Statistics show female entrepreneurs get awarded funding at a disproportionately smaller rate than their male peers, even though women who receive venture funding bring in 12% more revenue than male-owned tech companies and are likely to have greater success overall.
Why the imbalance? The abysmal presence of female VCs, low numbers of females pitching, and the prevalent gender bias we have, are just some examples. To help overcome this, I’ve created these three tips, based on the most common mistakes women make when delivering their business idea pitch.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Pitching your idea for the first time is already a daunting task, so you want to eliminate anything that could prevent you from delivering what you want to say clearly and confidently. Practice your pitch in front of the mirror over and over until it is ingrained and flows naturally. You may even want to set up a video record so that you can play it back. Self-awareness is one of your most valuable weapons when it comes to pitching, so having a video copy, as daunting as it sounds, can be really useful in helping highlight your weaknesses to better your performance.
Once you’re done practicing alone then go out and practice your pitch in front of different people: work colleagues, friends, mentors, family. They should be a mix of age and gender and preferably not all familiar with your industry or business cvoncept. I say this because in most cases, women will often find themselves pitching to an all-male group of VCs and it’s natural to feel uncomfortable about this, especially if your product is aimed at a female market.
I know of a woman who once pitched her online childcare service to an all male panel who had never looked for a babysitter because their wives always handled that area. In an instance like this, your audience may not have had relevant experience related to your business idea, and without practice, their reaction or lack of engagement could be off putting. Being prepared for different (or, frustratingly, the same) investors will leave you feeling more prepared and confident in your approach.
Avoid industry jargon and buzz words
Remember that not everyone will understand your industry as well as you do, especially if your idea is esoteric, age or gender-targeted. So when making an impression in such a short amount of time it’s important to focus on getting your key points and messages across, instead of using industry terms that people may not understand, or having to spend time defining what these terms mean, in the hope that you will appear educated on the topic.
I once heard a pitch from a woman who was working in the health industry. Her solution and product was truly groundbreaking. However, when she tried to explain what it was, no one could understand what she was talking about and in the end, they tuned out. My number 1 tip in this instance is to have someone from outside your industry, interest or target market listen to your pitch. If they can’t understand your idea, chances are, neither will a board of potential investors.
Don’t spend too much time explaining the problem
This is something I see both men and women do, regularly. So many times, I’ve heard pitches where the founder focuses too much on the problem and doesn’t spend enough time talking about what the solution is and why they their idea is the best way to solve it. We all understand you are passionate about the problem you’re trying to solve and explaining the issue is important. However, developing a well-balanced pitch involves touching on these elements while focusing more closely on the solution you have developed.
My advice is to highlight the problem clearly, don’t try and solve multiple problems, and finally, outline simply why current solutions are inadequate. This way you will ensure people don’t switch off. Understandably, investors get more excited about the strategy of your solution than the problem you’re tackling.
While these are my top three tips for delivering your best pitch yet, I also think we need to see some action from the other side of the pitch fence. By this I mean we need more women in leadership positions, making the decisions of who gets the money and how much, in order to see a real shift in the number of female led business ideas attracting the right level of funding.
Furthermore, whether gender discrimination is intentional or not, it’s limiting the access female entrepreneurs have to funding, and evidently needs a greater push to break down these barriers. Investors, lenders and other financial firms need to be open to greater education on the potential of women to improve the business world.
Christie Whitehill is an award-winning entrepreneur and mentor in the Australian tech space. She is the founder and CEO of Tech Ready Women – an accelerator program specifically designed for non-tech female founders who want to step confidently into the tech space. They work towards not only up-skilling women in tech start-ups, but also giving them opportunities for funding and eventually working towards the establishment of our own fund solely for women led businesses. For more information, visit https://www.techreadywomen.academy/