Inspiring Lessons Learned at the Female Founder Fund’s CEO Summit

On Tuesday, February 28th the Female Founders Fund, the largest fund investing in women, hosted their FFF CEO Summit! NeueHouse was filled with excitement as 150 of the most powerful female founders building the next generation of transformational companies gathered in New York City. This year’s theme, “Agents of Change”, was reflected in the thought-provoking programming designed to inspire action and fuel creativity. I had the absolute honor of attending the event, meeting many talented, smart women and engaging in thought-provoking and inspiring conversations. Read below for some of my most memorable takeaways from the event.

Image c/o Female Founders Fund

Fundraising in a “Downturn”:

  • Roughly 2% of $250B in venture capital goes to women. That number has already been trending low with the economic downturn as funds are taking less risks. Unfortunately the dialogue seemed to suggest that this means funds still place female founders in a risk category despite female founders out performing males. Investments in startups that have at least one female founder outperform all-male-founded teams by 63%.
  • Remember to raise on moments of momentum versus cash need and take whatever terms you can get if it means keeping your business alive. Don’t time the market! Don’t wait and think it will get better. If you need money, raise. If you might need money, raise.
  • Do you have a strong business model? If the business model makes sense you will always be able to raise, even in a tight market.
  • When speaking to VC’s about investing don’t just ask them what value they add, but ask: what will you do when things get hard.

Have Grit:

  • There are some silver linings to this being a more challenging time to raise, or as many women were saying yesterday that is really is just a “reset” back to “normal”. The last two years have seen some of the highest valuations, speed to raise and ease to go from first meeting to term sheet. With this reset there is also a lot less competition because there is less noise in the marketplace. Less businesses popping up right now to do what you might be doing. The market favors those who have a mindset of grit.
  • Make the best decision in the moment and adapt when it changes – and adapt quickly.
  • It’s important to remember that Mission + Financial Success has to be ONE. Many companies are mission based and she made it very clear that you also need financial success because that is how you get POWER.
  • What inspires or angers you – focus there and you will create change; use it as fuel to grow.
  • Pitching doesn’t always equal raising. Some founders will pitch to 150+ funds before actually raising. Don’t get disheartened – this is part of having grit. Remember that you just need that first yes.

Image c/o Female Founders Fund

Business is Personal:

  • You can be both professional and personal in your business ventures. In fact, having a balance of both can provide additional drive. To me, Pluie is incredibly personal and that is a good thing! 
  • Find ways to find joy in the grind! You will feel like you are drinking from a fire hose daily and so make sure what brings you joy still does.
  • What is sacred to you? Don’t change it. Whether that be cold water immersion in the mornings, pilates, reading – make sure you do something sacred for you.
  • As a founder, be authentic. People are looking at you as they look at your business. But this doesn’t mean to shy away from the spotlight – continue to create content as your authentic self for social and beyond!

One of the highlights of the day was hearing Allyson Felix’s address the room. The most decorated female track and field athlete in Olympic history she took great risk in leaving sponsorships behind to champion equality for women and mothers. As a mom myself I was incredibly motivated by her drive to show her daughter the power of hard work and persistence.

I will leave you with her powerful words, also shared during her Ted Talk from last year, “I didn’t resign with Nike, and I’m here to tell the tale. But more than that, I’m here to tell you that you can do it, too. Once you find the courage to believe in yourself, your own worth, your own values, it gets easier. It’s when you take a stand that you start to understand how to overcome that fear and how to make a change for yourself and sometimes for others.”

Written by Pluie Founder and CEO Addie Gundry