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Empowering Female Entrepreneurs: Navigating the Venture Capital Landscape and Securing Funding

TechChill is upon us! Gear up for an inspiring event brimming with innovation. 

We'll delve into the journeys of incredible women who've conquered the startup world.

Get ready for exclusive interviews with these amazing founders and investors – they're ready to share their stories and ignite your own startup ambitions.

Zane Kampa - Venture Analyst at Change Ventures

Introducing Zane Kampa. A venture analyst at Change Ventures. She started her career at Mintos and then had the incredible opportunity to intern at Plug and Play in Silicon Valley through the “Baltic American Freedom Foundation” where she was looking for new investments and doing corporate innovation consulting. After her return, she started her journey at Change Ventures and has enjoyed being able to connect with companies at the start of their experience.

Change Ventures backs founders from the Baltic states (Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia as well as diaspora teams abroad) to build global success stories, investing from €100K to €500K at the pre-seed stage. They are passionate about funding teams that are ambitious and have the knowledge and drive to build global-scale companies. They have invested in such revolutionary start-ups as Printify, Giraffe360, and Veriff.

In this interview, we discuss investing, failure, and the challenges female founders face when it comes to fundraising and how to overcome them.

What are some of the key skills or qualities that you think are essential for success as an entrepreneur?

Success is a combination of grit, adaptability, vision, and execution. The startup journey is long and full of challenges in which passion and perseverance are a must, but luck and timing also play an important role.

What are the key factors you consider when deciding to fund startups? What is the decision-making process behind it? 

At Change Ventures we invest in very early-stage start-ups, and we focus mostly on the team. What we look for is a combination of the right skills as well as the attitude and commitment. Secondly, we look at the practical factors like product-market (or solution) fit and scalability. 

What advice do you have for female founders regarding building a strong founding team and leveraging their unique insights to drive business growth?

Your perspective as a female founder is a lens through which you can identify opportunities others might miss. Maybe it’s an understanding of an underserved market you’re part of or an innovative approach to a problem that’s been overlooked. Find a diverse team that has a shared vision and has complementing skills and perspectives to support it, and one you would want to spend the majority of your time with. With early-stage start-ups, investors usually look at the team as an indicator of success.

How do you view failure in the startup world? What advice do you have for female founders on overcoming setbacks and turning them into opportunities for growth?

Failure is nothing to be ashamed of. Previous funding experience, even if unsuccessful is often a positive sign as it shows willpower and resilience. Use it as a learning opportunity, analyze your previous experience, and see how you can approach it differently to not make the same mistakes in the future. 

How can female entrepreneurs build strong relationships with investors and secure funding?

Building strong relationships takes time and I encourage founders to get in contact with investors even before they are raising as that lays the foundation for the relationship. Even if one doesn't succeed in securing funding from an investor - I would advise staying in touch and keeping the investor updated on business developments. Sometimes being able to deliver on what has been promised can turn a “no” into a “let's talk”.

A common misconception among female founders is thinking of the investor world as a closed club. Not true. Yes, it can be intimidating to approach investors with whom you have no previous connections but don't be scared to do a cold outreach or even better - take advantage of in-person events and try to meet with investors face to face.

What are some common mistakes or misconceptions that first-time female founders make when fundraising, and how can they avoid or overcome these challenges?

In my experience all founders make the same mistakes, most notably not having answers to standard questions (e.g. vision, traction, and fundraising objectives), giving away too much equity, and reaching out to investors who do not match the criteria. I recommend speaking with other founders who have experience with fundraising as well as doing your own online research.

How do male and female founders approach networking differently in the context of the funding gender gap, and what opportunities are available to female founders to overcome these differences?

While the approach to networking is similar for both men and women, its traditional forms may be more challenging for women as many of them are caretakers and may not be able to attend networking events as freely. Additionally, stereotypes and a lack of role models may play a role. I recommend researching and partaking in networks, mentorship programs, and investor initiatives aimed at bridging the gender gap in funding. Participating in startup competitions and industry events can also provide valuable exposure and connections.

What was your career path that led you to become an investor? Were there any specific events, mentors, or experiences that shaped your interest in this field and ultimately your decision to focus on investing in startups?

I started my journey by working at a startup (Mintos) in the AML team where I had a strong role model - my manager Sandra Rituma (at the time -Head of AML/CFT) who empowered me to try out different ideas and work on my own initiatives. She also encouraged me to apply to the “Baltic American Freedom Foundation” Professional Internship program thanks to which I had the opportunity to go to Silicon Valley for a year and work at Plug and Play Tech Center where I was looking for new investments as well as doing corporate innovation consulting on the side. Once it was time to go back to Latvia, Andris K. Berzins, Partner at Change Ventures, reached out to me and offered to join the team. The rest is history and I have been with Change Ventures for a bit more than a year now. I have to say that I feel very honored and lucky to be working with such a great team, and I am really grateful to Andris for his continuous support and mentoring. I truly enjoy my work as I often get to be one of the first to talk to and listen to some of the smartest people around. 

As a female investor, I've noticed that we're a bit of a rarer breed in the investment world, and I won't lie — it can feel a bit intimidating at times. I've realized that the biggest thing holding us back is often our self-doubt. So, I'm putting out a call to all the amazing women out there: we need you in the investment world (and as founders as well!). Your unique perspectives, your insights, and your brilliance are too valuable to stay on the sidelines.

Founders often face the challenge of prioritizing personal well-being amidst the startup grind. Can you share some specific strategies you would like founders to implement to create a healthy work-life integration while managing the demanding schedule of a startup founder?

It is challenging to answer something where I lack personal experience, but without trying to reinvent the wheel I would advise the following: exercising, getting enough sleep, delegating tasks (if possible), getting professional help if needed and not being ashamed of it, as well as cultivating a support network, both professionally and personally, to provide guidance, perspective, and a much-needed outlet during stressful times.

Interview series by Riga TechGirls for TechChill 2024

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