Here’s a little food for thought – businesses with at least one female founder are less likely than all-male founded businesses to receive follow-on funding, but more likely to have exited.
Julia Elliott Brown founded Enter The Arena to turn that statistic around. As a serial entrepreneur, Julia has successfully raised millions of pounds in equity finance for business growth from angels, VCs and crowdfunding, both for her own business, and she’s now supported dozens of her amazing female founder clients to do exactly the same. We’re proud to have partnered with Enter The Arena to support many incredible businesses, over ten of which have spoken on their panels.
Here’s what she has to say about the state of private equity for women, and what we can do to bring about positive change in gender equality.
What does Enter the Arena do?
Enter The Arena is the organisation for Female Founders, providing investment expertise and business coaching.
We’re empowering female founders to fly through pre-raise and investment, and on to the exponential growth of their business. Our first hand experience, expert guidance and proven programmes help female founders unleash the wonder woman inside.
We are here to champion the cause of female founders, to level the playing field so they can crush it in the male dominated investment arena. Having successfully raised investment several times, we know what it takes to navigate this challenging process.
Through our straight talking approach and proven programmes, our female founders are propelled to success with newfound clarity and confidence that enables them to seek and secure investment, scale successfully and build a network of high calibre investors.
Does the market currently cater to female founders, and if not, why?
The investment market is waking up to the opportunity that female founders bring in building innovative and exciting businesses that deliver great returns for their backers. Many investors are now actively looking at how they build a more diverse pipeline of prospects, and there are more programmes and events now specifically aimed at improving exposure for female founders to the market. But there is still a long way to go in terms of breaking down the barriers for women.
What is the most common barrier faced by female founders when raising investment?
One of the biggest issues I see is unconscious bias against female founders. It’s very difficult to spot, and most investors aren’t even aware that they are carrying it. But it’s insidious and undermining. There are many preconceived notions that women are more cautious, risk averse, reluctant to grow business, lacking in resources or unable to drive business performance. But these are simply not true. Sadly, women need to work harder than their male counterparts to overcome this.
What have been some of your most inspiring success stories?
Two outstanding examples spring to mind. We worked with Sarah Merrick from Ripple when she first embarked on raising investment for her groundbreaking wind farm initiative, that brings ownership of renewable energy to everyone. We worked closely with Sarah to help her understand the investment ecosystem, determine her fundraising strategy, learn how to speak the language of investors, develop her financial forecasts and pitch deck, and attract and connect with the right potential backers. Sarah raised £750k in a crowdfunding campaign with Seedrs in 2019 with over 1,000 investors joining the round and has since won many awards including Seedr’s ‘Start-up Of The Year’.
Claire Ransom from Seedrs is another great success story, working with Enter The Arena in 2019 on her Seedrs raise to help her navigate the process, manage both the technical and emotional challenges of her first investment round, and over-fund against her target. Since closing her round, Claire joined as a member of The Arena peer advisory group that we run for female founders post-investment, supporting women on the journey to scale their business and transition from founder to CEO with entrepreneurial leadership skills and support through key challenges. Claire’s business has subsequently skyrocketed in 2020, and we’re excited to be helping her with her next raise to capitalise on the momentum she’s achieving.
What are you hoping to accomplish with the Seedrs partnership?
Our goal is always to work in partnership with key players in the investment market to improve the chances of success for female founders. Seedrs is a progressive organisation that has supported many female founders in bringing hundreds of investors together on a round; Enter The Arena’s role is to support as many female founders as possible to be ready to crowdfund, support them through the process in a coaching capacity, and continue to help them with their growth post raise.
What change do you think will be the most important in creating gender equality in the equity fundraising market moving forward?
I would first like to see mandatory measurement of gender and diversity statistics throughout the entire fundraising process, which I think will be extremely eye opening to everyone in the ecosystem in helping to understand where the blockers are. I would also be very supportive of setting targets for what we must achieve with the gender funding gap, in the same way that we’ve embraced targets to address the gender pay gap. If we leave it to market forces to address diversity, I’m afraid we will still talk about inequality in 200 years, which is completely unacceptable.
What advice would you give to aspiring female founders?
Don’t let the stats you see on the amount of funding going to female founders put you off going out there to raise the money you need to grow and scale your business, otherwise it will just become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Get the support you need to help overcome any challenges you face, because you deserve to give yourself the very best chance of success and make a real difference in the world.
To find out more about the incredible work Enter The Arena is doing to empower female founders to grow their businesses, check out their website.