by Karen Cahn, Founder & CEO, iFundWomen
My co-founders and I started iFundWomen to solve a problem: there is a complete lack of funding options for early-stage entrepreneurs. Only 1% of companies, regardless of the gender of the founder, will ever raise venture capital. So, what do the other 99% of startup founders do? They max out their credit cards or they try to take out a bank loan, and nobody should go into debt funding the early days of their startup.
But the funding gap for women entrepreneurs is not just about a lack of access to capital. Lack of access to coaches and mentors who have “been there, done that” to guide them in the process, and lack of access to a community of sisters in the hustle raising money alongside you are also huge barriers.
Most of you reading this can totally relate to this problem: being a solopreneur, feeling isolated and alone, racking up credit card debt, just trying to make your entrepreneurship dream come true. We see you, we are you, and we get it.
Sarah, Kate, Olivia, Zeina, Maya, Stephen, and I know about this problem in a very intimate way because we are our own customers. We built iFundWomen for us – for female founders. There are 111 million of us around the world who are seeking the capital, the coaching, the creative, the community, and the connections that we need to launch and grow businesses.
This is iFundWomen.
And we’re on the same exact journey that our customers are on, we’re just a few stages ahead. So, this past fall, after raising a seed round to invest in tech and talent (thank you to the amazing, feminist men who funded us quickly), the time came for us to raise even more capital.
It also occurred to us that we were a company named iFundWomen without any women on our cap table, and that needed to change.
So, when we received an announcement from The Wing about a new startup accelerator they were launching with _able called Wingable, we jumped at the chance to apply. Not only was this an opportunity for iFundWomen to raise much-needed capital from female investors, but this was also the chance for the coaches to get coached.
The moment that iFundWomen was named as one of the 10 companies chosen for Wingable, was the moment we knew that we were embarking on a mission to diversify our cap table, and we were SO READY.
Wingable was a six-week startup accelerator unlike anything we had ever experienced. We learned how to build a women’s brand from the experts who helped Audrey and Lauren build the Wing. Because of the access to the Wing’s team in all areas of their business - from design thinkers to lawyers to programming experts (not the computer kind, the IRL community kind) - we were learning from the best and we could not take notes fast enough.
It was clear that Amanda Eilian and Lisa Blau, the partners of _able, understood the immense impact that the combination of funding, coaching, and connections would have on all 10 companies who made it in. These were the principles that Amanda & Lisa valued most as women investors, and this is what our cap table had been missing all along.
Wingable, and the subsequent investment from _able partners, was the first check we received in our round. That feeling that our entire team felt - being validated by the tastemakers who were invested in some of the hottest women’s brands like The Wing, Goop, and Daily Harvest - was a startup founder high like no other. We were on our way to diversifying our cap table!
Ok, so how did we raise the rest of it? First, we fundraised with intention, making a commitment to walking the walk and building a fundraising strategy that was representative of our brand, our mission and the problem we are solving.
Second, we fundraised within a community. To us, diversifying our cap table meant not only bringing on investors who reflected our company’s values, but also conducting our raise in a way that celebrated the powerful magic that can take place when you get a bunch of badass female leaders in a room together IRL.
And it was truly magical.
We invited 40 potential investors to join us at Luminary, a space in New York City, that was funded on iFundWomen, to experience the value of our product, to hear the founders mission and vision, to meet our team, and to really talk to our customers. We called it “The iFundWomen Off-Road Show” because we didn’t leave our block to do the meetings. The investors came to us. Why? Because we selected a highly curated group of women who we KNEW put their money where their mouths are. This was a no-BS group of power ladies who were already invested in female founders, and came to play.
The opportunity to pitch your business to a room full of passionate, brilliant women who just get it cannot be taken for granted and iFundWomen’s Off-Road Show was a moment that is now etched into our company’s history.
Now, here we are, two months later, proud to say that we have closed our seed round, and we are so excited to announce iFundWomen’s new female investor team including ‘the most powerful woman on Wall Street’, the new female founder whisperer & designer of the famed “Morning After bag,” and the woman who invented the glam service we literally can’t live without. Head over to our Instagram to see the full list of women writing the checks.
The value we received from Wingable went far beyond the funding, and that rings true for the effect each of these investors will have on our cap table. They are not just women writing checks. They’re part of our growing community. They’re our connectors. They’re our rapidly growing pipeline. They’re our brand ambassadors.
But most importantly, they are women who believe in the impact iFundWomen is having, and will continue to have, on the massive funding gap facing female founders, and they wrote the checks to help make that possible.
PS - We are currently basking in the glow of closing our round, but stay tuned to all iFundWomen channels as we continue to share more of the practical takeaways from our funding journey.