Over copious amounts of herbal tea, Doyenne.sg talks to Pocket Sun, Founding Partner of SoGal Ventures and Founder of SoGal, about narrowing the gender gap in venture capitalism and tips on how female founders can improve their fundraising skills.
“Be certain of your value proposition and sell the hell out of it!”
When we first met Pocket, she was one of the panellists who gave insightful feedback to budding startups at a Soundboard event, organised by the Hive Singapore. Despite being the youngest of three judges, her eloquence and confidence denoted maturity beyond her years.
Judging by her outspoken demeanour, you would never have guessed that Pocket is only 25 years old. As the Founding Partner of the world’s first female-led millennial venture capital (VC) firm SoGal Ventures, she is exactly who we make her out to be: passionate and determined.
“My partner and I stumbled into venture capitalism in our early 20s. We didn’t fit the typical VC profile, but we did it! If we can make this work, a lot of other women can do it too. Be certain of your value proposition and sell the hell out of it,” the petite woman asserts.
Gaping hole in VC funding
After acing her Masters programme in entrepreneurship and innovation at the University of Southern California’s Marshall School of Business, Pocket founded SoGal for a simple reason – to address the biggest obstacles female founders faced in VC funding.
Sipping on cups of herbal tea at Sofitel So Singapore, Pocket gives us a quick lowdown on the current situation: “There is a poor gender ratio in VC firms. Only 7% of key decision makers are women. Because of this, it is harder for women to succeed.”
Due to the lack of diversity in business viewpoints, investors cannot understand female founders’ standpoints and quickly opt out of companies. As such, startups that are focused on female-centric offerings, like childcare and skincare products, miss out on vast funding opportunities.
Furthermore, venture capitalism came into the picture only because everyone talks about funding. “Even though it is not the only measure of success, VC funding is so glorified that everyone thinks startups have to attain it for validation,” says Pocket with gusto.
Nonetheless, VC funding is still within reach of startups. The millennial powerhouse dishes out three tips for budding female entrepreneurs to take on the fundraising world.
“It is all about offering value to other people. Get to know their life stories, be open to new ideas. Even as a student, you might have fresh knowledge about technology, a specific topic you are keen about, or resources which can be a talent pool for recruiters.”
1. Be assertive
It really pays to assert more self-confidence. “Many women are very passive about problem-solving”, says Pocket. When we start counting on ourselves to solve problems instead of waiting for the world to do so, female founders will be one step closer to getting that elusive VC funding.
2. Think bigger
Female founders should think bigger and encourage others to find more problems to solve. If one is too conservative in their projections and vision, they will face a major disadvantage in the boardroom.
“We need to see the big picture – especially for VCs – because we invest in things that scale quickly,” explains Pocket. So find a big vision for what you are doing and sell it to get others on board.
3. Networking isn’t about yourself
Most importantly, Pocket highlights that millennials often mistake networking for asking people for something. “When I was a student, I used to think that I had nothing to offer experienced professionals, but that’s not the case,” she says.
To network effectively, Pocket shares that it is about making new friends and opening your eyes to different worlds you may not have known before. It is not so much about selling oneself.
“It is all about offering value to other people. Get to know their life stories and be open to new ideas. Even as a student, you might have fresh knowledge about technology, a specific topic you are keen about, or resources which can be a talent pool for recruiters,” adds Pocket.
This mindset has certainly helped SoGal Ventures gain fast traction in the market, as the millennial’s VC firm is the perfect example of adding a fresh breeze to the VC world.