As part of my series about “the five things we need to do to close the VC gender gap” I had the pleasure of interviewing Jenny Q. Ta. Jenny is a veteran Wall Street self-made millionaire and entrepreneur with two successful ventures to her credit. She was the Founder and CEO of Titan Securities, a full-service broker-dealer and investment banking firm that was acquired in 2005. Prior to founding Titan Securities she was the Founder, CEO and driving force behind Vantage Investments, also a full-service broker-dealer and investment banking firm she founded in her twenties and grew to a third of a billion dollars in assets. Ms. Ta is the mastermind behind two tech companies VCNetwork.co, a virtual “E-Harmony meets Shark Tank” matching entrepreneurs with VCs and Sqeeqee.com, the first “social networthing” platform. Overall, she has firsthand and extensive experiences in senior executive management, sales, marketing, finance, and the FinTech industry exploring the opportunities that cryptocurrencies, blockchain and other distributed ledger technologies create.
Thank you so much for joining us, let’s jump right in. According to this article in Fortune, only 2.2% of VC dollars went to women in 2018. Can you recommend 5 things that need to be done on a broader societal level to close the VC gender gap, and explain?
Only 2 to 2.2 percent of U.S. venture capital deals go to women founders and CEOs two years in a row, 2017 and 2018.
As one of the invited speakers of IEEE’s Women in Engineering International Leadership Conference [http://ieee-wie-ilc.org/speakers/] two years in a row, I was able to speak to a number of female founders and CEOs asking for ways to increase their odds of getting in front of as many venture capital firms as possible to get a higher chance of receiving funding. Being a serial entrepreneur with two successful exits, now on my third, a private and secure decentralized empowered by blockchain, and a fourth, an investment group that now houses more than 500,000 investors across five countries, here are my five key points to close the VC gender gap:
- Make powerful pitches. Basically, get aggressive! Since over 90 percent of most partners at VC firms are men, not being direct will give them an impression of female founders falling short of making powerful presentations. Women entrepreneurs tend to be humble and less assertive, which wouldn’t help the men to see how driven she is of leading and running her company to unicorn status. Women founders need to sell yourself with confidence.
- Outline the success rate of female founders. There is an inbuilt stereotype and bias among most VCs that female founders are less likely to succeed, and thus, they are given half the funding of men, but in reality, female founders return twice as much! Since most VCs do not know of this data, adding such information would be a key point to remind them of the success rate of female founders. According to BCG research, male founders receive $2.12 million versus just $935,000 for female founders. However, female founders generate $730,000 in revenue versus that of $662,000 for males.
- Take the challenge. Since most VCs are men, a majority of the pitches will be directed to men who mostly will have an unconscious bias towards women. They tend to challenge women founders more than their counterparts. According to BCG research, during pitch presentations they are being asked for their basic understanding of their technical skills or knowledge. If the female founder has a male co-founder, VCs tend to direct technical questions to the male co- founder. Female founders should take the challenge and divert all technical questions back to them.
- Make aggressive and bold projections. Male founders are more likely to make bolder unicorn (i.e — a startup valued at over $1B) status projections than women when it comes to pitching. It is with such aggressiveness go-getter attitude that attracts other men to take the funding risk. Most VCs have a “go big or go home” attitude, and they don’t make investments on conservative returns. Women are mostly conservatives by nature, so tend to walk the talk and would only share results when they are certain to achieve.
- Outline past successes and exits. Female entrepreneurs tend to be perceived as incompetent, outsiders, not aggressive enough, and not a go-getter, therefore, concluded to not being able to achieve great results. Albert Einstein once said, “If you want to know the future, look at the past.” If you’re a founder with a previous exit, raising capital should be a walk in the park and can be a phone call away. Typically, previously exited founders have a much higher chance of having another exit. Successful serial entrepreneurs are shown to be more likely to replicate the success of their past companies than first-time entrepreneurs. Female founders should aggressively outline past successes and exits when possible.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂
“No ifs, ands, or buts, fund women!”
Who’s a female entrepreneur/ VC you respect and why?
Kara Swisher is not a VC, but she is a successful journalist and entrepreneur who co-founded Recode. I respect Ms. Swisher not only because she’s a great female influencer in tech at the center of Silicon Valley, but also because she makes a difference by speaking her truth regardless of what people will say.
What do you think is the purpose and real impact of VC funds who focalize their work in women and minorities?
At the current moment there are not many VC funds that are walking the walk. Everyone talks about it, but obviously plans are just words without execution. If there is real purpose and real impact, VC funding in female-founded businesses wouldn’t be stagnated at only 2.2 percent for two years in a row.
Can you share with us an anecdote about the real impact you’ve had in this field?
I have been a mentor to a dozen startups in the Silicon Beach area, mostly female-founded businesses within the last few years. What I am most proud of is being able to guide and assist some of these female founders in saving hundreds of thousands in legal fees. While funding is still a national problem, saving expenses is a form of funding through bootstrapping.
Some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂
This is a tough one, and if I’m going to speak my truth then it is a toss between these women: Angela Merkel/Hillary Clinton, Chief Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Melinda Gates. Each for a different reason, and I believe if combined, they can change the world to benefit women.