Fundraising – Raising money in Silicon Valley

Alicia Kenworthy – Fundraising – Trying to raise money in Silicon Valley for a non-tech brand.

Yeah, so we definitely needed money for the bra development. It’s an expensive process and it’s something that’s somewhat difficult because that’s foreign to Silicon Valley. They’re very focused on two guys in a basement, pumping out code who can create something from nothing, and so to go to investors and ask for investment in a physical product and inventory is a risk, and we know it’s a risk, and I think that’s something that women inherently have—not that women are more risk adverse, but I think women are a little more responsible.

Asking someone to invest in you, and I’m going to take 50 thousand dollars from you, 500 thousand dollars from you,  2 million dollars from you, off of passion for an idea and something that I think can make work, but has no guarantee of working. Literally, venture capital is one of the most risky forms of investment around. So asking someone, especially if they’re a friend or family or someone you’ve had a working relationship with to take that risk on you is very scary. I think what women might feel a lot more—haha! Ahh…

I think women feel that they see the value that’s attached to the money, and they feel more responsibility to make a return on it. There are statistics out there that show that women who run venture capital businesses do better than male invested ones, but it think males have a sense of vibrato. They go out there, and they think, no problem, I’m going to get so and so to get me 5 million dollars. Of course it’ll work out, but if it’s doesn’t work out, it doesn’t work out. But I think women are a little bit more acutely aware of how that might affect your relationship with someone.

So that was a hump to get over, so we definitely have a brainstorming session in the beginning where we thought, is there any way we can bootstrap this? Both of us unfortunately didn’t choose careers where we became millionaires in our 20s, so we knew we had to get outside investment, and figuring out where that’s going to come form has been a really interesting process.

I think that one of the mistakes I made in the very beginning was thinking that people that I had worked with on the tech world, would go ahead and take the risk on apparel company. And some are, some have been very supportive, but others just simply don’t understand anything about bras, and so what I wish I had done early on was develop more relationships in the fashion apparel industry and find out who those people are, and that’s difficult because we know technology gets a lot of investment, that there aren’t a lot of visible venture capitalists or angels committed to the consumer good space, committed to these more traditional ideas.

It’s not like 3 years ago, I thought to myself I should really work at Victoria’s Secret and get to know the CEO so when I start my bra business I’ll be ready to go. So, that’s something we’ve had to do along the way and we’ve learned along the way. Really, what we’ve done, who have been the successful entrepreneur in parallel companies, companies that are similar to ours? We’re lucky in a day and age now, there are more and more popping up. There’s Parker, Bonobos, True & Co, Harry’s, all sorts of vertically integrated fashion brands that are starting to get attention.

So we looked at them, we also looked at what have been the more traditional apparel companies that have made it, and it’s really been amazing at just introductions, going to people who know people, and trying to get to those people who have an understanding of the space and who have been successful in the career and might be willing to take a risk with someone else and give back in that way.