In Review: Bloom Presents International Women's Day 2022
Updated: Mar 10
This year's 'Bloom Presents' panel event for International Women's Day spotlit female founders who succeeded in raising capital for their tech businesses, along with changemaking investors who are making waves in the VC world.
Whilst we are still a way off achieving gender parity (the World Economic Forum calculates it will now take 135.6 years to close the global gender gap), we are moving in the right direction. 2021 saw a record number of female-founded successes, with the UK leading the way in Europe for female-led exits, among a total 19 IPOs.
Featuring Saloni Bhojwani, Partner Pink Salt Ventures; Tash Grossman, CEO & Co-Founder of Slip; Andy Davis, Co-Founder of 10x10, and; Jillian Kowalchuk, Founder & CEO, Safe & The City, now is a time to share stories of success and spread optimism.
Clockwise from top left: Tash Grossman, CEO & Co-Founder of Slip; Saloni Bhojwani, Partner Pink Salt Ventures; Jillian Kowalchuk, Founder & CEO, Safe & The City; Andy Davis, Co-Founder of 10x10.
Opening with Tash's experience raising venture capital for her retailtech startup, Slip, the 29 Under 29 retailtech star decided to go big with her first fundraising goal of securing £750k investment. "Go big or go home," she quipped. Of course, like any fundraising founder, she found the fundraising process itself all-consuming, turning into a full-time job. She also experienced a lot of rejection - which was understandably painful - or saw no answer at all, which was frustrating in equal amounts.
Investors Saloni and Andy chimed in from the investment side of the fence, citing the limitation in both time and funds available when it comes to investing in new deals, but reminded everyone that it's the investors who miss out on the opportunities.
"Investors actually miss a lot of deals because they don't have the time or the bandwidth to go through all of the inbound." - Saloni Bhojwani, Pink Salt Ventures
Saloni Bhojwani and her co-founder at Pink Salt Ventures, Samira Ann Qassim.
There's nothing like FOMO to get investors acting. With some creative copywriting and hilarious hooks, they shared the ways people have managed to get their attention in a bid for backing their tech business - from tracking down investors on Twitter to compelling one-liners in email subjects.
"When you're going in cold, think about things a little differently; surprise people with subject lines, try to be creative. It's in our DNA as creators, as builders." - Andy Davis, 10x10
Jillian took a different fundraising route for her business, a consumer app that enables the design of safer spaces for the public. As technology that uses using crowdsourced intelligence, it only made sense for Jillian to go down the crowdfunding route for her tech startup. Following two successful campaigns, the business adapted to COVID times to become more of a business-facing SaaS product to generate revenue. Off the back of this pivot, Jillian succeeded in securing £250k in external investment from SHEeo and the Foundation for Integrated Transport. demonstrating the need to evolve and adapt with the changing times.
Safe & the City app by Jillian Kowalchuk
Saloni is also in the process of raising capital for her own fund, Pink Salt Ventures, the UK's first VC firm exclusively for female founders. Saloni candidly shared the frustrations in both her own experience fundraising as well as the same experience founders endure when being made to jump through hoops for potential investment.
"If you look at the performance of female fund managers, diverse-focused funds, all of these things caused outperformance, and yet the amount of capital being allocated to those areas is minuscule at best." - Saloni Bhojwani, Pink Salt Ventures
When asked about the contributing factors to our much-need progress to gender equality, a shift in both mindsets as well as the movement to ESG have contributed to women's success in the workplace. Jillian recounts the findings from Shark Tank investor, Kevin O'Leary's deep dive review of their portfolio and performance, and guess what they found:
"70% of [Kevin O'Leary's] most profitable businesses were female led. If you were seeing results like that on anything you'd be investing in a goat!" - Jillian Kowalchuk, Safe & the City
TEDx Speaker, Jillian Kowalchuk, shows investing in women is just good business sense
There has also been an active effort from VC funds to have more female partners and generally just more women on the team. This has had at least a reasonable impact on the directional flow of funds.
Combine this with the huge changes we've experienced in terms of remote working, flexible policies, culture first environments, and a focus on wellbeing has also shone more of a spotlight on female managers. When VCs talk to founders, one of the key questions they ask is whether the leader will attract - and retain - great talent. This means the "feminine energy" is more in-demand than ever before - so when you imagine the leader of a company now who is checking in on a team's wellbeing and working flexibly, catering to employee needs' and intentional with culture - you don't really imagine a male CEO any more.
Do women attract - and retain - better talent?
It's the expectations of employees that has shifted what employers look like now.
Andy comments, the world is finally waking up to new opportunities, the rules are being re-written. As men, we have to sacrifice our seats and our egos for the greater good.
"Female founders are incredible." - Andy Davis, 10x10
Ending on practical, actionable pieces of advice from the panellists:
"Build big, really amazing businesses, don't sell yourself short, back yourself, and when you make a load of money, back each other, pay it forward, re-invest it into the ecosystem. - Saloni Bhojwani, Pink Salt Ventures
"Ban bossy." - Tash Grossman, Slip
"Invite men into the conversation." - Jillian Kowalchuk, Safe & the City
"Back female founders." - Andy Davis, 10x10
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