By Aswan Magumbe
ather frustratingly, according to Crunchbase figures, only 2.8% of funding went to women founders and business owners in 2019, later falling to 2.3% in 2020.
However, newly-appointed (as of January 2021) Eight Roads’ partner Lucile Cornet - their first female partner - is hopeful this statistic can, and will, only continue to grow. With over ten years of experience as an investor, Lucile is particularly enthusiastic about growing startups in Europe, with the firm belief that it is an ever-growing hub for our next generation of global entrepreneurs and leaders.
Fortunately, the presence of female founders is changing which is great news - probably more so on the investor side than the entrepreneurial. And in Eight Roads’ own portfolio, they are at about 15-20% but it’s “nowhere near 50/50”, which is where Lucile aspires for it to be. Thanks to elevating conversations, it’s not just about gender but diversity generally. “More and more people are now conscious that it's probably healthier to have a board made of very different profiles,” said Lucile.
Ahead of next week’s Fundraising 101 talk on April 6th, we spoke with Lucile to get her expert thoughts on how VCs and investment strategies have significantly changed in the past decade, the importance of storytelling and how crucial the speed of acting upon your plans are.
Below, Lucile shares her best pieces of advice on both how to be a successful candidate for securing investment and also navigate her field of work.
You need to love meeting people
As an investor, your presence in the boardrooms when those important conversations are taking place prior to and beyond the business pitches is constant. “I quickly realised that what I preferred in the job was probably interaction with people,” said Lucile. As an integral part of that process, Lucile is constantly meeting with people, whether they are colleagues or founders.
”Every other meeting, every other day, you’d need to travel and go and meet [business owners]. You can't just do it for the money because it's going to be a long journey. You’ve got to do it because you love it and you're having fun in the process - and that's why I come back. What drew me personally to it much more was the people because I thought I'd love to get to know those people. They're amazing. They're eccentric and they're doing new things. That was what drew me to it.”
Don’t underestimate the art of storytelling
As with everything, there needs to be a hook: ‘What makes your story worthy of telling?’ which equates to ‘What makes your product worthy of selling?’ That being said, “the way you deliver something is probably as important as what you're delivering,” said Lucile.
Although it’s a trait that can come naturally to others, it’s an essential skill to learn if you plan to pitch a business idea to investors or VCs. “For me, that’s one of the traits of very successful founders that I've realised.”
Speed of action is very important
“Great founders act faster” has proven to be the case in Eight Roads’ performance portfolio. Investors are more likely to be trusting in the business if they can see the products of their investment come to fruition sooner. That’s not to encourage rushing the process due to pressure but is important to show that you are taking things seriously and acting effectively and efficiently upon the feedback given.
“Some people make an intro, and the next week, they've already met the person they’re hiring. Other people take two months to react. That’s one of the traits of very successful founders that I've discovered.”
Make sure the business’ ethos are clear
Things like employee treatment, the work environment, as well as a safe and organised way of running things, is critical to the smooth running of any business. Some startups are on the wrong side of things, and while we can acknowledge room for growth, other things are non-negotiable. “A red flag for us would be any question around culture. We pay very strong attention to Glassdoor reviews of lesser references. If it's at the expense of treating people carefully or even going against the law that would obviously be a red flag because there can be a reputational risk for us, and it's also just against our way of working in general.”
Don’t worry too much about the macro
A lot of time can be spent overthinking different aspects of one’s strategy but no one knows ‘where the macro will be’ years down the line. In fact, Lucile stands by the idea that ‘a little bit of abstraction is necessary if you're a founder.’ In 2020, at the height of Covid-19, Sequoia Capital published a report outlining what they called the ‘Black Swan’. It detailed the dislodging of startups during the and post pandemic, and yet “effectively the opposite happened.”
“My fundamental belief is if you create a good company with strong fundamentals, it will do well no matter what. Obviously, things will go up and down but you should almost be a bit agnostic with the day-to-day,” said Lucile.
But Lucile’s biggest advice to women seeking investment or looking to be an investor is important: “Be bold. I love the phrase: ‘It's easier to ask forgiveness than to get permission’. It's always worth trying.”
Get to know Lucile Cornet ahead of her Fundraising 101 event with us on the 6th of April.
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