Women in Business: How to Approach Fundraising With Investors

Women in Business: How to Approach Fundraising With Investors

Venture capitalists must focus on ROI, or they don’t have a business model. Despite this, women founders still get fewer investments and less money even though they are proven to have a better ROI. According to First Round Capital’s review of their holdings, companies with female founders outperformed their male peers’ companies by 63 percent in terms of creating value for investors.

Despite the numbers and anecdotes, women continue to receive less funding. According to PitchBook Data, companies with only female founders accounted for only 3 percent of the total dollars raised by startups in 2016.

Fortunately, many venture firms are striving to repair this disconnect in their own way. Women-led investment firms like Golden Seeds and The Helm are a few examples of leaders aiming to bridge the divide while other organizations like ShEO and XFactor Ventures specifically seek out women-led firms. As this needed change unfolds, women founders can adopt a few strategies themselves.

In my time as CEO of Palo Alto Software, I’ve had the opportunity to mentor countless entrepreneurs as they plan for the future. From these interactions, I can speak to a clear distinction between the way that women and men founders approach fundraising in particular. The differences do not come down to aptitude, but a significant contrast in terms of confidence levels on the subject of financial forecasting for their respective companies.  

Too many times, I have heard women founders echo the sentiment, “I’m just not a finance expert – I’m not an accountant!” However, as I try to point out to every entrepreneur I work with, there is truly no one who knows their business better than they do, and that includes the finances. You don’t have to be an accountant to be the financial expert for your business.

Financials and financial forecasting is hands down what every founder avoids and dislikes the most, regardless of whether they are male or female. Despite this discomfort, every founder has the information they need to understand financial forecasting for their business. Possessing and displaying a strong grasp of your company’s financials is a shortcut to building the sense of trust and confidence that investors want to feel in their interactions with founders.

By understanding your financial drivers, and educating yourself about your forecast, you will be prepared to answer any financial question an investor throws at you. Even if it is something you have not modeled – if you know your drivers, and you know your business model, then you will be able to give an intelligent answer.  

Leverage financial forecasting skills when approaching investors

Rather than letting financials intimidate, founders should embrace them as a way to speak more directly and confidently to investors. When founders dig into their numbers more, building a financial model that directly reflects strategy is important (and makes life easier). It may sound obvious, but I’ve found that many entrepreneurs approach their financial forecasting as though it’s a separate entity, and something they are not qualified to do, when in reality, it’s simply a more objective representation of their business strategy. Ultimately, investors take financial forecasting seriously, so founders can leverage the objective nature of this category to ground and drive a positive investor meeting.

Too often, founders seem to get hung up on the technical jargon that comes with financial forecasting. Learn the terminology that you need, and trust that you already know the meaning behind the numbers. By taking a closer look at the numbers and how they relate to strategy, you’ll begin to dissipate the intimidation factor, and that sense of confidence will emanate in every investor interaction you have.

And remember this: Financially savvy people know that there are often various different accounting terms that mean the same thing. If you don’t know the term, ask for it to be explained. More often than not you will be able to respond, “Oh, you mean _____. Yes, I can walk you through my model and show you where _____ is.”

Find the tools that work for you

Our team built LivePlan to help entrepreneurs with all aspects of business forecasting, and to help them focus on their financial drivers and how they impact their business strategy. You can even use Excel to run and track your numbers, but make sure you are using a well-vetted worksheet with formulas that are tested and accurate. There are too many free Excel templates online that are not well vetted and oftentimes are not correct. Once you find the tool that works best for you, you’ll find yourself using it constantly and ultimately maintaining a constant pulse on your numbers as a result.

The VC world must continue to strive towards greater balance when it comes to investing in women founders, and truly learn to focus on ROI and the best possible business led by the best possible leader (regardless of sex). But while the VC world gets better at equity and diversity, I find it encouraging that the founders themselves are already equipped with the power to adjust their approach and take matters into their own hands.

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Twitter Promote Mode Automatically Boosts Small Business Tweets for $99 a Month

Twitter Promote Mode Automatically Promotes Tweets for $99 a Month

If you’re struggling with setting up a social media ad campaign, Twitter (NYSE:TWTR) has just introduced a solution right up your alley.

The new Twitter Promote Mode is an “always-on, amplification engine” which automatically boosts tweets and profiles.

By repeatedly promoting tweets, Promote Mode consistently attracts more followers and creates additional reach. The Promote Mode feature costs a flat fee of $99 a month.

Twitter Promote Mode for Small Businesses

Small businesses recognize the importance of using Twitter to grow their online presence, reach out and engage with customers and ultimately help sell more products or services.

However, devoting sufficient time and knowing how to adequately market on Twitter can be difficult for many small businesses. Promote Mode allows small businesses to carry out effective ad campaigns on Twitter — with barely any effort.

In an official post about the launch of Promote Mode, Wook Chung, Director of Product Management at Twitter, explained how the social media channel’s first subscription ad product is designed to benefit small businesses.

“Small businesses and individuals using Promote Mode can expect their followers and influence to steadily grow every month, as long as they are actively tweeting. The most successful people will keep Promote Mode toggled on while they focus on creating their best tweets. But if they need to take a break, they can toggle Promote Mode off and pause all promotions. This doesn’t pause their subscription or billing.”

The Promote Mode feature is designed to be accessed on mobile devices using the Twitter app. Small businesses can conveniently access the Promote Mode dashboard by tapping the Promote Mode icon from within the app.

On the dashboard, businesses will be able to gain insight into how much the feature is enriching their Twitter profile, including how many more followers they have gained, and how many people have visited their profile that month.

