VC Funding – Encouraging Inclusive Investors to Remember Equity

Being a woman growing a sports-tech startup has been incredibly exciting, challenging and, at times, frustrating. Most of the time I’m so busy with my head down, focusing on meeting and exceeding the next milestone that I don’t even recognize how I’m constantly vying for my voice to be heard.

But not just in the male dominated sports industry. I have recently recognized that I also feel like I don’t fit in with women-led investor groups either.

There is a huge push for women investing in women. We’re all working towards getting more females funded and I have been doing my part to get my voice heard as we push to move the dial past the 2.7 percent of female founders receiving VC funding. 

It’s admirable and the change is happening but as a woman in sports-tech I am noticing a trend. People like to invest in businesses they “get.” People like to invest in companies that speak to them and founders they can relate to. I feel like I fit into both categories but neither category, all at the same time.

I personally have come to realize that not a ton of women investors can relate to me and my journey and while men seem to easily relate to my business, they don’t necessarily feel that bro-connection they do with my co-founder, Kris.

This isn’t just my gender-bias speaking as I know for sure that there are a lot of women out there who, like me, love sports and it’s not to say that every male investor is an avid sports fan but I’m simply going by the numbers I have personally experienced and I’m noticing a trend.

Women-led investor groups and women angels are really keen to support women-led businesses these days but it seems many of them are drawn to Fem Tech; products and services that appeal to and help women. These startups that help females, mothers, girls and those identifying at women are amazing and I agree, the world needs more of these businesses. I know many rockstar women in Fem Tech who are, simply put, changing the world and they definitely need more funding opportunities and avenues to success.

Unfortunately for me, I don’t fit this mold. I seem to not fit into any mold. Early on in our investment journey, Kris and I decided he would pitch to the sports-tech investors while I would pitch to the investors keen on supporting women. His hook caught many more fish than mine did and I wondered if I was doing something wrong? 

It brought me back to a couple of years ago, when FanSaves was on the Pitch Circuit, literally pitching at any and every pitch competition and event we were accepted to. I began noticing back then, that I was less likely to win or even place if there were more women than men on the judging panel.

Again, no gender-bias, just keen observation. The questions from women I got asked, even back then, always got me thinking: why don’t they get it? 

I’ll mention here that there have been some women judges along the way who did get it. Who asked insightful questions and nodded along with a true understanding and comprehension of our platform. 

The same goes for some female investors. I want to acknowledge and celebrate these women who know that not all women founders are creating products and services aimed only at one gender.

But alas, whether pitching at a competition or pitching for our $1M seed round, this is something that I’ve noticed and something I don’t think many people, except those living it, would even know exists.

Something that women in male-dominated spaces face everyday: the challenge of not fitting in anywhere.

I am happy to say we have found some great investors in FanSaves who have seen our team’s talents as a whole and who believe in our giant vision. In the end, our investors are a mix of men and women who understand our platform and they see the difference our diverse team is making in the sports-tech world.

As the business world, especially smart, strong, trailblazing women, continue to fight to get more funding for women-led startups let us remember that there are founders out there (and not just women) who are not only navigating the trials and tribulations of growing and raising but are also trying to understand their place in the ecosystem. Let’s remember that being inclusive is great but that equity is also necessary. 

At the end of the day, as the world navigates diversity, equity and inclusion it will be important for people to invest not only in businesses they “get” and people they relate to but instead on the ideas that will change the world and the jockeys behind them.


by Shannon Ferguson