baseball

(Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Ellen Johnston, Founder and CEO of Makr. The post went through PandoDaily’s usual editorial process. Ms. Johnston was not paid for this post.)

I’m a founder. I’m a CEO.

I’m also female, which particularly seems of interest in today’s startup scene. A designer by trade, I’m most in my element when working on product – building teams and executing ideas.

But delivering a can’t-say-no pitch is an integral part of my job. As I work on building relationships for my next round of financing, I can’t help but notice the difference between the way male and female founders represent their businesses to investors.

Both at pitch events and in the press, I’ve seen my XY-chromosomed counterparts boast about their businesses as if they’ve not only reinvented sliced bread but also baked up a loaf that makes you lose weight and run faster. And many of these founders have yet to even launch a product or post revenue.

I started my company from scratch. I’m so proud that we built an awesome first product, got revenue, and grew it. We‘ll soon be launching our second product – and will have done it all with less than a million dollars of financing.

But I’m not bottle-popping and champagne-toasting just yet. I’m a realist. I know that most of my business’s work is still ahead of me.

Question: When did being realistic become synonymous with lacking confidence? Or overhyping success with accurate business forecasting?

While learning to master the art of the pitch, I’m hearing advice like “tell a big story, just like a guy would” and “don’t sweat the details.”

Well, I’m not a guy, and I do sweat the details – what my margins are, what product features my customers want, and what increases conversion. Meanwhile, I’m seeing companies raise lots of money only to fall apart — death by the cuts of a thousand little things that VCs probably never asked about.

I’m building a business to last the long-term, and that involves focusing on the kinds of execution details that plague lots of startups that grow too big too fast.

Do I think I have a huge opportunity ahead of me?

Yes.

But do I feel comfortable telling someone exactly what the future will look like five years from now?

Honestly, I don’t.

Many men seem to have no problem predicting the future or pitching numbers and milestones they don’t believe in. Is this good for the industry? For investor/founder relations?

When compared to women’s pitches, this creates one of our biggest disadvantages in the venture capital market. We won’t always blow the same smoke, so our aspirations are perceived as smaller.

They’re not.

I don’t want to be afraid to say what I haven’t yet figured out or to give realistic projections of what we can deliver when. As a designer, I never promised a client anything I couldn’t deliver, and I won’t start now as a founder.

So consider this a want ad: A VC who can see through the smoke and who wants to have a real discussion about the future of a real business. A VC who values the merits of pitching like a girl.

(Editor’s note: This is a guest post by Ellen Johnston, Founder and CEO of Makr. The post went through PandoDaily’s usual editorial process. Ms. Johnston was not paid for this post.)

[photo by Andrei Niemimaki]