What Women Entrepreneurs and Investors learn from each other.

@ Women Entrepreneurs and Investors Summit, March 20th, San Francisco

I’ve learnt a lot in a few hours listening to great leaders.

The event organized by Nyna Pais Caputi enables women to connect and build a trust relationship with other women. A few men in the room, happy guests and women from all over the world : India, Korea, Australia, Eastern Europe…

They all share one thing : the drive, with the ambition to succeed in the Silicon Valley and to have an impact in people’s daily life, wether founders about to raise money, or « want to be » investors.

Wether in Paris or San Francisco, our challenge seems to be the same : Have confidence and show it !

I take the opportunity to congratulate the founder Court Buddy. She had the greatest pitch of all start ups in the final session. Kristina B. Jones has a great business model for a market place connecting attorneys to customers. A 500startup alumni, she lives in Miami and came with her husband ( co founder ) and her cute baby girl. Legal tech is on its way!

I also liked what Dawoon Kang, Korean entrepreneur and co-founder of “Coffee Meets Bagel” ( platform and app for dating) said about her founding story and how her first angels were her own customers.

And also Sena Zorlu CEO Instapio ( platform for ambient intelligence, seamlessly connecting physical and digital worlds ). Great energy ! Thanks for sharing.

I was humbled to be part of the Investor Panel. Nancy Hayes was the Moderator (Managing Director at Golden Seeds)

In the Panel : Sydney Thomas (VC Precursor Ventures), Monali GokulchandJain (Angel Investor at Keiretsus Forum) Uriridiakogene, Onovkapuri, Ivy Nguyen (Investor at NewGen Capital), and me, Odile Roujol (Advisor NextWorldCapital, Business Angels Bay Angels in San Francisco, @50partners in Paris).

I liked the friendly questions that my peers asked to founders when they pitched in the final session (following our investors panel and talks including “Hackaton Ninja” Priya Kuber ).

Here under a few elements I’m happy to share as a new member at Bay Angels.

  1. Tell us a little about your background ?

My name is Odile. I come from Paris. I’ve been in the Bay for a year now.

I’ve spent a large part of my career with major brands in the field of beauty and luxury as an executive with L’Oréal, Yves Saint Laurent, Chanel.

I’ve been in my latest job at L’Oréal the CEO of Lancôme, #1 brand worlwide cosmetic brand in luxury retail. Exciting as in 135 markets, so I believe I understand what is being global. I’ve spent a lot of time in flights from America to Asia !

I’ve spend the last 6 years at Orange, a leading telco in European and African markets, and my latest job has been Chief Strategy and Data officer, helping them to improve the customer experience. I fall in love with data analytics and how to better understand customers.

I came to live in San Francisco with my husband, as I’ve been always amazed by the energy and good vibes when I came to meet people at Facebook, Twitter, Google, or data startups. When people were successfull they were humble and talking about how lucky they were and surrounded by talented people. I liked that.

Now, I help startups especially in B2C, from seeding to Series B and C.

And I advise Next World Capital (VC), for their porfolio scaling in Europe and also their Ever Green Fund, helping them to build a portfolio of great organic beauty brands.

I’m also a Business Angel, in Paris with @50partners, a network with great entrepreneurs investing in digital startups. And Bay angels in the Bay, which are by the way how we connected with Nyna Pais Capputi.

I’m grateful to have attended today’s event.

2. What made you decide to be an investor?

I believe diversity helps to be creative. I came to live in California, as for me it’s the area in the world where you’ve got talents and brains from all over the world.

To be honest, I had a bad surprise arriving in the Bay. When I met a lot of VCs to introduce myself. I discovered that when they had women in their teams they were most of the time talent manager, community manager, or associate, but not very often an operating partner.

And when I met female founders, they told me some bad stories about some VCs asking their executive assistant to attend the meeting when it was about women apparel, or saying at the end of the meeting « I’ll ask my wife ».

So, I wouldn’t say I’m obsessed by investing in female founders, but it’s a part of the equation, I’ve been lucky and I’d like to give back a little of what I’ve learnt.

Being an angel is a trust relationship, a long term one. I believe that founders need a safe place, with people that care about them, are not just obsessed by metrics and short term ROI.

I rarely invest (that’s the bad news). But when I do, first I choose the people, then the idea. And that means I believe the team will be successfull : founders having a vision, but also good listeners.

3 What has been your experience with investing so far — challenges and successes and what it’s like being a woman in a largely male dominated field?

The other day, I was in a meeting with Sukhinder Singh, Founder and CEO JoyUs and also Founder TheBoardList that helps tech companies to find female board member, as a market place. She was asserting : « there has never been such a good time for female founders. »

Yes, it’s hard. I read a Fortune article about the Venture Capital’s Funding Gender Garp. It’s actually not good. 2% of venture capital dollars came to female founders in 2016. Nancy Hayes was reminding all of us this disturbing figure in her introduction.

At the same time, there is more and more awareness about the issue. And they are great VCs, including female ones such as Forerunners or Rivet Ventures that put forward female founders in their portfolio. Lo Toney at Google Ventures does also a great job for diversity.

