Puiyan Leung | Why Female-led Businesses get Less Funding

Puiyan LEUNG | 06 Oct 2022

(This is an abstract from Her World magazine)

Singapore fares better than the global average when it comes to representation in the venture capitalism space. But there’s no denying that we can and should do better. How can we build a more equitable and inclusive ecosystem?

“From my observation, maybe only around 20% of startups are female-led.” Puiyan Leung shares with Her World.

What we can do about it

Female Founders could fare better during fundraising if they are more aware of the type of questions being asked and how they should respond to them, observes Puiyan. For example, female entrepreneurs are more often asked ‘prevention’ questions: What if things go wrong, and what if that market doesn’t correct? Conversely, male-led start-ups are more often asked ‘risk’ questions: What if you’re right and your assumptions are correct?

When asked the prevention questions, female founders should be able to steer conversations back on track to deliver the evidence of their plans.

Puiyan also recommends being transparent about one’s thought process and emphasizes that sharing about one’s journey can be a turning point for crucial conversations. For instance, if a founder can transparently share about their stories of hardship and perseverance, investors may better empathize with the founder’s decision-making process and logic.

Female Representation in investments

In VC firms, only 12% of decision-makers are women. Puiyan worked for 18 years before rising through the ranks to become a decision-maker herself. She stresses that addressing this “top of the funnel problem” can encourage more females to join the profession - for example, by being generalistic and opening minds to female investment professionals who may come from backgrounds other than finance.

Apart from representation, being able to stay in the profession is important as well. The culture at a company is critical in promoting inclusivity so that mothers can find a balance between family and work.

In terms of how we incorporate inclusivity and diversity into our practices here at Vertex, Puiyan shares that during the evaluation of a deal, small teams made up of diverse members are formed - be they in thoughts, gender, or expertise. As early-stage investors, we place much emphasis on founders and team profiles. While it may be tempting to pass on an opportunity because a founder does not appear ‘strong,’ we must internally rethink what it means to be strong, and not maintain a narrow-minded view of it. Only then, can we truly “level the playing field”.

Read the full article here.

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