It is easier to conduct an experiment in space than raise funds

Dr. Fatma Kaplan
6 min readMay 13

"Are you worried that funding is going down, Fatma?" asked one of Pheronym's investors a few months ago.

“No," I said. "It seems like everyone is going to be experiencing funding the way we/women founders experience it all the time."

Techcrunch states, "Women-founded startups raised 1.9% of all VC funds in 2022, a drop from 2021". This is even worse for minority-founded startups. For example, last year, Latina-founded startups raised 0.44 %, and black women-founded startups raised 0.41% of all VC funds, according to Project Diane. Imagine fundraising as a first-time entrepreneur with an ethnic name like Fatma. I had an easier time conducting an experiment in Space at the International Space Station than fundraising from investors.

Sonoran Desert April 2023

Women founders' funding environment is like the rain in the Sonoran Desert, a green desert where plants had to develop many strategies to thrive in these harsh conditions. Very early on my entrepreneurship journey, I noticed that investor funding was not as readily available to me as to peer startup founders in accelerators and mentorship programs I participated. Furthermore, the criteria I was held up to were more stringent. The terms my peers and I got were like day and night. To bring Pheronym's technology to the farmers, I had to develop funding strategies. I always had to have multiple backup plans (Plan A, B, C, D, E….). In addition, I had to have a very diverse funding strategy (a mixture of dilutive and nondilutive funds) from various sources such as incubators, accelerators, fellowships, mentorship programs, grants, and more. With the tight capital access, I had to be very capital and time efficient. The milestone plans always included accomplishing the maximum number of milestones. Since I don't get the terms my peers get, I had to be strategic to allow Pheronym to walk away from bad terms and be ready for a great opportunity.

You may think, “If women founders are so resourceful, why do they need money from venture capitalists (VCs)?" High-impact technologies require passion, time, and money to commercialize.

Fundraising from investors has one aspect that I learned the hard way. I've heard “Investors invest in the founders/teams, not the ideas" more times than I care to remember…

Dr. Fatma Kaplan