On Wednesday, June 12th Tampa Bay Wave hosted a panel discussing Funding Options for Female Tech Entrepreneurs to engage with the local female entrepreneur community and allow for open conversation regarding funding options and tips from some of Tampa’s most experienced investors.
Our incredible moderator Robyn Spoto, CEO of SpotOn Digital Media, lead the panel by first asking how a first time CEO should go about deciding how much money he/she may need. Our panel was comprised of Penny Parks, president and founder of Links Financial LLC, Rachel West, who has advised and evolved some of the worlds most successful companies, Garrett Voneye, SBA business development officer team lead at Valley Bank, Saxom Baum, Director of Investor Relations at Florida Funders, and Marta Glazier, managing director of Hegemon Capital. One of the first pieces of advice given was that it is crucial for a CEO to learn how their company will be making money before going out to raise money. Baum lead the charge by adding that he “loves to see a founder with their own skin in the game.” Meaning, when a founder is willing to put some of their own capital on the line they are considered a more promising investment. The entire panel was in agreement that this risk shows a certain level of commitment and optimism that gives investors a higher level of interest.
The panel spent quite a bit of time discussing the various red flags that a company could display during an investment meeting. One in particular stood out. Most of the panelists agreed that if the company’s CEO isn’t the main salesperson, that they are wasting one of their most valuable assets. This stands across the board, not only for female entrepreneurs. A CEO is the best person to get out there and tell a company’s story, especially early on. Of course the question is then raised: “How do you balance selling your product and networking to raise capital?” The simple answer is that they both need to be a part of your daily life. Most people have routines and habits that they follow. As a tech entrepreneur, especially as a female, you have to work twice as hard to incorporate networking events and opportunities into your everyday schedule.
Being a female focused event, our attendees had several questions about navigating gender bias when meeting with potential investors. One of the attendees specifically asked about the concern of a female CEO taking maternity leave and juggling motherhood with a business. Rachel West served up one of the most inspirational responses to this question, and something that needs to be understood more deeply in the tech community. She stated that “the most important thing in these meetings is to learn how to take a preventative question and turn it in to a promotional answer. For example, in response to an attendee who is founding her company with her husband equally, Rachel suggested the following answer. “My husband and I are starting this company together, that’s our first child, so we feel entirely ready to raise our second.”
What many people fail to understand is that to a founder, their company is their baby. They put their whole hearts into building this business from ideation all the way through launch. It takes hard work, commitment, and lots of strategy. This event focused on these types of founders. The ones who juggle mothering a company, and mothering a child. The ones who dream big and simply need guidance to get their products into the right hands. We thank our panelists for their candid remarks and for helping us to further educate our community on the ways that that can overcome specific struggles on their journey as entrepreneurs.