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Female Founder Funding Stories: Emma Louise Fusari

Welcome to humanfirstapproach – if you’ve happened upon this blog and are wondering what’s this all about, let me enlighten you!

I’m Chi-Chi Ekweozor and I am a female tech founder, my most recent product or platform is still in the build stage but having taken the start-up journey a few times I wanted to start this blog to share some insight into the highs and lows of being a female tech founder.

I believe sharing our learnings warts and all is the best way founders can support one another which is why this blog won’t just be about me.

This month we’re talking to a fellow female founder Emma Louise Fusari about female fundraising including her personal experiences of fundraising for her business InHouse Health and the best advice she’d share for fellow founders.

Emma-Louise, you’re raising right now, how’s that going?

So first a little bit of background, I am founder of In-House Health which implements data-informed workplace health and wellbeing solutions that enable digital tech organisations to make a measurable impact on people, performance and profits. I’ve been a nurse for 21 years (which makes me feel so old!) and this is the first time I am raising investment of any kind.

So far I have bootstrapped In-House Health and built a web application to MVP stage, I have some proof of concept from early adopters and I’m raising £250k of pre=seed investment to build a sales and marketing team, productionise the MVP and develop a scalable repeatable business model that will generate £1m ARR by the end of year 2. 

How it’s going? I have been raising for a couple of months now and the word I would use is ‘ challenging’ the time commitment is as much as a full-time job and this is probably made more difficult by being a solo founder. 

What challenges are you facing?

There are no clear definitions around funding terms and the language used can be misleading. Early stage, traction, sector agnostic these are just a few examples of words that mean different things to different investors, so I have found a lot of time is spent (and wasted) trying to find the right investors with the criteria that my business meets. It is a numbers game and much as you are close to your product or your business it is important to remember that when going through this process. 

How about support? What’s out there?

Personally, I have an incredible board advisor and I am on the Exchange Programme at Bonded Warehouse in Enterprise City Manchester, this programme is built to support founders and the support from mentors, partners and other peers in the programme has been invaluable. In terms of wider support, there are networks out there, and female founders do an amazing job of coming together in support you just have to look for them.

Is it more challenging raising investment as a female founder?

One hundred per cent yes. There is no doubt in my mind about that. I was naive in thinking gender wouldn’t matter if the business idea is credible and can be commercially successful but my experience has taught me otherwise and has been filled with conscious and unconscious sexism.

The short answer is the investment world was designed by men for men and this isn’t an ‘ I hate all men’ tirade those are just the facts. It’s important though to focus on people who are trying to create change we’ve seen reports like the Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship which has brought about the Investing in Women Code with the aim of making investment easier to access for female founders. The review and its partners also aim to grow the pool of UK women angel investors from 14% to 30% by 2030. I’m seeing more female-backed VC funds too and this will positively impact the female founder landscape and of course the wider economy.

And finally, what needs to change when it comes to raising investment? What would really help?

More transparency from investors is needed. For first-time founders without a support network, guidance on ‘what good looks like’ would be really helpful, from SEIS/EIS advance assurance support to legal and term sheets. I’ve heard lots of horror stories about founders that have had terrible deals and largely it’s because there is a lack of clarity and transparency in what investors need and want. 

The final thing I would say is that the Female Founder community is a great and really positive one, so whilst there might be a need for more support in an official capacity, you won’t have to look very far (particularly in the North where I’m based) to find a friendly ear and someone willing to help, and if they can’t then they’ll introduce you to someone who can!