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