Karen Cahn spent much of her career in sales at some of the biggest corporations on the planet — Google and AOL.
But when it came time to raise money on Kickstarter for a passion project she was working on, she had no idea how tough it would be to meet her goal.
Cahn and her team at VProud Labs — a women-focused video company she founded after leaving AOL in 2014 — wanted to produce a stand-up comedy show about mental health. They thought launching the project on Kickstarter would be a straightforward way to help get it off the ground.
“We went into it totally blind,” Cahn told Business Insider. “We were like, ‘Hey we can make video, we’ll have a video. That’s what you do and then magical elves just finance our thing.’ We really did not do our due diligence.”
When the fundraising wasn’t taking off, Cahn kicked into high gear and started cold-calling people she knew, showing up at friends’ houses, and using all the tactics she had employed in professional sales.
The campaign met its goal, but Cahn had a realisation.
“I was like, ‘This crowdfunding thing is a total racket. All the people making money from my hard-earned sales thing are guys. We should start this for women,'” Cahn said.
So Cahn decided to start her own crowdfunding platform: iFundWomen, which caters solely to female entrepreneurs looking to crowdfund their businesses.
Shrinking the confidence gap
There are three main differences between iFundWomen and other crowdfunding platforms.
- The company addresses what Cahn calls the “confidence gap” that female entrepreneurs can face by giving them free crowdfunding training and coaching
- Through VProud, they will produce professionally shot promotional videos for each campaign
- They reinvest 20% of the fees they collect from each campaign — about 5% of what’s raised — into other campaigns on the site
The confidence gap is one of the main sticking points for why Cahn wanted to start iFundWomen in the first place.
“Women don’t typically like to promote ourselves,” Cahn said. “We don’t like to talk about our successes, our street cred, and that’s a problem. Because if we can’t sell ourselves and our businesses, no one’s buying.”
Cahn described her experience on other crowdfunding platforms as “white boys and their toys,” a space where not only were the companies not always legitimate, it was an “unapproachable” environment for women or people of colour. Other crowdfunding platforms also don’t have the stringent vetting process that iFundWomen does, Cahn says.
iFundWomen personally vets each company before setting it live on the platform, determining whether it’s prepared for the crowdfunding phase, its business model looks solid, and its website is ready. Cahn said iFundWomen had 200 applications in a month for about 20 spots on the site, and there are currently 18 companies ranging from a “social sex” startup to a company that wants to repurpose shipping containers as affordable housing.
iFundWomen also helps prepare the companies who are successful on the platform for the next phase of funding after crowdfunding by making introductions to investors.
“We are the step right before an entrepreneur is ready for a seed round,” Cahn said. “We are about proving out a minimum viable product, a pilot, a prototype, and proving a product market fit. You come and raise just enough money, and if you can make your goal, what a great proof point for an investor.”