Tips for women entrepreneurs pitching for investment from a VC

Women entrepreneurs tend to undersell themselves and the potential of their businesses when pitching for investment funding, says Anne-Marie Birkill, general partner at venture capital firm OneVentures.


Birkill, who took part in a recent Entrepreneurial Women’s Workshop hosted by Ernst & Young, told StartupSmart that when approaching investors, it was important women were not too modest.


“We need women to sell a story that’s got global significance and potential,” she says.


Birkill says few women-led businesses receive investment funding, which stifles their ability to grow.


“In the absence of funding, they typically don’t achieve scale of more than $1 million in annual turnover.”


She noted that with a substantial number of businesses owned by women – 38% in the US – that meant a substantial number of enterprises were missing out on the opportunity to grow.


Birkill says women need to “dream bigger”, pitch better, develop networks that can lead to introductions to investors, and understand what individual venture capital investors are looking for in terms of the sector they invest in, the returns they’re looking for and their timing for an exit.


She says women can improve their pitching skills by taking tips from mentors, while incubators were good places to develop networks.


Women also needed to not be disheartened by rejection.


“It’s important to persist, persist, persist and don’t take rejection personally.”


Birkill says Australia’s venture capital market was still suffering from the effects of the global financial crisis and that the investment landscape was still “thin”.


She says that while the Australian start-up sector is healthy, with a lot of activity and “amazing” start-ups, a lack of capital will hurt the country as enterprises seeking to reach their full potential either stall as a consequence of lack of capital or move overseas.


“The message for the government is please ensure they continue to support the start-up community with commercialisation grants and timely processing of the R&D tax incentive refunds to help us move the economy from one based on exploiting ‘rocks and crops’ to one based on exploiting our intellectual assets.”


When it comes to start-ups pitching for investment, Birkill says venture capital firms are looking for products and services that address a large, growing and underserviced part of the market or a market problem.


“On top of that we’re looking for people that we think we can work with,” she says, as well as how an idea can be monetised and that the market opportunity has been validated through research.


Birkill says OneVentures is interested in sectors including the education market, health care and particularly health care solutions related to servicing our ageing population, mobile technologies and clean technology.


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