142 Startups Getting Funded: WINGS of Advice from Investor Fran Hauser on Raising Capital
Startup investor, longtime digital media executive, and author of the upcoming “The Myth of the Nice Girl”, Fran Hauser is known for mentoring hundreds of women around the globe. She puts on the ‘Advice WINGS’ on how, when and what it takes for women to raise angel and VC capital.
Melinda Wittstock: Fran, welcome to Wings!
Fran Hauser: Hi, Melinda.
Melinda Wittstock: It is so good to have you on, and of course, on these minisodes, I always love to start with what is inspiring you right now.
Fran Hauser: I have to tell you, I think what's inspiring me right now is seeing all of these incredible women that have found their voices, and are speaking up, and especially when I think about friends, like my dear friend Adaora Udoji, who came forward with this really beautiful and important piece about something that happened to her in her radio days. I just remember reading her post, and it sort of broke my heart and filled me with pride at the same time. I think just seeing all of these women come forward, seeing that they've found their voice, for me, is just incredibly inspiring right now.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh. It really is, with the #MeToos, where you discover about a friend who was going through all of this, but was quiet, or you didn't even know.
Fran Hauser: Right.
Melinda Wittstock: It is very inspiring. What are some of the frustrations that you have right now as an entrepreneur, as an investor in women?
Fran Hauser: I think for the most part, as an investor, I'm actually feeling really supported. I feel like there's so many great networks that have cropped up, especially over the last two or three years, where we have women supporting women, investors supporting other investors, and supporting female founders. I feel like from that sense, it feels amazing. I think what's still a little frustrating is I'd love to see more of the mainstream venture capital funds changing the ratio of investment. If you just look at sort of the percentage of their funding that goes to women, I think that's what I … I'm just really eager to see that change in a big way. I feel like as women, we've all come together. We're all supporting one another. There are all of these things, the Plum Alleys of the world, and She EOs, and Female Founders Fund, and BBG, so there are all these incredible funds and initiatives that are focused on women, but I really want to see those mainstream BC funds change their ratios funding.
Melinda Wittstock: Oh, my goodness. Me, too, and it was interesting to interview Tina Sharkey, who-
Fran Hauser: I worked with Tina at AOL like 20 years ago. I love her.
Melinda Wittstock: She's amazing, and so she, in launching Brandless, was so proud and pleased that for the first time, none of the press said, “Female entrepreneur Tina Sharkey.” They just said, “Entrepreneur Tina Sharkey.”
Fran Hauser: I love that.
Melinda Wittstock: It was wonderful, and she was so proud of that, and I think that's right. It shouldn't even be an issue, and so for all the women out there who are thinking of becoming entrepreneurs, or already are, and they're trying to grow or scale their businesses or whatever. What are your top three go-to pieces of advice for them?
[tweet_box design=”default” float=”none”]Revenue is the best form of capital because it's non-dilutive, so if you can build a business, and keep the majority of the equity for yourself, do it. #WINGSPodcast #WomeninBusiness @fran_hauser[/tweet_box]
Fran Hauser: I would say, let's see, number one, I would say don't take funding unless you really need to. I think obviously revenue is the best form of capital because it's non-dilutive, so if you can build a business, and keep the majority of the equity for yourself, do it. Don't feel compelled to go the VC path. The second thing is, I really encourage founders to focus relentlessly on the customer, and really focus on building something that is valuable to that customer, whether it's an enterprise or a consumer. I think in the beginning, when you're launching something, it's really easy to get distracted by lots of different things, whether it's press opportunities, or … I don't know. There's so many different things that you can get involved with, and so my advice is always just really focus on your customer, and what you're building for them. The third thing I would say, and the reason I'm saying this is because I just had this conversation with one of my founders yesterday, so it's top of mind. She's still in the seed stage, and she asked me if she should create a board of directors.
I told her absolutely no. There is no reason to do that unless you do take venture capital funding, and then they want a seat at the table. That could be one of the requirements of getting the funding, so you need to create a board, but if you don't need to create a board, don't do it, because there's so much administration that is involved with that. Talk about a distraction, and what I always recommend instead is just create an advisory board. That's much more informal, where you're tapping into people who are filling gaps for you, and they're mentors, and they're sounding boards, as opposed to creating an official board of directors.
Melinda Wittstock: This is so important. I love your advice, because the customer is everything. Without your customers, you don't even have a … You don't even really qualify to even get VC funding without having a great relationship with your customers, and it's interesting sometimes, so women can be a little, I think a lot of entrepreneurs can be afraid to hear what their customers actually think, but that feedback is vital.
Fran Hauser: It's vital. It's so critical.
Melinda Wittstock: Okay, and so Fran, what's the best way for people to find you?
Fran Hauser: On Twitter, my handle is @fran_hauser, and also my website, franhauser.com.
Melinda Wittstock: Of course your book is going to be coming out soon. I am so excited about that. When's the launch date?
Fran Hauser: It's April 17, 2018, so it's in a few months, and I'm super excited, and it's being published by Houghton-Mifflin Harcourt.
Melinda Wittstock: That is fantastic, so the “myth of the nice girl”, and we're going to make sure that we let all our listeners know when that book comes out. I am so privileged to have a preorder copy. It's marvelous, and thank you so much for writing it.
Fran Hauser: Thank you, Melinda.
Melinda Wittstock: Thanks for flying with us today as well.
Fran Hauser: Absolutely. My pleasure.