Having spent almost 20 years in global corporate business development and led several initiatives as an intrapreneur, Anne Ravanona decided that she wanted to finally realise her dual dreams of becoming an entrepreneur and developing a platform to help other women entrepreneurs obtain funding and succeed. As a result, Global Invest Her, an on and offline platform to help women entrepreneurs learn, connect and share experiences as they raise funds, was born. Having started initially as a consulting firm, Global Invest Her has expanded rapidly, developing its online platform, which will be launched in the very near future, and offering a series of offline meet-ups for women founders to expand their networks.
I recently caught up with Founder, Anne Ravanona to learn more about what Global Invest Her was all about, her long-term vision and her effort to help women access the tools, knowledge and connections to get funded:
How did Global Invest Her come about?
I’ve always been passionate about women’s professional progress. In 2005, I set up a career booster training programme for the European Professional Women’s Network and I loved to see the difference it made to have education and networking resources for women. Late in 2012, I decided to make the leap (to entrepreneurship). I always wanted to be an entrepreneur and I’ve had several intrapreneurial experiences in my career, but I decided last year ‘this is it… I’m ready.’ At the end of 2012, I met Robin Vockeroth who was my first employee and at that point we decided to make Global Invest Her a reality.
What’s your broader vision and specific plans going forward?
Why are we doing this? We really do believe that women entrepreneurs are a key lever to re-boost the global and, particularly, the European economy. They play an essential role as innovators and job creators. In line with this, we are focusing on those Women who have already started their business, have started to employ, are focusing on growing their business and are seeking funding within the next 2 years. Our first goal is primarily to help those with high-growth potential, but not only as there are some that are in sectors that are not yet seen by investors as ‘hot’, but will be in the future, and these women’s businesses have much to offer as well.
Of course we also are looking for experienced women entrepreneurs to join the platform. Those who have already successfully raised funds for themselves or someone else, and have an interest in sharing their experiences and learnings with Women who are looking to raise money now. We’re keeping the scope fairly tight at this point because we want to make sure the interactions are fruitful for both parties.
Our vision on where we want to go is to create a space to help women entrepreneurs overcome the obstacles they face in getting funded. So that’s around helping them to access people who have already ‘done it’, who have the answers to their questions, or can provide guidance. We want to equip them with knowledge, build their confidence, build the right network, and connect them with the right people to get funded.
How will the platform work? What are the main ways you’ll help connect women entrepreneurs, VCs, etc?
Our vision is global, and to get there, we’re starting local. The first meet-up that we’re organising will be in London, with one soon after in Paris. While we’ll pilot the portal we’re developing in the UK, we hope that it will be a resource for women entrepreneurs across Europe, and eventually across the globe.
What we’re building though is a focused space where women entrepreneurs can learn about the funding landscape and the key players, get investor ready, and connect with other women and men who have already successfully raised funds.
We’re currently having conversations with angel groups, VCs and lending and granting bodies who have already showed interest in the platform.
Our first priority is to connect women who have successfully raised funds with those who are trying to do it now. We want them to share their learnings, experiences and contacts and what we’re building will help facilitate that.
How does your business model work today and how do you see it working when the portal comes online?
What we want to do is create a focused, closed network where women can trust the information and can come to connect with others. A sign-up fee will help ensure all participants are serious about contributing meaningfully to the group. Other possible revenue streams in the future for instance, might involve offering the opportunity for investors, funders, and those who are specifically in the entrepreneur space the opportunity to be visible on the platform and in our database. We have had some corporates that have reached out to us as well, particularly those who have entrepreneur programmes focused on women as well as those with corporate venture funds.
How do you identify the women to join your platform?
We’ve started by having a first area on our website where people can request an invite (if you’d like an invite request one via our funding portal for women entrepreneurs). We’ve already had a pretty good success with this as our sign-up rate is upwards of 10%. We also have interest from big players in key initiatives focussed on women and entrepreneurship – so there’s definitely interest.
We are also currently interviewing as many women entrepreneurs as possible for our blog for women entrepreneurs and setting up our meet-up groups in Paris and London because we want to start creating the opportunity for women who are currently looking for funding to meet-up with those who’ve successfully done it. So a key focus for us is finding those women and getting their approval to share what they know in a trusted environment.
How are men included in this?
For the scope of the first meet-ups and the portal launch, the focus will be on women. We want, of course, for the men who’ve successfully raised funds to share their stories eventually as well, we see the value in that. We’d also like to share the investor perspective, i.e. what they’re looking for when investing.
What types of funding sources will you be providing information for on the platform (ie venture funding only or public grants and loans as well)?
When we give information on platform about the various funding sources, we will absolutely be covering funding sources across the board, including public funds that are available. We, ourselves, have just received a Prêt d’Honneur (loan) from the Haut-de-Seine Initiative, which is a great source of funding for us and we’re very happy about. Unfortunately many women entrepreneurs don’t ask about sources of funding at all or don’t ask for enough. Last year, out of the $22.9 billion invested in the 3,000 angel deals in the US only 4% went to women and why? Well, only 16% of women actively went after these funds. So part of my motivation here is to help build their confidence and say to women that they can do it. If they arm themselves with the knowledge, the right contacts and get the right advice, they can absolutely get funded the way they need to.