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Here’s How to Get Funded As an Entrepreneur Without Access to Venture Capital

As an entrepreneur, tech CEO and venture capitalist who is also a woman of color, I am well aware of the challenges most entrepreneurs face when it comes to raising capital.

But the truth is, until last year, I didn’t fully understand the numbers — or the vast disparities between which entrepreneurs have access to raise funding, and which do not. Like you, I knew the disparities existed. And I knew I wanted to do something about it. But as a CEO and investor, I needed numbers to understand the scope of the challenge — and to formulate my plan.

Last summer, my team at The Growth Warrior set out to better understand this challenge by researching which entrepreneurs in the U.S. raised venture capital between 2014-2019, and how that funding led to their success. We looked at exactly who was getting funded, how much capital they raised, which venture capital firms invested — and whether those firms represented a diverse group of investment decision makers.

We sourced data from reputable organizations — nearly 50 in total. Our sources included investment-focused companies such as Crunchbase, research organizations like
The Brookings Institute, and venture capital firms driving diversity within the startup and investment communities such as Harlem Capital Partners.

What we found was not surprising — the majority of entrepreneurs successfully raising capital were white, male, college-educated business founders 35-years or older, who lived on the West Coast, or in New York City, close to investment firms. These founders were also likely to have investors available to them within their network, or those of their network members. We published these findings in the Warrior Report: The 2019 State of the Underdog.

RELATED READING

The Warrior Report: The 2019 State of the Underdog
Read our report on the state of entrepreneur funding in the U.S. between 2014-2019 — and how business founders can overcome challenges to raise funding.

But this, as it turns out, this data was only part of the story. Because we also uncovered evidence of a major shift — more women, people of color and founders from underrepresented groups are launching and growing businesses in the U.S., despite lacking access to traditional venture capital. We refer to these entrepreneurs as Growth Warriors.

In fact, according to the WBENC, in 2018, 12.3 million U.S. businesses were owned by women. This is a significant number when you compare that to the quantity in 1972, which was only 402,000. Additionally, 9.2 million people are employed by women-owned businesses, which generate $1.8 trillion in revenue.

When you compare this data, it’s clear that there is a major disconnect between the investment community, and entrepreneurs across the U.S. that represent a diverse array of customers excited about their products.

At The Growth Warrior, our mission is to support all entrepreneurs lacking access to capital. If you’re a business founder reading this article, you’re probably a growth warrior. If you do not fit into the demographics of the majority of founders raising capital, for example, you’re one of us! And guess what? This is the time of the growth warrior — and our team is here to support you while you grow a successful business, and narrow the divide between the investment community, and entrepreneurs who lack access to funding.

RELATED READING

The Way of the Growth Warrior: 7 Non-Negotiable Skills to Scale Your Business in Uncertain Times
Download a free chapter today.

Given our mission, I wanted to share how entrepreneurs who lack access to venture capital can get funded.

According to The Kauffman Foundation, 65 percent of entrepreneurs use personal or family wealth to launch and grow their business before taking on outside capital. The cost of doing so, is roughly $80,000. This isn’t a reality for most business founders — but the good news? Capital is everywhere. Let me repeat that. CAPITAL IS EVERYWHERE.

After reflecting upon my own career, talking with other successful entrepreneurs, and diving into the research, I’ve developed a 7-step process for growth warrior entrepreneurs to successfully raise funding and grow their businesses. The full process is available in the free Warrior Report: The 2019 State of the Underdog, but I’m sharing four critical steps today.

HERE’S HOW GROWTH WARRIORS CAN GET FUNDED

BE SPECIFIC. AND ALWAYS BE NETWORKING.
Well before you’re ready to raise funding, you should be proactively networking with people outside of your existing network and location. Attend conferences and events, do your research on investors who fund your industry or category and find out if you have any second, third or fourth-level network connections on LinkedIn. Ask people for introductions. Find a mentor who will help expand your network.

BE UNF*CKWITHABLE
Yes. You read that correctly. I am not kidding here. You need to create relationships with mentors and potential investors who tell you the truth about your business. Don’t let people disrespect you, but learn to take criticism so that you can create the best product, and the best company.

GO FROM SIX TO SIXTY.
You’ve likely read a lot of how-to-pitch-to-investor articles out there. Many of them tell you to target 6-10 investors. I’m here to tell you, those articles were written for people who already have access to venture capital firms. If you’re not one of them, you need to seriously rescope your expectations of what it’s going to take. Instead of targeting six, target sixty. But make sure that these investors have a history of supporting businesses like yours.

UNDERSTAND WHY THEY SAY NO + PREPARE FOR IT TO HAPPEN
Investors often say no. I’ve heard no more times than I can count. Actually, I’ll tell you. I’ve heard no xx times over the course of my career. Here’s why that doesn’t phase me — this is expected. Sometimes investors will say no before they say yes.

But the majority of the roughly 60 investors you’ll approach will say no for a variety of reasons — they don’t understand the problem that you’re trying to solve, they don’t understand your product, they’re not familiar with your customer demographic, etc. If you’re a category-maker, this is even harder.

Prepare for when they say no by conducting market research, prototype your product, gain real-world customer feedback and share your customer’s enthusiasm in numbers that will resonate with investors.

And when you hear no, don’t end the conversation. Check your ego. They’re not saying no to you, they’re saying no because they don’t understand your vision. Ask for their rationale. Thank them for their feedback. Take it into consideration. If you make a change to your business model or product, let them know that they helped influence you and how that’s led to your success.

Keep the conversation going. After all, some investors say no before they say yes.

To learn more about my 7-step process for growth warrior entrepreneurs to raise funding, download Warrior Report: The 2019 State of the Underdog. It’s a free report.

RELATED READING

The Way of the Growth Warrior: 7 Non-Negotiable Skills to Scale Your Business in Uncertain Times
Download a free chapter today.

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