Note: this post is regularly updated and includes, not only programs and communities, recommended newsletters, but link to spreadsheet of angel investors and more. Keep patiently reading, if you don’t see what you’re seeking in the first paragraph.
In keeping with the old adage “ask for money, you’ll get advice”, I’ve assembled a list of resources for the founders and entrepreneurs who have made their way, unsolicited, and rather ungracefully (yes, there is a graceful art to sending a cold email, and none of the senders I’ve been on the random emailing receiving end of seem to understand this). Fortunately for other founders who are seeking guidance, tools, direction, information, you’ll have the benefit of these inquiries (which, like hay fever in Spring and colds in Fall, are recurring seasonal irritants) without resorting to sending cold emails (which you’ve sweated over the wording of) to random strangers asking for, and hoping to receive money from (when the likelihood is you’ll get a terse no or more likely, dreaded silence as in no response at all).
With all of that in mind, places to hunt for the mythical check-writers aka investors (or places to get more information on the whole darn frustrating fundraising process and/or to determine if you’re even ready to accept money from someone else who will immediately be telling you how to run your business), in no particular order (other than what come to mind as being useful):
- UBS in partnership with Female Founder has launched Project Entrepreneur. Project Entrepreneur accelerates the growth of female-founded companies by increasing their investment readiness, building bridges to capital, and investing in ecosystems that empower our most innovative entrepreneurs. In April 2020 in New York City, two cohorts of 25 early-stage female founders will be selected to participate in the three-month Investment Readiness Program taught by leading investors and entrepreneurs. Lessons will include fundraising fundamentals, creating a defensible financial model, and identifying the right investors at every stage.
- Bookmark the Tory Burch Foundation as applications for their fellows program opens in the Fall.
- I saw that the TechStars NYC Chapter was hosting an off the record panel discussion on fundraising (from starting to scaling)…not in NYC, then I’d suggest searching to see where else TechStars has chapters and is hosting similarly themed events.
- Launch with Goldman Sachs has expanded their entrepreneurial support offering with their recently announced Black and Latinx Entrepreneur Cohort. For black innovation economy news, I strongly suggest subscribing to The Plug and investing some of your networking time with the Change Catalyst community at their events.
- Corporations are investing big in entrepreneurial ecosystems from incubators and/or accelerator programs to events. Comcast NBCUniveral has LIFTLabs. Microsoft regularly hosts events in their flagship NYC store. These are two examples – think about the corporations you’re seeking to do business with, or whose industry you’re disrupting then skulk around to see how they are supporting enterprising young companies and upstarts.
- All Raise brings “female founders, funders, and operators together to connect and learn” by hosting information sessions, speed mentoring and summits. From a glance at their website (psss, hint, you can search around to find this information too) they are hosting events on both coasts. Check out Women Who Startup‘s new online portal as well (membership includes weekly and monthly chats with fellow entrepreneurs along with startup resources such as funding and Grant opportunities).
- My pal Anne Ravanona over at Global Invest Her is demystifying the funding game with her comprehensive online programming, and podcast interviews with investors (plus been-there-done-that accomplished women women entrepreneurs). The Vinetta Project is another platform focused on bridging the funding gap with programming, services and community built around four critical capital pillars (financial, intellectual, social and personal).
- The Fourth Floor is hosting a founder fair, that is, an exhibition where founders can showcase their products or services to the Fourth Floor’s greater community and discuss their needs for potential mentors, sponsors, and board advisors.
Pro-networking-tip: check the websites of venture capitalists to see if they host events or office hours (as yes, many do).
Continuing with the list of resources (I know, you wanted a shortcut quick answer but alas no, seeking funding is a long process – from a recent discussion with an early stage investor, it takes 3-6 months to get a term sheet finalized and no, your email seeking funding with a “we’re planning close to in 30 days” does not change this time line and to most investors, is amusing, no, laughable so another pro-tip, banish that language from your funding request emails):
- Each week, 37 Angels provides a perfectly curated list of events in NYC for startups and investors. Subscribe to their mailing list, read the event listing to see what’s happening and whether you might, just might gather information to fuel your fundraising needs or at least, a sympathetic ear (as yes, fundraising is onerous, time consuming and in most cases, a depressing ordeal).
- Startup One Stop hosts breakfasts with…wait for it…investors! So subscribe to this mailing list too.
- Check out the offerings at co-working spaces -which are popping up all over the place. LMHQ has a great offering (including their wildly popular women’s networking breakfasts).
