Did you know that only 4% of venture capital funding goes to women entrepreneurs? Did you also know that in 2016, there were over 11.3 million women-owned businesses in the U.S. that employed nearly 9 million people and generated over $1.6 trillion in revenues?
So why the disconnect? But more importantly, what would you do if faced with experiencing this social injustice?
In steps Vicki Saunders.
With her globally recognized company called SheEO, serial entrepreneur Vicki Saunders is on a mission to disrupt and reimagine the venture funding model for women-led companies around the world using a philosophy she calls radical generosity. How does it work? Up to 1,000 women in each region contribute $1,000 which creates a one million dollar fund. The money is then loaned out to up to 10 women-led ventures at 0% interest, paid back over 5 years and reinvested perpetually. Vicki’s big-picture calculation: a billion dollars going to 10,000 female entrepreneurs every year, in perpetuity. Take that Sand Hill Road.
On this episode, Vicki shares her purpose filled journey leading up to this point, why venture capital and traditional funding models have mostly failed women, an inside look at the sheEO strategy, several success stories from her portfolio, and even key principles from her popular book, Think Like a SheEO. All this and more on today’s episode.
Now, That’s Unusual.
About Vicki Saunders
Vicki Saunders is the founder of SheEO, Inc., a global initiative designed to radically transform how we support, finance and celebrate female entrepreneurs who are creating a better world. SheEO provides a platform in which generous women Activators act as advisors, early customers, suppliers, connectors and follow-on investors to set up emerging female entrepreneurs for immediate and accelerated growth.
Saunders is a serial entrepreneur, award-winning mentor, and leading advocate for entrepreneurship as a way to create positive transformation in the world. She has co-founded and run four ventures in Europe, Toronto and Silicon Valley, including Zazengo, The NRG Group, and Impactanation. Saunders was selected as a Global Leader for Tomorrow by the World Economic Forum, and she speaks regularly at events such as the Women of Influence Series in Canada, the Tallberg Forum, and the Schwab Foundation for Social Entrepreneurs.
Saunders is passionate about designing new forms of financing to support businesses building a better world, and she has been a committed mentor to over 1000 businesses over of the course of her career.
Key Interview Takeaways
What will you do now that you are free? Saunders was in Europe when the Berlin Wall fell, and being surrounded by dreamers asking that question inspired her to become an entrepreneur – and support others in starting businesses of their own.
Small actions – aggregated together – make a big impact. Saunders’ software as a service company, Zazengo, tracked sustainability actions and sought to change individual behavior by demonstrating collective impact.
Diversity of interest heightens creativity. Saunders is deeply curious about many different things, and her ability to synthesize what she learns from different areas allows her to cultivate a unique world view.
Timing is everything. Women were not at the table to design the current models, so now that ‘everything is broken,’ it is the perfect opportunity for female innovators to step forward.
Adopt radical generosity. Saunders’ SheEO model asks 1,000 women to contribute $1,100. The million dollar fund is then loaned out to up to ten women-led ventures (at 0% interest), paid back over five years – and reinvested perpetually.
Radical generosity goes against the current ‘winner takes all’ mindset which has led to 8 people having the same wealth as 3.5 billion people. Talk about capital inefficient!
Validation engenders confidence. The women selected to be a part of the SheEO initiative benefit from the support, and all ventures have achieved well over 100% growth after the first year.
Female entrepreneurs tend to focus on process innovation rather than product innovation. Women look for inefficiency within the ‘connective tissue’ and redesign, while venture financing tends to be focused on the next big ‘thing.’
‘If you want money, ask for advice. If you want advice, ask for money.’
The Chalice and the Blade: Our History, Our Future by Riane Eisler
Birth of the Chaordic Age by Dee Hock
Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi
Connect with Vicki Saunders
Think Like a SheEO: Succeeding in the Age of Creators, Makers and Entrepreneurs by Vicki Saunders with MJ Ryan