Perspectives from Female Founders & Funders @ L-Spark

This afternoon, I had the opportunity to attend L-Spark’s event to celebrate women founders, funders and mentors.

On March 8th, L-Spark launched its initiative to build the largest database of Canadian female founders, funders, and the organizations that support them and they need OUR help. They know lists like the one being built are only helpful, useful, and successful if everyone in the ecosystem is represented.  There are two calls to action:

  1. Help create an impactful list to support female-led companies and female funder – add yourself, your colleagues and anyone else who falls into one of three categories (founder, funder or supporting org) on to the sheet
  2. When someone says,
    1. “I can’t find female founders to invest in!”, send them this list
    2. “I can’t find female funders to connect to!”, send them this list
    3. “I can’t find qualified women to serve on my board!”, send them this list
    4. “Nothing great is happening in Canada!”, send them this list

Panel #1: Multiplying Success: Why Investing in Women-Led Businesses is Smart Business

It was moderated by Tanya Hill-Larivière who talked about the stats on participation and advancement of women leaders in technology, as presented in the #MOVETHEDIAL benchmark study done last year.

This first panel featured:

  • Diana Davies-Harju, CMO of Magnify
  • Suzanne Grant, CEO and Co-founder of iBIONICs (see Suzanne’s FinanciElle “Statements” interview)
  • Vicki Iverson, co-founder and CTO of Iversoft
  • Jennifer Francis, Principal of Café Noir Consulting

Q1. (To the panel) What are the challenges in raising money, compared to mail counterparts?

One of the points that stuck out to me is the unconscious bias that happens when a woman goes to pitch. Vicki referenced a Harvard Business Review Article, “Male and Female Entrepreneurs Get Asked Different Questions by VCs — and It Affects How Much Funding They Get”.

The study that was done showed that women generally tend to be asked prevention questions, which are more negative and require that they defend themselves, whereas, men are more likely to be asked promotion questions, which are more positive. The tip mentioned was that even if you’re asked a prevention question, you can answer it as though you’ve been asked another, promoting, question instead, in order to change the narrative.

Q2. (To Jennifer who is the chair of the Capital Angel Networks) what are the differences in how women and men pitch?

Jennifer talked about how the type of questions that get asked by investors tends to be guided by the pitch, and how men and women pitch tend to be different.

In general, and by and large:

  • Male – go in talking about how huge the opportunity is, they project hockey stick growth where by the third year they’re making tons of money and they ask for a lot of money, they talk about the best case
  • Female – do a lot of work on the financial plan and go in with what’s probable, achievable, and likely, they are perceived as less ambitious, they usually ask for the minimum they need to make it work

These differences lead to different conversations.

Investors are generally looking for 10x their return, not because they think every investment will return 10x, but, because they know that only a few companies will generate that, and they need that to make up for all the potential losses. They know that there’s a variation between what they’re pitched, and reality, and they discount for that risk.

If an investor is discounting something that’s already low, it becomes un-investible.

Q3. (To the panel) How can we move the dial?

  • Through programs like Technovation
  • Role models and action, including male feminists – a rising tide, lifts all boats


Panel #2: Female Founders Panel

The second panel featured:

  • Terri Storey, Founder & President of Terrace Wellness Group, Terrace Youth Residential Services, and Terrace Wellness Center
  • Lindy Ledohowski, Co-founder EssayJack Inc.
  • Karla Briones, Founder of Karla Briones Consulting, Owner of Freshii, Global Pet Foods, and Frida’s Attic ( Stay tuned for Karla’s FinanciElle “Statements” interview coming July 2018)
  • Susan Richards CPA, Founder of Numbercrunch and Givopoly ( Stay tuned for Susan’s FinanciElle “Statements” interview coming June 2018)

When the panel was asked what they wish they could do over, they said the following:

  • Raise capital in order to scale
  • Recognize the need for capital before being so stretched out
  • Nine women can’t make a baby in a month ( slow down! not everything can be rushed, some processes take as long as they’re going to take and pushing more resources at the situation and adding more pressure won’t make it happen any sooner)
  • Stop trying to be everything to everybody all the time – prioritize where you’re suited best
  • Don’t hire people based on potential and try to make a fit when there isn’t one

When asked, what the best advice they got was:

  • Susan
    1. necessity is the mother of invention
    2. think critically about your business model
  • Karla
    1. hire slow, fire fast
    2. hire the best people and then get out of their way
  • Terri
    1. Enjoy every moment and experience
    2. Study a lot of companies that had users and failed, then study the successes

To cap of the day, we heard from Sarah Daniele, the CEO and co-founder of Mydoma Studio, who’s gone through the L-spark program, and she left us with a piece of advice that she heard at an event:

  • You can’t compare your beginning or middle to someone’s end

During the event, Willis College announced the Women in Technology Scholarship (WITS) in Cyber security Education. A total of three $25,000 scholarships will be awarded annually over a three-year period (2018, 2019, and 2020).

The afternoon began with Solange Tuyishime, UNICEF Canada Ambassador, President of Elevate International, and former Miss Canada giving a call to action. Too often, we go to an event and get inspired and then what?

The information and discussions that followed helped to set the tone and provide steps to action.


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