The Female Founder Initiative is directly addressing the stark funding discrepancy between men (who got 97% of VC funding in 2019) and women entrepreneurs in an educational series of “Ask-Me-Anything” webinars in 2020. The following videos are from of our February AMA that featured Amy Wu, Partner at Lightspeed Venture Partners.
Being coachable > being humble
Wu explains why VCs ask the hard questions,
You don't really--honestly--need humility in a pitch. That's honestly not even what investors are looking for. We're looking for coachability, right? And so a lot of early stage founders will actually ask what you might consider to be 'tough questions.' What they're really trying to get after is not trying to be abrasive, but under pressure, how do you react as a founder? Have you thought about your market, and your challenge, and your pain points like five layers deep [and] not surface level?
Leveraging your network, doing your research, adding value
Push past feeing uncomfortable and ask people in your network for connections. Wu encourages,
Male founders are great at leveraging their network and getting warm intros. [...] And as a female founder, you've got to just do that as well. And a lot of the networks that actually are going to have the most leads for you are going to be male networks. And, you know, you have every right to be part of that. Just put yourself out there a little bit uncomfortably and just ask for the introductions to the people that you want to [speak with].
Pre-seed stage: convertible or safe?
Because the legal aspects of safes aren't as complicated as convertibles, Wu has noticed that safes are used more frequently. She followed this by urging founders to put effort into designing the pitch decks they present in VC meetings:
Something that's well polished gets a little bit less scrutiny than something that's less [polished]. And that's just human nature. So it always doesn't hurt to just maybe pay a designer and just have a really polished deck.
On being 50-75% assertive
Do you feel like women are judged a little more harshly? [If] so, there's less room for them to be more assertive. What should female founders do about it?
It's a good question because I think women are absolutely judged more harshly in this spectrum of passive to hyper passive/hyper assertive. If a guy is in the middle of the spectrum to extreme assertiveness, people [think] "Oh, wow, they're so visionary!" [...]
The target zone is like 50 - 75% assertive [for women founders] because the people who are in the 75 - 100% assertive, I've absolutely heard male colleagues in the industry saying, like, "Oh gosh, that woman is too assertive." I have found that inspires a reaction in a lot of men that's unfavorable. I have personally been told so many times in my career... 'Maybe you should just like make fewer comments' in the investment committee, or 'maybe you should just speak up a little bit less.'
I've been told I've been 'too assertive' my entire career. I kind of have the mindset of, 'I don't care. I have an idea. I want to express it.' But you're gonna have to be ready for that pushback from people who are just offended.
And it happens. I get it all the time. And so you either need to have a thick skin because it will happen, or if you want to make your life the easiest, again, [go with] that 50 - 75th percentile.
Full video here
About Amy Wu
Wu joined Lightspeed in 2019, having previously enjoyed both sides of the table as both an investor and operator. She was an executive for several years most recently at Discovery, Inc, a global media company with 17 TV networks in 220 countries, and a news credit growth stage marketing software company based in New York City, where she helped raise over 60 million. She got a BA from Harvard and majored in biochemical sciences. Axiom and Ben Thompson Stratechery are two of the top sources Wu regularly checks to stay up-to-date with a variety of verticals.
The Female Founder Initiative hopes to see answer your questions in an upcoming webinar!