This founder couldn't convince male investors to fund her smash-hit wedding startup — now she's part of a plan to bust up 'the old boys club' of venture capital

Business Insider | 8/10/2018 | Zoë Bernard
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New York-based venture firm F3 has founded a new program to mentor and advise female entrepreneurs in cities throughout the US.

Among the entrepreneurs participating is Zola co-founder Shan-Lyn Ma, who says that her wedding company at first struggled to spark interest among the predominantly male investment scene.

Zola - Co-founder - Shan-Lyn - Ma - Idea

When Zola co-founder Shan-Lyn Ma first began pitching her idea for a one-stop wedding site to investors, she says they were mostly unimpressed.

"One of the things I remember very vividly from the first few years starting out was a meeting in which I was pitching a group of all male investors," said Ma. "One investor looked me right in the eyes and said, very seriously, 'When I got married 20 years ago, my wife seemed to be fine with the wedding registry we used then. Are you sure that women today will want anything different?'"

Ma - Response - Crazy - Service - Years

Ma said she was amazed by his response: "It struck me as a little crazy. You would never say that of any other tech service from 20 years ago. It seemed so obvious that people today would want to benefit from great design in weddings as they do in every aspect of life," she said.

For Ma, securing funding early on was an uphill battle. Many investors didn't seem to see the point of an efficient, customizable wedding registry, she says. It's understandable, said Ma, that her company may not have initially resonated with the average venture capitalist.

Customer - Woman - Demographic - VC - Industry

"Our average customer is a 26 to 34-year-old woman," she said. "That demographic is not hugely represented in the VC industry. It's been a long time since many investors were married themselves, and it was tougher sell than, say, a photo sharing app."

Looking back, Ma estimates that three out of every four investors she pitched turned Zola down. Five years later, however, some of...
(Excerpt) Read more at: Business Insider
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