I believe one way to make things move in the right direction, is creating a network :

- where people can trust each others. That’s what we do today in this meeting (and thank you again Nyna Pais Caputi to make this happen !)

- helping to invest in amazing startups, that perhaps would be less appealing for B2B VCs, who are more Saas, cloud, or data oriented.

So investors keeping the strength of the Valley, which is tech, but trying to have an impact in people’s daily life, and especially women’s life.

4 What are some of the companies you have invested in and why?

I’m very proud to have invested in Social Standards. It’s a social media data analytics company. Devon Bergman and his CTO Vladimir (coming from Russia) are great founders. They are based in Oakland. They are very strong on the product and AI part. I help them to understand the ecosystem around brands and corporations in consumer goods. Again, being an investor is not only about money, it’s about guidance.

Else I invest my time in some great beauty startups, So Choix, and GlamST, that I met at GrowthX. They have already revenues, and Agustina Sartory is a 500 start ups alumnni. They both have with Elie Polus a lot of drive. And customers matter to them.

I like that.

5 What advice would you give to women looking to invest? How can Millennials start preparing themselves to become strong investors?

I would say the rule of the game is the same wether for women investors or men investors : invest when you understand the business model, and when you can add value by your network or your skills and experience. Your guidance to the founders matters.

And trust yourself, due diligences are important, the chemistry between people is essential : You admire and respect the founder ? And the reverse is true ? Good news !

I’ll add to that, having lived in New York, and traveled a lot in Asia and Europe, that understanding how people live, and never underestimating the difference of cultures, can be helpful. Silicon Valley is different.

The other day in a fintech meet-up in San Francisco, the founder of a start up connecting cars had to remind all Millennials in the room that other people of their generation, in different cities, had still to own a car for their daily life. People laughted, understanding what he meant : yes, we have different ways of living for sure !

Think global, act local, as we used to say at L’Oréal.

I believe you Millennials have a native understanding about the new emerging trends : you have been raised with the rise of peer-to-peer sites and apps, grew as teen-agers at the same time as social media, have been smart on line purchasers for a long time…You understand the value of customers data, and how important it is to engage a community to build growth.

You’re assertive, and convinced that you are stronger as a team when you share the same culture.

So use your skills and experience. And if you don’t understand some thing, take other Business Angels with you that know the old economy by verticals and how to disrupt it for the best, but also building alliances and partnerships when needed. People who have worked in corporations understanding what is a culture, management, process, governance.

You want a strong culture, and a start up that scales fast.

6 What do you look for in a startup as you evaluate it for a potential investment?

Founders founders founders !

Then : Idea Idea Idea ! How to be unique, different, have an edge, and not only robustness.

Then, a product that works, and ideally. (even if tiny) revenues to prove that, or a fast growing community.

7 Besides providing capital, do you provide any other support to the startup?

Again, money is one part. The other part, and the most important one is guiding founders.

I try to guide « on demand ». As Boards put already a lot of pressure on the founders, for being on time on the product roadmap, delivering what is expected on. the key metrics.

I try to help them on the Go to market strategy. Most of the time founders are very good at writing their mission, ambition and values.

Then from time to time, it’s hard to choose priorities, and have a method to iterate in a fast way.

I also connect them to the right people at the right time.

I did some mistakes in the past year. Introductions when it’s too early are lost time for mentors and mentees. As founders don’t get it before it’s the right time, even if always happy to have the conversation, they don’t know how to put it in an action plan. So introductions in the right time !

8 What should startups focus on in order to attract investors?

A) The story telling !

I think the format « problem solution » is not answering all questions. Be careful, you always need :

- An emotional benefit

- A rational one (and the reason why to believe you, your uniqueness)

The emotional benefit is vital to inspire people ! Investors, employees, journalists, influencers.

What do you stand for ? Is it self esteem, freedom, wellness… I don’t know, but articulate what is your promise. Think bigger than life !

B) The team !

Investor choose a founder, but carefully look at who is around him, people that have skills or experience he doesn’t have. I carefully look at the slide with the team around the founder and also his advisors.

I shows the ability for a founder to identify where he or she’s excellent at and where he needs help, wether as a CTO or Business development.

C) Then the business model or go to market.

You need to be different.

Else you have to be faster…

D) The metrics. Figures are figures.

I didn’t speak about a robust product, as for me it’s the basis of everything, that builds trust with your users or customers. I always take a look at the demo to understand the customer journey.

Don’t forget. The best way to generate revenues is the life time value of the customer. Keep them engaged and happy customers !

Voilà ! as we say in French.

Looking forward to meeting you. Odile

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Founder Fab Ventures and Fab Fashion & BeautyTech community - Conscious Living -Women. BA, Board member, ex CEO Lancôme @loreal /CDO @Orange - L.A. / SF

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Odile Roujol

Odile Roujol

Founder Fab Ventures and Fab Fashion & BeautyTech community - Conscious Living -Women. BA, Board member, ex CEO Lancôme @loreal /CDO @Orange - L.A. / SF

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