I had an interesting conversation two nights ago with Catherine Merigold of Vista Ventures. She and I share a similar interest in seeing women in entrepreneurship succeed, because there are oh-so-few of us. Given that investors job is to minimize risk, she has a theory that anything that separates an entrepreneur from an investor qualifies risk. For instance, a woman with long, red fingernails might be seen as more risky to a group of male investors since they don’t share that trait and might not understand it. I think there is merit here, but I also think that anything distracting to an investor, whether it be a woman with long, red fingernails, or a man with a full set of chops is detrimental.
This isn’t to say that you can’t be unique and individual, but it is to say that it might take you longer to reach your goals. I think of music artists here. If you want to make it BIG, most musicians have to play to the whims of the public, whether you like it or not. But once you reach a certain stage in your career, people will begin to like anything you play. You can effectually change the likes and dislikes of an audience, be a trend setter. But you have to be on top to do that.
The take away from our conversation was simple. If you’re trying to raise money for your company, what do you want your investors to notice? Your long red fingernails? Your shaggy long hair? Or your stunningly brilliant business model? I do think women will have a more difficult time raising money, they have more obstacles to overcome to get there. But ensure the investors are focused on the right thing – how you are going to return their investment quickly, safely, and in large quantities.