Angel investor's advice for female start-up CEOs

Five years ago, Sydney-based entrepreneur and angel investor Topaz Conway helped convince Kay Koplovitz to bring the Springboard Enterprises’ program to Australia to help female tech entrepreneurs in Australia scale their businesses.

Having been involved with startups in Seattle, Topaz saw the opportunity for a program like Springboard in Australia. She was convinced that the ’next frontier’ for women to win was MONEY. And to change the paradigm where women battled it out in cash-starved businesses, bootstrapping and getting nowhere, women needed access to capital and supportive networks to grow bigger, sustainable, global companies.

Globally, Springboard Enterprises has helped almost 700 companies raise $7.7 billion since 2000. In Australia, the 45 companies who have completed the Accelerator program to date have raised $178 million, with 81% of alums achieving their capital targets.

After more than 20 years in the startup and tech sectors, Topaz has these tips for women pitching to investors to scale or grow their company.

1. Ask for help

Nobody knows everything. Nobody expects that you do.  Find your community of supporters, fellow entrepreneurs, and experience that will help you through the challenges as well as the wins.

2. Love your Numbers

Don’t hide your financials when you talk about your business. Numbers tell the story way better than you! When pitching, while the compelling story behind the problem your technology is solving is the bait, the hook will be the numbers - Sales, revenue, profit, history, forecasts. Know them inside out - love them, be empowered by them. Because the next step is convincing the investors you are the best possible person to achieve those numbers.

Know the answers to these questions...

  • What is the problem you are solving and who is your customer? Where will you find them?
  • How big is that market – be specific. Just because your product is serving the health market, does not mean your addressable market is the whole piece.
  • What will it cost to acquire your customer?
  • Revenue and profit timelines including 1-3-5 year revenue projection? (Beware: J-curves are a kiss of death).

Go in armed with these answers, get these out upfront, and answer with these metrics no matter what the question.

If you don’t know the answers, then enrol in a program like SBE Australia’s E3: Empower, Evolve, Escalate or Springboard Accelerator where you get individualised coaching to help.

3. Be ambitious

Once you have confidence in your knowledge of your business, and you know what your business is worth and what it’s going to take to make it grow, don’t be shy to ask for it.

I’ve seen founders leave hundreds of thousands (even millions) of dollars on the pitch table, not because the investors didn’t think they were worth it, but because the founders didn’t ask! Remember, under-funding is the biggest cause of failure in the startup sector.

Don’t squander the advice or waste the investor opportunity. Learn from every conversation, pitch, or program you encounter. And don’t forget to thank the people who help you for their feedback.

4. Practice, practice, practice

Practice and re-practice the pitch. Pitch to your friends, your family, your dog! It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it. Be genuine, be confident, be knowledgeable about your space/company/product.

Stance, tone of voice, and eye contact as well as how to take inappropriate or irrelevant questions and turn them around are some of the areas that make a difference in your pitch and SBE Australia’s experts focus on with our cohorts.

SBE Australia exists to coach and help female tech founders grow and scale their companies. Find out more about SBE Australia’s E3: Empower, Evolve, Escalate or Springboard Accelerator programs and 2018 intakes online or contact us at info@sbeaustralia.org