Can Anne Ravanona’s incredible information hub help bridge a $300bn funding gap?
“When I learned four years ago that the funding gap between men and women is $300bn, I got angry and decided to do something about it.”
That startling figure (from IFC, World Bank) is why Anne Ravanona set up Global Invest Her, a platform and community providing guidance and support for women entrepreneurs; particularly, to help them to get investor-ready, priming their jaws for a bigger slice of that funding pie.
“We want female founders to come to us as the trusted, quality source of what you need to know about funding, so you don’t have to waste time looking all over Google. Plus we really are going to disrupt the world of funding!” said Ravanona.
‘I have a 15-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son, and the hard truth is that if both were to look for funding today, my son would be 70pc more likely to get funded’
– ANNE RAVANONA
“My strongest value and motivator is gender equality, meaning equal opportunity for both men and women. I have a 15-year-old daughter and 13-year-old son, and the hard truth is that if both were to look for funding today, my son would be 70pc more likely to get funded, just because of his gender. I can’t stand that, and think that women entrepreneurs are the biggest untapped resource to reignite the global economy, so I want to do my part to get more funds for women-led businesses,” Ravanona told me.
Despite wrestling with some depressing figures, Ravanona, originally from Dublin, has an unassailable, buoyant spirit. Her upbeat energy is infectious, which is no doubt a spur for any downtrodden women entrepreneurs she mentors.
An entrepreneur herself, Ravanona has more than 22 years’ experience in global business and, these days, often takes to the stage as an advocate for women. She has spoken at TEDx and Silicon Republic’s Female Founders Forum. She has judged many a pitch competition. She has appeared on lists of change-makers. She advises Fortune 500 companies on gender diversity, and she mentors start-ups starting up. She also finds time to write, showcasing great women entrepreneurs, investors and leaders through her Trailblazing Women series for The Huffington Post.
Wearing all those hats with aplomb like she does takes energy. And women entrepreneurs need a boundless Ravanona kind of energy because, unfortunately, they face an uphill struggle.
“Yes we can and yes we will #GetFunded!” Ravanona assured me in one email.
Now based in Paris, Ravanona Skyped me in for a preview of Global Invest Her’s content. There was a soft launch pre-Christmas in the French capital, and the website has been building traction ever since. Already packed with insider tips, tools and templates, Ravanona promises more to come, including content bundles focused on specific sources of funding.
“This is an education in entrepreneurship specifically tailored to women,” she explained, as she took me through the layers of information and guidance available.
In minutes, I can see that Ravanona has taken something broadly comprehensive and made it accessible. And she is excited to get this into the hands of women entrepreneurs. The funding gap – more like a chasm – is something she is seriously keen to fill, and she’s as passionate on the issue as she is about the necessary fixes she has developed.
“We need a competitive advantage because we are disadvantaged. It’s just unfair,” she said.
‘Success leaves clues, so don’t reinvent the wheel. Learn from those who have walked before you’
– ANNE RAVANONA
I asked Ravanona which is her favourite part of the extensive Global Invest Her product suite. “You’re asking me to pick between my children!” she laughed.
“It would have to be the Roadmap to Funding because we really want to speed up the funding journey for female founders.”
Inside the Roadmap are the footsteps of the women who came before; funding journeys of global female founders who have collectively raised $400m. There are also behind-the-scenes notes from international investors, revealing what they really look for before investing.
“Success leaves clues, so don’t reinvent the wheel. Learn from those who have walked before you so you can get funded faster!” Ravanona chimed.
To gather the content for this rich platform, Ravanona has been hunting and gathering (interviewing and collating) stealthily for about three years. Unsurprisingly, she has no complaints.
“I really enjoyed doing these interviews, personally, and want to share all that collective wisdom from these generous leaders who are all motivated, like me, to close the gender funding gap,” she said.
When we first speak in February, even before the platform has officially launched, Ravanona has rounded up 100 international members and completed 40 interviews with funded women and 40 more with seasoned investors.
Evidently made with love, I am particularly impressed with the interface and user experience for such a dense resource. To present such volume of in-depth information in an inviting and engaging way is no small feat. It’s well thought-out, and incredibly practical, too. As well as the interviews and practical tips, there are webinars, templates, further reading recommendations, infographics and more. This isn’t a website, it’s a toolkit, with useful elements that can be deployed as and when they are needed.
The platform runs on a subscription model based on a foundation of core products with a ‘pick and mix’ menu to help founders tailor the selection to their needs. As well as individual members, Ravanona hopes to see accelerator programmes offer subscriptions as part of their packages. There’s also a completely free option that comes with access to the community of female founders, where users can practise their pitch and learn about sources of funding.
Part of the raison d’être for Global Invest Her is to separate those investors and firms that are genuinely committed to striking a better gender balance in entrepreneurship from those just paying lip service to an increasingly popular cause. Next up, Ravanona will be building a funding database of female-friendly sources of funding, and appearance here will almost serve as a mark of endorsement for investors. Here be dragons … who invest in women. (Sign up here to be informed when that valuable dataset is ready.)
Long-term, the Global Invest Her mission is to demystify the funding process and allow entrepreneurs to learn in a safe place. Immediately, for Ravanona, she’s co-hosting a webinar with Emily Cassius from Crowdcube today (22 June) titled ‘What Happens After Your Equity Crowdfunding Campaign?’. Then, it’s on to the first InvestHer Dublin Meetup on 4 July, right before she takes the stage at Inspirefest 2017.
Further webinars are coming up, looking at data protection with Emerald de Leeuw (12 July), advice on pitching to male investors with John Fayad (13 July), and tips on creating an elevator pitch that rocks with Andrew Keogh (19 July).
Female founders, investors and those who support them are welcome to join the first InvestHer Dublin Meetup on 4 July. Tickets are available via Eventbrite.
Anne Ravanona will be speaking at Inspirefest, Silicon Republic’s international event connecting sci-tech professionals passionate about the future of STEM. Book now to join us from 6 to 8 July in Dublin.
Updated, 10.53am, 29 June 2017: An earlier version of this article mistakenly stated that Anne Ravanona originally hails from Cork.