How well businesses perform using Promote Mode will be influenced on various factors, such as their target market selection and the frequency and content of their tweets.

Image: Twitter

This article, “Twitter Promote Mode Automatically Boosts Small Business Tweets for $99 a Month” was first published on Small Business Trends

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Consider These 3 Benefits of Using AI in Ecommerce

3 Ways Ecommerce AI Benefits Small Businesses

Ecommerce continues its meteoric growth. As of 2016, online sales accounted for 8.3 percent of all sales in the United States.

Research firm, Forrester, predicts that online sales will skyrocket to $459 billion in 2017, totaling 12.9 percent of retail sales.

The vast majority of merchants, however, spend a significant portion of their time just trying to figure out how to compete with Amazon. Understandably so, considering that the retail behemoth is poised to garner nearly half of all online sales this year.

In an effort to contend, many retailers are trying to set themselves apart by creating deeply personal and highly curated experiences online. Most of these are powered by AI technology.

Through various avenues — from supplying virtual buying assistants to enhanced customer support portals — artificial intelligence is improving the online shopping experience for consumers and placing power back into the hands of smaller organizations.

Shoppers are empowered to find the best prices online while receiving expedient and efficient support. Merchants, on the other hand, are given the means to achieve augmented analytics data on consumers and save money by employing the technology in place of a human.

Various ecommerce companies already leverage AI to provide superior experiences.

For instance, Netflix employs AI to present personalized recommendations to subscribers based on their movie and TV preferences. Under Armour leverages IBM’s Watson to assist customers in monitoring their health and exercise habits.

Ecommerce AI Benefits

Over the next several years, AI will come to fully harmonize its offerings with the ecommerce space.

Here are 3 ways the development of ecommerce AI will revolutionize the industry.

More Efficient Sales Processes

Since the advent of the consumer-focused internet, sales techniques have become exponentially more sophisticated; well beyond cold-calling or even television commercials.

While folks are still influenced to buy through TV spots, they now also look to various social media channels like Instagram and Facebook for shopping inspiration.

This is what has made companies like Yotpo a popular tool for digital brands that recently raised more than $50 million to further develop their AI platform. This service enables businesses to collect, curate, and manage various forms of user-generated content to provide the social proof a business needs to drive increased sales and provide consumers with a more natural way of uncovering great products.

Another unique way for customers to discover merchandise they’ll love comes from clothing retailer, The North Face. This activewear brand leverages AI to help customers find the perfect jacket. The company does this by utilizing voice input technology to ask customers questions about when and where they will be using the jacket.

The company’s system then scans its entire catalog to establish which items would be an ideal match for the customer’s needs. The AI also considers its own researched information, such as potential weather conditions in the area the buyer will be in.

Through these types of interfaces, businesses can create highly-refined sales processes that assist in enhancing customer experiences and sales.

New Ways to Search

Though tides are beginning to shift, the way that most customers search for items they want to buy is through a text-based interface; type your keywords into a search box and websites return a list of items matching that description.

What’s becoming more commonplace, however, is visual search; an AI-powered modality that evaluates an image submitted by customers, and then finds comparable products.

One retailer who has become somewhat of an innovator in this space is Neiman Marcus. The high-end merchant employs this visual search technology to empower app users to take pictures of real-world objects, which the app then finds and presents similar items from the company’s offerings.

In addition to the visual realm, more consumers are turning to voice search. Most are familiar with the technology through Google search on mobile, but shoppers are beginning to leverage the technology as well.

Voice search is currently popularized by voice assistants Alexa and Siri. These AI companions have made it necessary for various ecommerce stores to restructure their pages so they can accommodate these types of searches.

Now, consumers can order products directly from Amazon using the company’s voice-controlled at-home devices, Echo and Echo Dot.

3 Ways Ecommerce AI Benefits Small Businesses

ComScore predicts that 50 percent of all web searches will be voice-activated by 2020.

As this technology continues to become popularized, an increasing number of retailers will begin to adopt these alternative search functions too.

New Levels of Personalization

Personalized interactions are a major factor for consumers, and we’re just seeing the beginning of this transformation.

While many of the uninitiated may consider the prospect of AI intervention to be something that would dehumanize customer interactions, the technology actually serves as a vehicle for brands to provide consumers with exponentially more personalized encounters.

Since artificial intelligence can analyze enormous amounts of data in a more efficient way than teams of humans can, the technology gives businesses a window from which new insights can be gleaned. Observations regarding customer patterns, purchase habits, likes and dislikes, and various other behavioral metrics can be uncovered and applied in a way that makes for a more personalized shopping experience that hooks consumers in a profoundly deep way.

This point was also uncovered in a recent Business Insider Intelligence report on artificial intelligence, in which the company stated:

“Digitally native retailers are setting new standards for the customer journey by creating highly curated experiences through the use of AI. This has enabled them to cater to consumers’ desire to interact with mobile apps and websites as they would with an in-store sales representative.”

AI technology provides businesses with timely insights into consumer preferences and behaviors that can help ecommerce pages serve up items that exceed all customer expectations, thereby increasing sales and satisfaction.

Artificial intelligence is in the process of revolutionizing the ecommerce industry. The innovations they present give businesses unique and affordable new ways to reach and woo consumers, and these features make it possible for even the smallest online store to finally go toe-to-toe with the Amazon behemoth. Ecommerce AI is leveling the playing field, which is especially good for both businesses and buyers.

Online Shopping Cart Photo via Shutterstock

This article, “Consider These 3 Benefits of Using AI in Ecommerce” was first published on Small Business Trends