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Unlocking Entrepreneurial Success: Insights from an Expert Investor

Chiara de Caro, Founder and Managing Partner at AGCC

Introducing Chiara. Founder and managing partner at AGCC, a Startup Accelerator and Innovation Platform dedicated to sourcing world-leading technologies for the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council) while also acting as a launchpad for GCC-based technologies in global markets, with a strong emphasis on creating a bridge to the South Korean startup ecosystem, driving cross-border investments and commercialization.

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

Resilience. Resilience. Resilience. Adaptability. And a good dose of self-awareness.

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

When I look into funding startups, I lean heavily towards founders who have a focus on early traction; finding ones with a strong technical background and a sharp commercial mindset is golden, but it is however very rare. If we're talking about investing in companies led by women, I value self-awareness. It's a game-changer because we often navigate a world that wasn't built for us. Self-awareness allows us to tackle challenges with clarity and confidence. I admire women who've rocked their previous careers, have a killer network, and aren't afraid to take risks.

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

It is not about ego; fill in the gaps and quickly bring on board those who excel where you don't. Leverage what makes us different! For example, we can demonstrate exceptional resilience and adaptability—qualities essential for navigating the ups and downs of startup life. We also tend to be more empathetic than men; I would suggest using empathy to your advantage and developing strong relationships with employees, customers, and stakeholders. Women can be powerful networkers; don't underestimate the importance of it!

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?

In the startup world, setbacks and failures are pretty much guaranteed. Entrepreneurs need to be mentally prepared for the worst. This mindset cuts down on the fear and panic, helping you stay chill and keeping your eyes on the big picture.

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

In my experience, the quickest way to funding is showing proven traction, regardless of gender :) Don't be humble! Show the confident and powerful woman you are! Make sure you're prepared to demonstrate a solid business model and have clear metrics to back up your traction and potential for growth. Target the right investors and don't focus exclusively on female investors (it is proven to make it harder in the following rounds). 

How do you perceive the differences in the questions asked of male and female founders during pitches, and what strategies do you recommend for navigating these differences to present our businesses effectively?

VCs tend to ask men about gains and women about losses; this bias is shown by both male and female investors. Men get questions on hopes and achievements; while women on safety and security (for example: a male founder would be asked: "Is your target market a growing one?" A female founder would be asked: "Is this a defensible business"). As a female founder, be clever, lead the conversation, and pivot the discussion toward promotion-oriented questions.

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?

Women excel at networking, yet we often lag behind men in business networking. To bridge this gap, we need to understand that business networking is a way to build professional connections, where we exchange career ambitions and successes and not another way of building personal friendships. It's also important not to limit ourselves to female-only networks. Lastly, we should not be afraid to ask for help! 

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?

Stay active with sports; take regular breaks, even if brief; and delegate tasks when possible.

Interview series by Riga TechGirls for TechChill 2024 

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