The Lip Gloss Gap: Lilac Watt, Venrex
23/08/2023 by The Red Tree
"Be open to feedback and learn from each interaction, whether it leads to funding or not. Take the opportunity to refine your pitch and business strategy based on the insights you gain from potential investors.”
What is your role?
I am an Investment and Marketing Associate at Venrex. Venrex is a UK-based venture capital firm that backs creative founders to launch and build innovative businesses where consumer industries are impacted by technology. We invest at the pre-seed and seed stages, backing businesses across beauty, femtech, fashion, fintech and many more. Some notable female founded businesses in our portfolio include Charlotte Tilbury, VIEVE, Hertility, Tala, ME+EM and the list goes on.
What’s been your experience of working with female founders?
I am very lucky to be at Venrex where 43% of our investments have a female founder or co-founder. We are also a female heavy team, so I think it is brilliant to have access to so many powerful and driven women to teach me along my Venture experience.
The sectors I spend most of my exploring are fashion, beauty and consumer products, which are industries typically dominated by women. I think the female founder community is world class, although they are underrepresented, it definitely feels more like a community than a collection of male founders. Seeing the community effect that female funds, female accelerators, and female founders create is incredibly powerful, so I hope to keep surrounding myself by these women and help where I can.
Why do you think the female fundraising gap is so stark?
I think there are a few things that contribute to this, whether it is societal, cultural or even structural factors. Firstly, women are massively under-represented among both venture-backed entrepreneurs and VC investors. According to Harvard Business Review, companies founded solely by women receiving less than 3% of all venture capital investments and women accounting for less than 15% of check-writers.
Investors, consciously or unconsciously, may hold biases that affect their decision-making processes and lead to fewer funding opportunities for women-led ventures. Surrounding yourself by other female entrepreneurs, networks or investors, naturally, will mean that you see more deals run by or led by females.
"The underrepresentation of women in leadership roles and venture capital firms has an impact on funding decisions."
When decision-makers and investors are predominantly male, they may be more inclined to invest in entrepreneurs who resemble them, resulting in a bias against women-led start-ups.
Investors often perceive female-led ventures as riskier investments, even though research suggests that women-owned businesses can deliver strong financial returns. Additionally, women may face a confidence gap, resulting from societal expectations and systemic barriers, which can affect their ability to confidently pitch their ideas and secure funding. This is why it is so important to do your homework on funds that suit your business and find partners that understand your long-term vision.
What do you think needs to happen to help close the female fundraising gap?
To put it simply we need more female founders and female funders, full stop. Addressing the stark female fundraising gap requires united efforts to challenge gender biases, promote diversity and inclusion in investment decision-making, increased access to networks and mentorship for women entrepreneurs, that provide support and resources to overcome structural barriers. We need more women pushing diversity in businesses, even if they do so with a male co-founder or ally.
I think promoting awareness and education about the existence and impact of the female fundraising gap is so necessary. It is also about educating women that we can do anything that men can do, so let’s do it better. Being encouraged to follow your entrepreneurial spirit will make such a difference to future business, whether this is in schools or universities. Education initiatives can help debunk gender stereotypes, biases, and misconceptions, fostering a more inclusive and equitable entrepreneurial ecosystem.
There are some phenomenal groups dedicated to nurturing female start-up talent such as incubators and accelerators, female-focused investment funds and VCs and advocacy and mentoring organisations, there just needs to be easier access and attention to how to find them.
Here are a few I turn to:
Founder’s Social by Tamta Gamezardashvili
What advice would you give to female fundraisers?
Believe in yourself and your venture: Have confidence in your abilities and the value of your business. Develop a strong belief in your vision and the impact your venture can make. If you are building a standout business and believe you are right to execute it, it will happen with the right partners.
Build a strong network: Cultivate a diverse and supportive network of mentors, advisors, and fellow entrepreneurs. Seek out communities and organisations that specifically support and empower women in entrepreneurship. Leverage these connections for guidance, feedback, and potential introductions to investors.
Seek feedback and iterate: Be open to feedback and learn from each interaction, whether it leads to funding or not. Take the opportunity to refine your pitch and business strategy based on the insights you gain from potential investors. Continuous improvement and learning are essential in the fundraising journey.
The Lip Gloss Gap is a series by The Red Tree shining a light on the role that the beauty industry plays in closing the female fundraising gap. The series will feature interviews with founders and fundraisers which will be released monthly. We invite you to share your experiences as we continue the conversation.
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