships, you simply cannot do business. You have to build relationships across the board, with mentors or sponsors that help position your brand, and with consumers and peers to help you obtain buy-in and create awareness.
- Resilience. “Being brave does not mean not being afraid. It means that you are able to dominate the fear. It means getting up again after the last fall,” as said by one of the entrepreneurs that I most admire: Arianna Huffington.
Starting a business is not easy and, oftentimes, it means picking yourself up by your bootstraps. However, demonstrating your conviction and your adaptability are key to getting funded. When you pitch the project to investors, you have to act like a winner. You have to show them that you know what you are doing and that you will not stop until you achieve your goals. Because, at the end of the day, entrepreneurs have a great responsibility: with society first, to create companies that resolve important problems, but also with their investors, to fulfill the promises they make. In business, it is essential that we build credibility.
The Numbers for Women
- Only 2% of venture capital is invested in entrepreneurial women.
- Just 0.4% of venture capital funds are invested to startups led by Latin American women.
- For every dollar funded, women generate 78 cents for every 31 cents that men do.
· Funding women is synonymous with greater economic development: a BCG study reveals that supporting entrepreneurial women boosts the economy by some 5 trillion dollars (between 3 and 6% of the Global GDP).