Despite the fact that women-led companies perform three times better than those with male CEOs, women in the U.S. own only five percent of startups and hold only 11 percent of executive positions at Silicon Valley companies. What’s more, women are dramatically less likely to score VC money, leading them to start companies with 50 percent less funding than their male counterparts. Women in the tech and business world undoubtedly have their own sets of obstacles to face, from lack of representation in media to pregnancy stigma.
For tips on how to battle these adversities or even just pitch women-focused products to VCs (who are overwhelmingly male), we spoke to a woman CEO who knows how to get it done. Katia Beauchamp is a Harvard Business School grad who co-founded Birchbox in 2010 and consequently created a new category—subscription sample boxes. Now, Birchbox is valued at $485 million, and there are more than 2,000 “sub-boxes” you can subscribe to.
Here are her tips:
Reinvent the rules
“My cofounder and I didn’t start Birchbox because we were passionate about beauty. In fact, we were quite the opposite, but we were fascinated by the economics behind it. Beauty is a huge global industry and no one had figured out how to bring it online. We didn’t invent samples, but we figured out how to put the customers’ needs first and serve them on their own terms—personalized and delivered right to their doorstep. I see innovation as more than inventing a new product. I see it as an understanding of a paradigm that is shifting or can be shifted and shaking up the status quo.”
Find investors that can relate to the problem you are solving
“It’s a challenge to pitch a female-oriented business to a room of investors who don’t inherently relate to the value proposition and pain points you’re working to solve. When we first started Birchbox, it took many nos before we heard our first yes. In part, we learned to better represent the opportunity, and in part we eventually found investors who did relate to the human value proposition that we saw. It’s worth taking time up front to have a target investor profile so that you allocate your time as effectively as possible.”
Know your stuff
“Try to go in with more than just an idea or prototype. Show you know the unit economics, customer acquisition costs and how you’ll generate revenue and growth. It’s impressive when people have figured this out early on and are able to start out with strong margins before they scale.”
Don’t take no for an answer
“You will hear more nos than yeses. That’s expected, and it’s OK. Vision paired with execution can overcome skepticism and quickly convert the nonbelievers. To minimize nos, keep the ask simple—it needs to be hard and unreasonable to say ‘no’. If that doesn’t fly, don’t be embarrassed to try the simple ask in a new way and stay true to what you are looking to accomplish.”