Interview by Breanne Thomas
Hi Sara! How did you initially develop the idea for BroadMic?
I hatched the idea for BroadMic in the spring of 2015. Listening to the coverage of Ellen Pao’s legal battle with her former employer (venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers) convinced me that the industry was desperately in need of change. Pao argued that the firm discriminated against her based on gender. She lost, but the trial opened up a Pandora’s box of questions when the ugly truth emerged about gender bias in Silicon Valley.
I’d been an angel investor in women-led, fast-growth tech startups for over a decade and had assumed somewhat naively that it wouldn’t be long before we caught up to men. The overwhelming evidence to the contrary that came out in the wake of the Ellen Pao case galvanized me to research what I identified as a gap in the marketplace: we needed a counter narrative to the media stereotype of the entrepreneur as a 20-something, white male, hoodie-wearing, unicorn-hunting Stanford engineer.
Launching BroadMic was an effort to use tech and media to interview accomplished women entrepreneurs, show that it can be done and is being done, and to scale their advice to hundreds of thousands of aspiring women entrepreneurs.
Who has been your favorite guest to host on BroadMic and why?
It’s impossible for me to list one favorite because they’re all such incredible women with very compelling entrepreneurial stories. However, I empathized with a few in particular because they were similar to my own career journey:
- Janet Hanson, after a career on Wall St, became a digital social network pioneer as founder of 85Broads.
- Kathryn Finney, an icon and pioneer in the style blogging community, sold her company and went on to found digitalundivided (DID), a social enterprise dedicated to the success of Black and Latina women tech founders.
- Stephanie Newby, after a career in Wall St., founded the Golden Seeds angel network and is currently CEO of Crimson Hexagon, a social media analytics company.
Each of their stories resonate with me because:
- They have been founders and investors in other women founders.
- Their successful careers eventually brought them to a point where they could found mission-driven companies of their own.
- What they learned from being in the fire as founders informed them and made them better investors in women entrepreneurs.
Becoming a founder has been an incredibly rewarding and humbling experience, and made me a better angel investor. It’s easier to recognize the “red flags” in prospective founders I’m considering for investment because I’ve made so many of the same mistakes myself.
What advice do you have for female entrepreneurs looking to court angel investors?
It’s a really important question, and one I get asked a lot. Angel investors function in a fragmented marketplace that lacks an established protocol. How an entrepreneur approaches mentors and angel investors is not very well understood, and yet it’s such a critical stage of the process.
In the hierarchy of rules to observe, there are two that are super important: 1) recognize that it’s a long term process of building relationships, because angels are betting on the rider, not the horse; and 2) the reciprocity principle should govern one’s approach. Every contact, call, or meeting is an opportunity to learn more about the advisor or investor, how they came to be an angel investor, what motivates them, areas of expertise, and what they look for in the entrepreneurs in whom they invest. It will improve the quality of the dialogue immensely. So ask questions, don’t do all the talking.
Other common sense tips include:
- Bring an attitude of gratitude and humility (even if you are the next big opportunity, don’t act like you’re doing angels a “favor” by letting them in on your startup idea).
- Prepare for the meeting. Research the person with whom you schedule a call or meeting and come with specific asks. Preparation guarantees higher probability of potential positive outcomes.
- Make a gesture of reciprocity, even if symbolic — and definitely pay for the coffee! If you act like it’s a one-way street (“What can you do for me?”), you may not get very far. Just as investors acquire reputations among early stage founders, so do founders acquire reputations among investors — for better or for worse.
- Just because you obtain a meeting with an angel, do not assume that they owe you more time, more help, or access to their rolodex; all of that you have to earn.
Angel investing is a relationship business, and keeping this in mind as you court angel investors will make a huge difference in your success.