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Since pitching her first startup as a grad student at Stanford, Jenny Lefcourt has had an amazing career creating, selling, advising, and now investing in innovative, women-led companies. After successfully launching the world’s first comprehensive online bridal registry, now owned by the Knot, she went on to found Bella Pictures, an accessible, yet chic wedding photography service.

In 2011 she sold Bella, and shifted her focus to working with other female founders as an investor and advisor. She noticed how a lack of women venture capitalists meant less high-level investors who could relate to products, services, and experiences geared toward women—a major missed opportunity. Now a Partner at the early stage VC firm, Freestyle Ventures, Jenny has stepped up to join a new league of powerful women in Silicon Valley, adding a feminine perspective to how companies in this country are created.

We’re delighted Jenny was so generous to share some of her expertise with Divine Living Magazine readers for this issue. Those of you with big, bold, ideas (all of you?) will take away some valuable insight on the process of pitching your vision and raising capital. And if there’s anything you’re curious to know about, don’t forget to ask us in the comments!

 
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When is it a good time for a woman entrepreneur to seek an investor? At what stage does her idea or company need to be at?

First, the entrepreneur should know approximately the amount of capital she is looking for and therefore, what kind of investor she is looking for. If the entrepreneur wants to raise around $700k or less and plans to have friends, family and angel investors fund this, she can probably start conversations as early as she desires.

If she wants to raise around $1M to $3M from seed firms (like Freestyle), she will want to begin conversations with potential investors when she has more than just the idea flushed out. Ideally, she will have the beginnings of a team, a product, and some data/traction.

What are the most important things you look for when choosing to invest in a company?

I invest in companies that are targeting big markets, ripe with pain or opportunity, and that are proposing a solution 10x better than the status quo. I back CEOs that are great leaders with teams that have strong founder-market fit. Meaning, this team was born to create this company because of their past experience or insights which give them an ‘unfair’ advantage.

What do you think are some of the biggest misconceptions around what it means to have an investor?

Many entrepreneurs think that once they have funding, all their problems are over. Receiving funding simply enables her to begin the journey and escalates her commitment and responsibility to succeed.

What are the top mistakes you see new entrepreneurs make when raising capital?

One of the biggest mistakes I see is an entrepreneur viewing the investor meeting as a time to show they

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really know their stuff, and therefore communicating every last detail of the market or plan. This leaves the investor with more of a headache than excitement about the opportunity—which is what you are after. Tell a high-level story about a big market that needs the solution you are uniquely building, and share your execution plan and the milestones you will hit by raising this capital. The details (unless they ask) can wait until the next meeting—your job is to first and foremost get them interested and wanting to learn more.

Is there anything you see women in particular struggle with during the investment process?

I have seen women struggle more with selling the “big vision” than their male counterparts. While this stems from a fair place (not wanting to over-promise and under-deliver is my theory), it is doing the women a disservice.  Investors get excited to back big ideas and the people who have them.  I recommend that you share the big vision with passion, and balance that with a “go-to market plan” that shows a realistic outline of where you will begin and how you will get there.

For more on Jenny & Freestyle Ventures, visit: freestyle

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