It all started with my failure.
When I started my last company, I knew that raising capital would be difficult. For me, at that time in my life, it turned out to be impossible. It turned out to be a failure.
My failure fueled a new mission: to help founders be more successful, faster, so we can bust the dramatic gender gap in venture capital. That’s why I started the Female Founders Alliance, a business-accelerating peer network that connects hundreds of entrepreneurs with allyship, access, advancement and amplification. And even though we are a tiny, recently incorporated startup ourselves, our impact is exponential. Half of our 2017 members credit FFA with making six or more business-accelerating introductions last year. And a full 40% of them closed a round of financing.
Today I’m beyond excited to announce our latest initiative. Ready Set Raise is a one-of-a-kind pitching and fundraising program designed by founders, for founders. Our goal is to uncover outstanding diverse-founded startups from across North America and help them secure a seed round of venture financing. We’ll do that through a combination of remote learning, champion-matching, and investor pitching.
A panel of investors will review all applicants and select up to twelve of the most promising, who will be invited to participate in Ready Set Raise. The program will run through the month of September, starting with three weeks of virtual workshops and capped by a one week immersion in Seattle, WA from September 24th to the 28th. Demo Day is on September 27th.
We have dozens of VCs and angel investors already committed to participating, including top Seattle-based angels like Sarah Imbach, Serena Glover and Dennis Joyce, and VCs like Julie Sandler of Pioneer Square Labs, Jason Stoffer of Maveron, and Maria Karaivanova of Madrona Venture Group. We’re also securing participation from investors across the country, and will announce each of them throughout the next two months.
Read on to learn why Ready Set Raise was designed just for you (or skip the wait and apply now!)
You won’t have to uproot your life
Ready Set Raise consists of a series of remote workshops followed by a one-week immersion in Seattle, where we’ll match founders with champions, live pitch clinics, legal counseling, communications coaching, negotiations prep, and more. This way, you don’t have to uproot your family for three whole months like you would in traditional accelerator programs. Instead, just think of it as going to the best (and most fun!) camp for startup founders.
One word: Childcare
Can’t leave your kid behind? Bring them along! We are thrilled to partner with female-founded Spilt Milk Nannies, who will provide childcare during the Seattle immersion for one child per company during business hours and subsidized childcare for any additional kids or hours. We also partnered with Atlas Workbase, who will host founders and kids at their coworking space that week. As a mom of a toddler, this is a huge one for me.
We’ll focus on what female founders routinely struggle with
In the past year we’ve collected feedback from investors who met with FFA members. We’re taking the patterns that emerge from this data and spending extra time and attention to address them in our programming, making it uniquely tailored to female founders’ challenges.
We’ll directly target investor bias
We also have data — and hundreds of member stories — about the biases female founders face when pitching to investors. Unconscious bias shows up on everything from what we are asked to how we are perceived. And both male and female investors fall into those traps.
That’s why we’re kicking off Ready Set Raise Demo Day with a level-setting session for investors, during which we’ll share insights and lead a conversation to help turn those implicit biases into explicit — therefore addressable — ones.
We’ll promote championing over mentoring
Data from our member surveys routinely shows a disparity between the types of help female founders get, and the types of help they need. Female founders routinely get advice-based help: peer support, mentoring and sharing expertise. But what they need is help making deals, like introductions to investors, partners, and media.
That’s why FFA promotes championing over mentoring. And why we are asking each and every mentor — we call them champions — that comes on board to commit to making at least one business-accelerating introduction to their FFA mentee.
And it’s all non-dilutive
Finally, we’re taking our members input into consideration. We recognize that we’re building something brand new. That’s why we will not take participants hard-won equity, instead asking for a program fee to help cover the costs of the immersion. And we’ll request an option to participate in your Ready Set Raise fundraising success.
We are so grateful to our program sponsors, Davis Wright Tremaine’s Project W, Atlas Workbase, Spilt Milk Nannies and the Consulate General of Canada, for helping us bring Ready Set Raise to life.
Ready Set Raise applications are now open. We can’t wait to meet you, the RSR Class of 2018.