Nasty Gal’s Sophia Amoruso is PandoMonthly’s first female guest — so we can’t ignore the most obvious “woman in tech” question. We know fewer women raise VC money in Silicon Valley, and we know women are woefully under-represented in the tech world as both CEOs and engineers. Founding While Female was not a hindrance to Amoruso’s fundraising efforts, though, she says.
The reason, she explained, was because she’d already built a successful company before she set out to raise outside capital — she didn’t have to prove anything to potential investors. “I was like, ‘Yo, I did this, do you want to play?’” she told the audience at PandoMonthly LA tonight.
Amoruso also did not try to capitalize on the idea that her business was “pro-woman” as a way to win over investors. In fact, VCs that showed up with dollar signs in their eyes over the novelty of a “by women, for women” business were a turn-off to her. If it was suddenly trendy for them to back female entrepreneurs, what might happen if that idea ever went out of vogue?
She did, however, field plenty of stupid questions from VCs that didn’t understand her e-commerce business. It wasn’t necessarily a gender thing — plenty of male entrepreneurs complain that VC’s ask dumb questions and don’t understand their business, too. But there were some eyeroll-inducing moments that its hard to imagine a male founder fielding.
For example, one potential investor came into her office and exclaimed “Look at all these women in this office!” she said. In another instance, a VC doing diligence on Amoruso called Nasty Gal’s former COO and asked if Amoruso had a spending problem. “I built a profitable business out of $50 with no debt,” she said. “Do you think I have a spending problem?”
Having built Nasty Gal into a profitable, bootstrapped business put Amoruso in a position of power with VCs. The company was worth hundreds of millions and Amoruso hadn’t given up a single share for its first five years of business. So when she did begin to meet with investors for her big $40 million round of investment this past year, there was plenty of interest. She got to choose the investor that really understood Nasty Gal, and she chose Danny Rimer of Index Ventures, who she says didn’t ask any stupid questions.
“VCs can very easily be mercenary relationships,” she said. “Danny Rimer saw what I had built and really got it and trusted me and said, ‘Let’s do this.’ He leaned in.”
To watch the interview in its entirety, click here