Startup Life/Diversity & Inclusion/Opinion/

My cap table is 60% women — so why does no one care?

I raised 60% of my first capital from women, against the “better judgement” of men

Audrey Barbier-Litvak / Elise Toide
Audrey Barbier-Litvak

By Audrey Barbier-Litvak

At many of Europe’s biggest tech companies, less than 1% of the investors are women. At my company, 60% of my investors are women and 60% of capital is from women.

I want to shout to the rooftops about how I overcame the odds in the dismally undiverse world of tech. Only 1% of venture capital in Europe is managed by all-women teams, and there are still overwhelmingly more male angel investors than women.

So why do so many investors not care? And why did so many people want to dissuade me from trying to find female investors?

How I did it

In France, you might think it’s nearly impossible to raise from a female angel with experience investing. There are about five female entrepreneurs in French tech who have sold their companies and are now investing. Given their public profiles, they’re understandably bombarded with requests from entrepreneurs — both men and women — every day.

So I knew I needed to talk to women who might not have experience with angel investing, but who had the financial means and valuable business expertise needed. I reached out to a number of smart, powerful and thoughtful women in C-suite roles who I had met over my 20-year career who could commit between €20k and €50k each.

I organised a pitch meeting with 20 women, and in two hours I had €300k and 10 new investors. I then asked those investors if they knew women who would be interested to invest. Little by little, my network of potential investors started to grow. In the end, I raised €1m.

Roughly 80% of my female investors had never angel invested before. Many were flattered to be asked; it was usually their powerful husbands being asked to invest in B2B tech companies like mine, while they only ever got approached about things that had to do with fashion or childcare.

Learning to ignore the sceptics

Finding these women took time. But it was the feedback I got from sceptics (mostly men) that made me even more determined to get at least a majority of my capital from women.

One female serial entrepreneur/investor from an older generation than me asked me why I was so hell-bent on raising from women.

“Men have the money,” she said.

“You’re losing your focus on the business,” one male investor chided.

But isn’t all fundraising taking focus away from the business, whether you’re raising from men, women or animals? And why aren’t men ever accused of this?

“If I could find 21 women to invest in my business, I don’t understand why every tech startup in Europe doesn’t have at least one”

It was clear to me how valuable having female investors was from day one.

The male investors I spoke to asked the same three questions: “How will you achieve product-market fit? What’s the market size? What’s your go-to-market strategy?”

The female investors asked me questions that made me think and pushed me to consider new things. I’m in the business of making workforce and location management simple for hybrid companies; the women asked me about my views on how hybrid work would evolve, how the needs of employees and companies would evolve, they asked me about my vision.

The road ahead

And I’m still not satisfied. First, my original goal was to have 100% female investors. Unfortunately, I did not reach that goal. But I made sure that the 40% who were men were the best of the best. And they should know they’re damn lucky to be included!

And while I may have achieved a level of gender diversity unheard of in tech, I didn’t manage to do well on other measures of diversity.

My investors are highly educated, white women who come from wealthy backgrounds. If I am to truly serve the diverse needs of my customers, my investors need to reflect that diversity. And that includes things like ethnic, cultural and socioeconomic diversity.

If I could find 21 women to invest in my business, I don’t understand why every tech startup in Europe doesn’t have at least one female investor. Or maybe try two if you’re really crazy!

Audrey Barbier-Litvak is CEO and cofounder of Offishall. 

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