Raising money as a woman founder is tough.
According to the Harvard Business Review (HBR), women are getting about 2% of the VC funding, despite owning 38% of businesses. According to Fortune (Fortune), in 2016, 5,839 companies with all male founders received venture capital funding compared to only 359 with female founders. The men received 16X more funding than companies founded by women. In 2016, women led companies represented nearly 5% of VC deals, up from 10 years ago when women led companies represented less than 3% of deals. While this was a bit of an improvement, sadly however, the average value for women led companies was down 25%; $4.5 million compared with slightly over $6 million in 2015.
The numbers vary depending on the source, but in no case are they any good for women entrepreneurs.
I am glad I didn’t know these numbers when I became an entrepreneur. They certainly would have given me pause. However, progress is made by the fearless. Being a woman in business means there is often a reason to pause, and we mustn’t. My company is hoping to raise $1 million in the next year, so while the numbers above are daunting, we move forward… fearlessly.
iSPY is a technology driven business that helps Creative Pros search for images (stills and video) across platforms.
The core of what we do is simultaneous search. We save our users a lot of time. In addition, we are connecting our users to legally, licensable content, unlike Google and other more general search aggregation tools. Creative Pros can search their favorite image sources, or find new creative resources. In addition, we offer our users a creative workspace full of collaboration tools to make the journey from concept to campaign far easier. Not only can they collaborate with team members, but through iSPY they can gain direct access to the image providers; making requests for similars or variations simpler. Users are able to manage projects, all from their iSPY dashboard, including uploading documents, project briefs, storyboards, and image licenses. Also, companies are able to manage teams with administration and enterprise rights. In addition, we offer access to resources with one click that the user might not know existed. We offer advanced search to aid in finding the best content that meets the users needs. In the end, we are a tool but also a creative resource.
To date, iSPY has raised $150,000.00 and we are in beta. We expect to begin generating revenue in the coming months, and are positioned where we can start raising growth capital in a Series A round. I know that we need to grow quickly to be able to cement our position in the industry. To do this, I will be seeking $1 million.
So, in light of the statistics above, how do we move forward? By using our network, connecting with clients, and proving that we are meeting the needs of a dynamic marketplace. Proving we have a good product, however, may not be enough. It is difficult to understand why women founders are so underfunded. But, I am not sure it really matters. As women, we must deal with it. The question I am more interested in is how we change it. One way is to get more women involved in investing. I am pleased to say that of 7 early investors in iSPY, 4 are women. I am looking for funding from investors that see the value in what we are doing and aim to support a more diverse entrepreneurial environment. So, while raising money as a woman founder is tough, it is a challenge I am tackling with enthusiasm and confidence.
Stay tuned as I will be documenting this journey; sharing the trials and tribulations of raising money as a woman founder. We may or may not succeed but I will be sharing it all – what we do right, the misses, and in the end, if we accomplish our goal.
Leslie Hughes is the CEO and Founder of iSPY Technologies, Inc. and iSPY Visuals, an intelligent search tool and workspace for visual content users. Hughes has over 20 years experience in digital media licensing, content production, and distribution, including having been President of Bill Gates’ Corbis Images, and President of the Markets and Products Group for Corbis Corp. She became an entrepreneur 10 years ago. Hughes has consulted or been part of 6 start-ups and 12 acquisitions. She has an MBA from the Cox School of Business at Southern Methodist University, is the proud mother of two and lives and works in New York.