Men vs. Women: Why Pitching your Startup is Like Dating
Last week, I sat with four other judges in Miami, listening to the finalists at the WeXchange Latin American women’s entrepreneur pitch competition. The businesses and entrepreneurs* were strong evidence of the rise of female entrepreneurs in Latin America.
One of other judges was Humberto Matsuda a Managing Partner at Performa Investimentos, a Brazilian Venture Capital and Private Equity fund. As a venture capitalist, Humberto frequently hears both men and women entrepreneurs present their businesses. As an angel investor who invests in women led businesses, I listen to women founders pitch every month. After the competition, Humberto, three attendees and I got on the topic of comparing pitches made by men and women.
In a spirit of fun, Humberto compared pitching to dating. “When you pitch your business,” he said, “it’s like asking someone out on a date – you are selling yourself.” He explained his metaphor with these observations:
WHY PITCHING YOUR STARTUP IS LIKE DATING
- Men are used to asking women out, but they often getting rejected. Because they sometimes get rejected when they “sell themselves,” they learn to deal regularly with rejection.
- On the other hand, women are generally the ones being approached and are not as accustomed to putting themselves out there.
- A rejected male suitor often takes an initial, “no” as just that – an initial no. If he is truly interested, he often comes back around and asks a woman out again. Humberto shared that in his years of funding businesses, the male founders he has turned down come back to him multiple times with updates and new information. They keep pursuing him as an investor and don’t give up. BUT, he never hears back from the female founders he turns down.
- When given critical feedback during a pitch for funding, male founders are generally unfazed and continue to talk confidently about their business. Afterward they conclude, “this funder is not a good match for me but there will be one that is.”
- Women founders criticized in the same way often become nervous, doubt themselves and begin to show a lack of confidence in their business.
- Unlike men, women founders whose business is not funded conclude it is their ‘fault’ or that there is some problem with their business, as opposed to simply understanding that the VC may have had other reasons for not funding their company. In contrast, men don’t think rejection is about them!
- Men assume they’ll have to ask a lot of funders before they find the right one. Women founders try to figure out beforehand who will say yes, and therefore ask much less frequently.
Humberto’s advice to female founders: pitch a lot, ask a lot, and get used to rejection. Do your homework, but also realize its a bit of numbers game. Don’t take a no personally. If you get turned down, wait a bit, make some progress and try again with a different approach. The right funder is out there for you!
Pitch a lot, ask a lot, and get used to rejection.
*Some of the finalists we heard in the pitch competition ranged from Alma Shopping, a beauty and cosmetics platform, and FirstJob.me, a platform for a person’s first job search, to SokoText, a business that leverages text messaging to aggregate demand for fresh food and provide wholesale prices for small entrepreneurs in urban slums. The remarkable co-founder Carolina Medina and SokoText won the pitch competition.