Only about 3% of technology startup entrepreneurs are women. We want to promote entrepreneurship as a potential career move to all talented people, regardless of gender, but exploring this opportunity is much easier once you understand the context and basics of startup funding.

We want to make a difference, so we joined forces with Future Female network and CherryOnTop Ventures and brought together a Tekes funding expert, female entrepreneurs and a bunch of ladies to discuss funding opportunities for early stage startups. Here are our top takeaways.

The way you talk

Take a look at any pitching competition or funding statistics, and you cannot help but notice the minority of females. According to Tiina Zilliacus, our host and investor at CherryOnTop Ventures, it’s because of the difference between genders when it comes to pitching an idea, communicating a vision and showcasing capabilities. Women tend to be softer, more modest and less assuring. Successful funding rounds require competing on the same criteria as everyone else. In this case, mostly men. But women are quick learners, right?

We do have some advantages as women. First of all, simply being a woman in a pitching competition makes you stand out in a positive way. Furthermore, Mervi Pänkäläinen from Mightifier points out that women are more likely to talk about user needs, which isn’t that common among tech-driven speeches.

Not just about money

The complex world of investing is closely knit with the concept of money, but that’s not the whole story. Investors are also humans with their own values, backgrounds, experience and aspirations. With the right person sitting across the table, everything may suddenly start to make sense.

Investing is fundamentally about building relationships. It takes time and energy to build good, strong and lasting business relationships, but they’re an integral and necessary part of success. Pänkäläinen wants to remind that no one invested in her company without first knowing her personally, and that the decision to invest had always had a lot to do with her as a person.

The shared goals and values also form a basis for experiencing ups and downs. There will inevitably be bumps in the road, especially when you’re having a hard time believing in your idea, so you need to make sure your investor is going to lift you up, believe in you and push you forward. Mia Karlsson, founder of  See how you eat, was lucky enough to find her first investor and mentor in the same person. Business ideas came and went, some of them better than others, but her mentor always saw the potential and drive in Mia herself.

Henna-Sophia Joensuu, founder of Bobla, advised future entrepreneurs to start talking to investors from the very beginning, because the process takes time. “People tend to wait until everything’s perfect and ready, but the investors want to get to know the team as people. They can also help you go forward, provide resources, offer mentorship and introduce you to other people who could help.”

Dare to share

According to Eeva Salminen from Tekes, there are four major questions an entrepreneur should nail down in the pitch:

1) What’s the problem and is it big and remarkable enough on a global level?

2) How will you fix it, how is your approach different from competitors, and do you have some proof and concrete results?

3) How does your solution benefit the customer and how much does it cost?

4) With whom can you make it happen?

And a pro tip: opening night is not the time for rehearsal.

Actually, the more you talk about your idea, the better you learn to crystallize the essence of it. An emerging business idea can be like a baby you don’t want to expose to the world, but you should. Hanna Lilja, founder of Momzie, recognizes the fear of someone stealing your idea. She only told her idea to her closest friends at first, but then she heard something that made sharing easy. “First of all, it would be quite a coincidence that someone is interested in the exact same idea. Secondly, he/she would have to be a mean person to do it. If someone wants to steal your idea, one of you is going to have to do a lot of work to make it profitable business anyway.”

Author: Tuuli Hirvonen / Frantic