How Keleya’s founder showed VCs that femtech isn’t just for female investors
How do you raise money when you’re a newbie founder pitching to investors not in your target audience ?
This is a challenge Victoria Engelhardt, co-founder and CEO of pregnancy app Keleya, faced frequently while fundraising. Having studied business and worked at both Rocket Internet and BCG, Victoria Engelhardt ticked all the VC-approved boxes for a German founder, but many male venture capitalists could not identify with her target customers: pregnant women. This posed a challenge that many founders would find daunting - but not to be put off, Victoria successfully raised three rounds of funding for Keleya, which now boasts over 150,000 users as well as several thousand paying customers.
We asked Google for Startups 2019 Immersion: Women Founders alumna Victoria to share her advice with other founders attempting to pitch a product for markets unfamiliar to many VCs. In a nutshell, it’s about nailing your pitch, letting the process make you a better founder, and finding the right funding. According to Victoria, VCs just didn’t “get” the product in the beginning. By writing it off as being limited to “a lifestyle of nine months,” they overlooked the postpartum experience as well as “all the stakeholders that are part of the journey: midwives, insurance companies, hospitals, and gynecologists.” Victoria realised she needed to adapt the way she communicated to investors she wanted to reach while staying true to herself. “I can't change investors,” reflects Victoria, “so I had to adjust how I came across in pitches—but I didn't want to change my personality just to be successful in this game.”
Victoria says the key to truly hearing and acting upon critical feedback is taking it as a growth opportunity:
“I would say fundraising is less than 50% about the company, and more than 50% about the person pitching.”
I started to take critical feedback less personally, read a lot of books and improved my body language.”
The Google for Startups Immersion: Women Founders mentorship program in Berlin presented Victoria with an opportunity to work on her biggest growth areas with support from mentors and access to Google’s best resources. In the program, Victoria honed her pitching skills alongside other women founders: “Usually you’re in a room that’s maybe 90% male - we were 16 women, which really helped me to see how other women pitch.”
As for how she found her investors, Victoria says it was a process of sourcing and filtering. At first, she reached out to her network for introductions. “Then it was like a snowball effect,” remembers Victoria, “You always have to be aware of who could lead you to the next connecting dot. That's how I found most of my investors - literally just word of mouth.” Once she started meeting with investors and putting her pitching into practice, Victoria’s approach became more strategic: “I think the most important thing is to work with people that understand the product better - especially people who work in your field, who understand the vision and the potential of it.”
Of course, access to the right opportunities also helps. After prepping her pitch with Google mentors, the Google for Startups Immersion: Women Founders program took Victoria onstage at a leading European tech conference. It was there that her pitch got the attention of a healthcare investor, a corporate who happened to be branching into the parenting and baby market. The match was mutually beneficial: “They were very curious about how we were approaching the digital sphere in this market and we’ve been helping them learn about digital markets in general,” says Victoria.
Victoria completed the program with an investor from a billion-dollar global healthcare company, a solid Objectives and Key Results (OKR) practice, and a close network of founders that she still keeps in touch with.
The final piece of advice Victoria would give other founders? “That you shouldn't stop believing in yourself or your product.”
Founders Book Club
What book are you reading right now?
The Big Five for Life by John Strelecky.
What’s your recommended reading for founders?
“Pitch Anything by Oren Klaff. This dude is really crazy - but he gives you some interesting ideas about how to fundraise.”
Immersion: Women Founders is a 12-week, skill-building mentorship program for high potential women-led startups selected from startup communities across Europe, including the UK and Israel. The program aims to address predominant challenges for women founders in the startup ecosystem with the aim to close the gender gap, ensuring more equal access to funding, and leveraging strong professional networks.
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