Summary List Placement
At just 29, Prianka Dhir is already the founder of two companies. She launched her first trade show in Vancouver, Canada at just 22.
But when she flew to San Francisco in 2015 to speak to investors about BoothIQ – her app for trade show organizers to help exhibitors connect to potential customers – some of the reaction made her feel it wasn’t good enough, she tells Insider.
“I believed my ideas weren’t valid,” she says, adding they would “almost always” ask her about a male cofounder, even asking whether she would bring a man on board to “balance your team.”
She felt she was being “automatically judged as being less capable” because she was a woman.
She expects tough questions but doubts men would face those she was regularly asked, including “Are you even a valid company?” She says she was also often asked if her venture related to beauty or fashion.
She has also been asked how she “envisages the next phase of her life” and what her family plans were. “You get pushed into this box of what other people think is acceptable for what you are doing,” Dhir says.
Now Dhir supervises a team of five engineers in San Francisco who operate BoothIQ, which has received angel investor funding, though Dhir preferred not to disclose how much.
Six years after her first company’s launch, she founded Booked Summit early in 2020 to help wedding professionals improve their digital presence with virtual workshops, which she is currently financing herself.
A Crunchbase report found just 3% of the US money invested in startups in 2019 went to companies founded by women.
Dhir shared her four tips to help other female founders, who don’t want to alienate potential investors, navigate the types of questions she faced.
1. Be ready for questions that will feel unfair
Practice, repeat and refine the answers to difficult questions investors can potentially ask before you enter the room, Dhir says. By preparing answers to seemingly unfair questions in advance, you have the opportunity to highlight your strengths and reposition the conversation, she adds, highlighting strengths and unique qualifications.
“For instance, if asked a question about backup plans, have a reply ready that emphasizes your plans for success.”
Dhir adds that being knowledgeable about the subject matter and using that expertise helped her, so be sure you’re across the latest industry trends and statistics.
2. Talk about success even if investors ask about the prospect of failure
She notes that many of the questions she faced were about failure. Early in her career, she sensed she was being asked about backup plans and customer retention more than she was asked about growth.
“Challenge yourself to talk more about how you plan to grow the business and how you will outperform expectations,” she says.
3. Don’t be afraid to cross an investor off your list
“If you’re getting the impression that an investor doesn’t understand you, your business, or your vision, you really don’t want their investment,” she says. You will find the right investor if you are willing to let go of the ones that aren’t a fit, she adds.
4. Don’t let others convince you your business isn’t going to work
“At times, investors tried to pigeon-hole my company into being a small business with no potential for unicorn status,” she says. “I was told that unless I showed more mass appeal, matched the subscription business models, or took on a trendier focus such as artificial intelligence, my business wasn’t interesting enough.”
Don’t let this stop you from building the kind of business you want, she says. “If your business has potential and you see a path forward, there’s no reason to hold back from growth.”
If the investors are struggling to see the impact of your business, bring key statistics to these conversations to remind them how big the market is, where is the potential for ongoing growth and how the impact of your company can change things for the better.
“All startups start small, but that doesn’t mean that they need to think small,” she adds.