“It was very hard to get a meeting [with VCs], challenging to get emails opened. Here in Chicago, it’s not about what your company is doing but who can speak on your behalf. Who can give a recommendation so someone takes time to review who emails them,” said Darby.
Getting someone to speak on her behalf was no easy task.
For starters, Digitalundivided’s research found that there are just five black female venture partners, compared with 1,630 white male venture partners. And even these black female decision-makers are not always receiving the backing from their LPs to invest in more minority-led companies, especially in companies they may be uniquely poised to understand because of the markets they serve.
Darby says she did not know any investors, and those in her network didn’t either. Yet she had to commit to the fundraising grind.
After pouring her savings into GoNanny, and even selling off all the belongings in her apartment, she still did not have enough capital to support demand for the platform.
Finally, she secured her first investment from Pipeline Angels, which invests in women and non-binary femme entrepreneurs. According to Darby, Pipeline Angels is made up of the type of “smart capital” that understands the childcare market. Now that the investment door has been opened, Darby said GoNanny is undergoing due diligence with an undisclosed VC firm.
Dawn Dickson, founder and CEO of the Columbus-based retail technology company PopCom, built her credibility with investors through another venture-backed company, Flat Out Heels.
PopCom earned a spot in Techstars LA and raised venture capital despite struggling to find investors who understood the industry.
“The self-service retail space is not trendy or popular, and I have yet to meet one investor who had experience in the industry. Because I am a black female and did not attend an Ivy League university, that does have a direct correlation to why many investors did not already know me. I was not in their network initially, but I worked my way in. Once the investors got to know me better and my story, they invested in me because they invest in people, not ideas,” said Dickson.
Above: Dawn Dickson, founder and CEO of PopCom