“When someone tells you that something can’t be done, all it really means is that it hasn’t been done before.” ~ Lori Greiner
The digital age has transformed how business is conducted in powerful ways. Thanks to new technology, more educational resources, and alternative fundraising options, it’s now easier than ever to start a business. With so many people launching new startups, savvy business investors like Shark Tank’s Lori Greiner are speaking out and advising entrepreneurs on how to be successful in this digital age.
I had the unique opportunity to interview the “Queen of QVC” about how entrepreneurship has evolved, mistakes to avoid when pitching investors, and her surprising advice for women entrepreneurs.
Lori Greiner's rise in the digital ageGreiner took advantage of the digital stage early on when she launched “Lori Greiner’s Clever and Unique Creations” on QVC in 2000. “There are so many venues that can play a role in your selling strategy, but in my opinion, there is simply no better selling medium for a new inventor than a shopping channel like QVC,” Greiner told me. “Once you know how to market something out of a certain medium, then it becomes easier to continue marketing other products out of that same medium.”
Using her flair to communicate and present well on air, Greiner leveraged her QVC success into becoming a Shark Tank investor and a mentor and role model for entrepreneurs worldwide.
“The emphasis on entrepreneurship has grown tremendously over the last five years,” says Greiner. “Everybody can relate to having an idea they think could be worth millions, but several years ago people probably never seriously considered that it would be possible to get it off the ground, but now we’re showing that it can happen.”
What makes a great Shark Tank pitch?
Having witnessed hundreds of pitches on Shark Tank and thousands personally, Greiner concisely revealed what constitutes a great pitch. “Be energetic, captivating, honest and informative, but brief. A great pitch is when a person can describe what their business or product is within two sentences,” Greiner advised. “Draw the investors in with enthusiasm and passion. Remember that whoever you’re pitching has spent either little or no time thinking about your product, which you may think is the greatest on the market. Be succinct and to the point, but make it exciting and informative.”
When I asked Greiner if she felt that investing in the entrepreneur was more important than investing in the product, she responded, “I look at both the product being pitched as well as the entrepreneur pitching it, as they are equally important to me. For the product or business, I look for several different things…
“For the entrepreneur, I love to see someone who is energetic, passionate, honest and driven. I want to feel that they will do whatever it takes to make their business a success,” Greiner said.
Click Here to Read the 3 Biggest Pitch Mistakes
Last year, the largest VC deal for a female team was $165 million -- a stark contrast to that for males, which was $3 billion. 98 Percent of VC Funding Goes to Men. Can Women Entrepreneurs Change a Sexist System?
Last year, the largest VC deal for a female team was $165 million -- a stark contrast to that for males, which was $3 billion.
It was January 2017. A 26-year-old Nadia Genevieve Masri made her way up to the second floor office of a venture capital fund in San Francisco. She was there to ask for $500,000.
Masri already had four startups under her belt, and she was raising her first round of VC funding for Perksy, a market research company targeting millennial and Gen-Z audiences. She knew market research was a $45 billion industry and that there was no leading mobile solution -- meaning companies like Pepsi were spending well over $50 million per year without certainty of directly reaching younger generations. Masri’s idea: an app where, in exchange for rewards at companies like Nordstrom, Sephora, Delta and Netflix, users would answer stacks of focused questions from brands on their likes, dislikes and views on current events.
Masri had done the research: She knew her service was unique, that companies would pay for it and that, with the right capital, she could deliver promising results. But the men sitting across the table weren’t sold, telling Masri she was too early -- that they wanted to “see how this goes.”
Self-doubt lingered in the back of Masri’s mind: It’s probably just me. It’s probably just the way I’m communicating this. Nevertheless, she kept plugging away, raising $250,000 in a friends and family funding round, then pitching her idea to Marcy Simon, an angel investor in New York. Simon was the first angel to cut Masri a check, and she helped rally other investors behind the idea -- leading to another $250,000 in funding and Perksy’s January 2018 launch. Within six months, that initial $500,000 in funding brought in $3 million in the pipeline.
Masri still thinks back to those VC rejections and the insecurity that accompanied them, but she has a new outlook now. She says if you’re second-guessing your company, remember the rejection may have nothing to do with your idea itself. Throughout the fundraising process, Masri doesn’t remember meeting with a single female venture capitalist. And even after her company’s seminal success, she still gets eyebrow raises from male investors when she talks about next steps.
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It's no surprise that more funding for women entrepreneurs coincides with an increase in the number of women angel investors.
In 2004, there were about 225,000 angel investors in the United States, and 5 percent of them -- about 11,000 -- were women. Fast forward to 2016, the latest year for which data is available, and you'll see an incredible change. There were approximately 300,000 self-described angel investors in the U.S. that year, and 26 percent of them -- about 78,000 -- were women. In the span of a dozen years, women stepped up in unprecedented numbers to become investors. The seven-fold increase in their ranks coincides with another upswing: a growing number of funded women entrepreneurs.
Business experts said that the most challenging tasks, which women entrepreneurs face, is raising capital. In fact, many women entrepreneurs reported that lack of seed money in their bank accounts often became the factor that slows their business down. Some entrepreneurs begin considering crowdfunding as a solution to raise capital. Again, holding successful crowdfunding for women entrepreneurs is not a simple tasks.
Crowdfunding for Women Entrepreneurs Becomes More Popular
Statistics show that women entrepreneur takes advantage of crowdfunding more and more to solve the problems with limited capital in business. A data presented on a popular crowdfunding site – Indiegogo – shows that 47% of the successful crowdfunding campaigns are run by women.
Female investors and female founders are demonstrating the promise of an overlooked group of entrepreneurs.
When it comes to women and venture capital, the most often-cited numbers don't show much progress. If anything, they seem to be saying that things are getting worse. Using the most current data available, Babson's Diana Project found that teams with a woman co-founder got 18 percent of venture capital in 2013; at the end of 2017, Crunchbase, using a different methodology, pegged that number at just 10 percent.
But in the past few months, there have been a number of signs that women entrepreneurs, and ventures designed to funnel more money to them, are finally starting to break through. There's new money being allocated to women, and some of the money already invested in women entrepreneurs is starting to pay off, big-time.