Jesse Draper knows a thing or two about fundraising. The fourth-generation venture capitalist is the founding partner of Halogen Ventures, an early stage venture capital fund based in Los Angeles. Halogen Ventures invests in consumer tech startups like Glamsquad and Good Mylk Co., that are led by at least one female founder.
“Female-led businesses represent a massive opportunity,” says Draper. “With women making 80% of household purchasing decisions, we are betting on early stage companies with billion dollar potential.” An open book when it comes to the importance of investing in women, we sat down with Draper to ask her what, exactly, she’s looking for when vetting founders. Here are the five things she says every female founder must do if they want to be successful when fundraising.
Solve A Problem
Draper sees over a thousand deals a year, so she’s always looking for visionary founders who are solving a problem. The bigger the problem, the better. Take hunger and food waste, for example. The statistics are staggering: 1 in 7 people are food insecure, yet 72 billion pounds of perfectly edible food ends up in landfills every year.
Enter Goodr, a sustainable surplus food management platform that leverages technology to reduce food waste and combat hunger. Halogen Ventures invested in founder and CEO Jasmine Crowe because while her mission was simple, to feed more and waste less, her company was also solving a massive problem.
One of the things that surprises Draper the most is when founders are unaware of how big their market is. Before you even attempt to pitch investors, she says, you better know your market size. If you’re thinking of pitching Halogen Ventures, she’s looking for groundbreaking technologies and products whose market is over a billion dollars.
Take the global feminine hygiene product market for example. Anticipated to surpass $30 billion by 2025, Draper saw a great opportunity in Flex, a direct-to-consumer menstrual disc brand with several alternate tampon devices. The female founder had a problem she needed to solve and created a solution that she knew would be viable for half of the population.
As a founder, I know how easy it is to get stuck in your own head and want to wait until you have everything figured out before you start talking to investors. From the concept to the business plan to the pitch deck, you want your first impression to be perfect.
Draper says to throw that out the window. If you have a good idea, she wants to know about it. At Halogen Ventures, she likes to get in as early as the pre-seed stage, when founders may not even have a deck. Or if they do, it might be messy and all over the place, but she wants to see it anyways. Don’t apologize for not having everything perfect, she says. Ditch perfection because it can be paralyzing.
Every chance you get, share your idea with others. Meet as many investors as you can, network, give your elevator speech and get feedback. What sounds good in your head and looks good on paper also needs to be validated by potential customers. You need proof that there’s a need for your business.
On the other hand, you also need to be able to take feedback and constructive criticism. Draper says she’s open to crazy ideas, but she also looks for founders who are willing to be coached and listen to feedback. At Halogen Ventures, they take pride in being hands on and supporting founders through their full lifecycle
Most successful founders share the same quality, confidence. According to Draper, she loves entrepreneurs who are fighters and hustlers. They have an idea that they believe in and they own it. She encourages all female founders to brag about their idea every chance they get. Own it, brag about it and shout it from the rooftops. Because if you’re not doing it, who will?