- If you’re not a New York based founder (I know, I know, this list is a bit NYC centric), I’d strongly suggest seeking out the newsletters and events in in your community (i.e. I love the tools, resources, and info offered by Build Institute in Detroit and Communitech in Waterloo, ON Canada and the Innovation Collective which is firing up entrepreneurial energy in overlooked communities by bringing all members of the community together to fuel meaningful innovation and new opportunities) – and if you’re seeking money from New York investors, I’d suggest digesting all this information regardless, as it will help you stay on top of the ecosystem here and will help you plan your networking aka fundraising in New York. F6S is a terrific global resource and platform for entrepreneurs as it likely has the most comprehensive list of programs, competitions, incubators etc.
- Check out this women angel investors list (U.S. based angels) and keep in mind, this is for your to start investigating and researching, rather than a spray and pray approach to finding investment (as that strategy, got this whole post started in the first place). And from my glance over the list, one of the names of a prominent woman in business, I know has made one, yes, one investment in a female founded company and that was back in 2012. So, do your research, narrow your list and send out the right communications to the right people. A perfect pitch falling on deaf ears is no better than a sloppy sales pitch IMHO.
- Funding Circle has put together this handy list (“National Resources for Female Entrepreneurs”) – last updated in December. 37 Angels, in addition to their informative weekly newsletter, has for female founders a comprehensive list of female funders, including Digital UnDivided, SoGal and many more.
More places to seek out investors (or opportunities to meet investors):
- Your college or university – from entrepreneur-focused programs, to angel investor groups and the alumni directory.
- Your city! New York City has a women entrepreneurs initiative, and your home town may too. Funding London, is an investment vehicle provided by the Mayor of London, and word has it, Funding London has backed 26 female founders.
- Your government. From the Small Business Administration in the U.S to New Zealand Trade and Enterprise for yes, New Zealand companies entering global markets to Enterprise Ireland and oh Canada! the Canadian Tech Accelerator, there are knowledgeable people who have information (along with, I suspect, resources) to help you. New addition on the “Your Government” list: the Australian government announced a total of $18 million in grants to help female entrepreneurs scale into domestic + international markets. The initial applications for grants close on April 14 at 5pm AEST with selected businesses to get between $25,000 and $480,000.
What you’ll see is not on this list, is guidance on sending unsolicited pitches or funding queries to people you don’t know (or met once in passing a decade ago) or people you may know, but have not asked if they’re investing or interested in meeting a founder who is seeking investment, because, well, you just don’t do that…and if I sound a wee bit cranky on this, a quick search on my website would reveal the answer. I’ve shared resources on this subject since 2017 so adding 3 more references for you to dive into (just in case you overlooked them before):
- Dear Abby: The Startup (Fundraising Is Networking) Version
- Networking With Investors
- Build Your Dream Network (Page references to my book, which I’d love to have read before you’ve reached out, or at least flipped through….Expert Insight: Give Forward at page 10; Expert Insights: Success Isn’t Just about the Idea—It’s about Investing Time in the Network at page 130; Make the Connection: Startup or New Business Communications at page 183 — just for starters, there is a whole lot in between, from how Kathryn Finney, founder of Digital UnDivided achieved crowdfunding success to how Varelie Croes, networked her way into the startup community (BTW, Varelie is now Chief Innovation Officer for Aruba).
ONE final networking pro-tip: before reaching out to a potential investor, read their blog, review their website, check their LinkedIn, scan their YouTube channel, monitor their social media posts…you know do a wee bit of inquiring (aka due diligence) to intelligently inform yourself on what they are investing in or pursing and before you send your email and funding pitch. You MAY not get the money you’re seeking when you send a better email, but in all likelihood, you will get a better (far more helpful) response than a link to a blog post, like this one.
Understand that to make a personal referral, someone like me needs to either know YOU very well or have intimate, first-hand knowledge of your product. Anything less and the intro to another investor is not worth the paper the email is written on.
IF you’re a woman who is an angel investor, and you’ve stumbled across this list, check out Women 2.0’s Angel Sessions (a day-long exploration of key topics, trends and themes to position angel investors to play a pivotal role within the industry) and 37 Angels programming (for example, they are offering a webinar on getting on boards), while I’m on the topic of boards, check out The Fourth Floor too. Plus, if you’re based in the United States, add your name to the US Women Angels List (see the full list here). U.S. based and globally women in VC, should get on this women in VC directory (as this list is for you, deal flow, community, insights etc.).