To invest or not to invest

We’re often asked, what is GingerBread Capital’s investment model? How do we decide what companies to invest in?

As a female-founder focused fund, GBC has a specific mission: to invest in and support exceptional women entrepreneurs who have the capacity to build and scale tech-enabled enterprises. We are industry agnostic. That is, our portfolio companies span the universe–from fin tech to education, fashion to health & wellness, to work spaces and food & beverage. Across all of our investments, what first gets us to sit up and notice are visionary, dynamic founders with exceptional execution skills who possess high conviction, passion and drive. Learn more about what we look for.

Many will argue that venture capital investing is more art than science. But it’s not just “going with our gut” or the favorable impression a founder makes on us during her pitch that drives our decision on whether to invest in her  company. Our diligence includes a series of questions in five key areas that every potential VC investor should ask before writing that check. Whether you’re a founder or a potential investor, this checklist can help bring more focus to the next pitch session you attend.

To Invest or Not Invest: 5 Key Areas to Consider

1. Captivating Back Story

  • Who is the founding team and what makes them uniquely qualified?
  • What is the problem or opportunity?
  • How big is the problem?

2. Differentiated Business Model

  • How does the company solve the problem?
  • How much does the product/service cost?
  • How much does it cost them to make it?
  • How long do they retain their customers?

3. Competitive Landscape

  • Who is the competition?
  • How do they differentiate themselves in the market?
  • Is there any proprietary IP or strategies to keep the company ahead of the competition?

4. Scalability

  • How much does it cost to acquire a customer now vs. at scale?
  • What are the key performance metrics?
  • Can the founder/s share up to three key milestones?

5. Financing History

  • How much capital has the company raised to date?
  • How much is the company currently raising?
  • How will the proceeds be used?
  • What key milestones does/do the founder/s intend to hit with the funds?

So how do I get started investing in startups?

You don’t need to go out and start your own venture capital fund in order to invest in early stage private companies.  New vehicles are emerging that — unlike traditional venture capital funds which require writing several hundred-thousand to million-dollar checks in order to participate as a limited partner — allow a smaller check size to invest in early-stage private companies. Investing in women founders can give back even greater dividends — what’s also known as a triple bottom line. As an investor, you can:

  • Support a business that has a positive impact on society and help spur innovation in an industry you’re passionate about;
  • Support more women in gaining leadership roles and help create a more equitable playing field for women in business; and
  • Generate a potential financial return that builds wealth and financial stability for you, your family and your community.

You’ll also be part of a growing movement of women who are pooling their capital to nurture the next generation of female founders and build an ecosystem in which women entrepreneurs can access the resources they need to thrive and succeed.

So how do you get started as an investor in startup companies? While there is no one right approach, here are nine quick tips for kickstarting your investment strategy.

Tip #1 – Define your goals. You want a financial return, sure. However, you might also have the desire to help create a more equitable environment for women in business or have deep passion for a particular business or industry (i.e., healthcare, education, technology, fashion, consumer products). Whatever your interests, you can leverage your particular expertise and play to your strengths. Investing is a personal decision and it’s okay to invest in something or someone simply because you believe in them.

Tip #2 – Decide how much capital you have to put to work. While we’re not investment advisors, we believe the amount of money you have to invest should align with your tolerance for risk. Venture investing is high risk. Startups have a high failure rate, so you may never realize a financial return. But the financial rewards can be far greater when the company you invest in succeeds. Helpful resources such as 37Angels and Angel Capital Association can help you determine the right course for you.

Tip #3 – Do your research and build your knowledge of the VC industry and its lingo. Subscribe to industry newsletters such as The Information, PitchBook, TechCrunch, Women’s PE Briefs, Ellevest, Recode, Forbes and others that cover venture capital, private equity and investing. For a deeper dive, check your local university for classes and seminars on angel investing. There is also a wealth of great books on the topic that you don’t need an MBA to understand.

Tip #4 – Join or follow an investor network focused on supporting women entrepreneurs. Plum Alley, Portfolia, Astia and SpringBoard Enterprises are among a growing number of organizations devoted to increasing the number of women funding women and diverse founders.

Tip #5 – Attend conferences and pitch events to network, listen and learn. Check out Project Entrepreneur, Forbes Women’s Summit, Sheworx, 500 Startups and others that connect investors with promising women-led startups. Numerous business schools at universities also host student business competitions and pitch events that are open to the public. GingerBread Capital also hosts periodic “Women Investing in Women” events and webinars. (Check out our in-person education and networking event in Los Angeles!)

Tip #6 – Determine where you want to be on the investment spectrum. Do you love the thrill of starting something from the ground up? Or have you spent your career running large, mature organizations? Your professional experience can inform where you want to participate, whether that’s early-stage angel, seed, or Series A, mid-stage Series B/C/D, or late-stage growth and pre-IPO.

Tip #7 – How involved do you want to be in the company? Traditional institutional investors prefer to take a lead role in the company’s management and typically set the terms of the financing. Depending on your experience, check size, and desired involvement, you can also be helpful to a company as a non-lead investor. In addition to being an investor, you can serve as a trusted advisor or board member, or lend your industry or management expertise, contacts and reputation to help drive the founder’s business forward.

Tip #8 – Be patient and realistic. Venture investing is a long game. Expect an early-stage company to have multiple inflection points and several rounds of financing. The outsized returns always get more attention than the losses investors experience. Don’t expect to have a liquidity event in the near term. Let every investment you make inform the next one and guide your portfolio. Help your founders accomplish their goals and you will succeed with them.

Tip #9 – Invest in people you believe in and trust, and be a part of their success. Most founders can pinpoint from the earliest days the investors who made an impact well beyond just the size of their check. That investor might as well be you!

“We want to get more people to see investing in women as an economic opportunity.”

Linnea Roberts — Founder + CEO, GingerBread Capital

Thinking About Investing in a Startup? Questions You Need to Ask Before Writing that Check
Thinking About Investing in a Startup? Questions You Need to Ask Before Writing that Check
Thinking About Investing in a Startup? Questions You Need to Ask Before Writing that Check