Startup Funding: An Interview with the Founders of PowerToFly
We had the opportunity to chat with Katharine Zaleski (left) and Milena Berry (right), the founders of PowerToFly, about raising startup money. They share some of their learnings, challenges and tips for other entrepreneurs below.
Can you give our readers the PowerToFly elevator pitch?
PowerToFly is a recruiting platform connecting the best companies to the best women in tech. Both sides of our marketplace are curated to ensure quality. We’re primarily focused on remote work as a way to open an untapped tech talent pool. We’re at the epicenter of two global shifts: the move toward remote hiring and the one billion women entering the workforce who want alternatives to traditional office cultures.
At what point did PowerToFly decide to raise a Seed Round?
We raised our seed round after proving that we could find women in tech worldwide, and that we could also find companies who want their services. At the time of our seed round raise, we were already generating revenue. We wanted to be able to expand our team, make an investment in our technology and grab the market opportunity.
Less than a year after raising your $1M Seed Round, you went on to raise $6.5M. What do you think helped you accomplish this despite the “Series A bottleneck”?
We increased our revenue 4x since our seed round by the time we started raising our Series A.
As of this month, we now have had a 2300% growth of our talent (supply) side of our marketplace. There are women from over 164 countries (on 6 continents) that have created profiles on the platform. We have nearly 70,000 registered talent profiles to engage with.
There’s also been a 370% growth of companies on our demand side over the past 12 months. Over 1500 employers from 44 countries have signed up. They range from The Washington Post, Aetna, MetLife and Caterpillar to fast-growing startups. RebelMouse, BuzzFeed and Hearst have each contracted over 20 women via our platform, and we’ve placed talent across multiple divisions. We have successfully placed women in about 30 distinct job categories like mobile developers, QA engineers, frontend and backend developers, web designers, full-stack developers, graphic designers, product managers, marketing and PR leaders into remote positions.
Our unique marketplace and strong community was an attractive proposition to our investors, and we saw a clear opportunity to scale the business, so we decided to step on the gas and raise our Series A.
In your experience, what were some of the key differences you noticed between the process of raising your Seed Round and your Series A?
Series A takes a lot longer than the Seed Round to close. There is more attention to core business metrics, whether or not you have a proven market fit, as well as the details in terms of vesting and board composition. For the Seed Round you need a launched product, for Series A you need a proven product market fit.
How can startup founders best prepare to give an effective investor pitch?
Make your pitch deck, and have it reviewed by as many people as you can. Ideally find a friend in the investing space (whom you won’t be tapping for money) and give them a dry rundown. Iterate on your deck many times. I think we had at least 20 versions with improvements.
Investors like a certain format, starting with your personal story and why you’re doing this, then bridging your personal story to your team. Elon Musk once said that being a CEO is like eating glass every day. It’s hard and unless you’re driven by a personal problem you want to solve for the world, you are not going to make it.
Be yourself, be sincere, be brave and fearless — investors fight for the good deals as much as startup founders fight for funding.
What is the most unusual or unexpected question you’ve received from an investor during a pitch?
We kept getting asked “what about the men?”
What is the best piece of funding advice you’ve received, or what advice would you give a fellow entrepreneur?
Be yourself, be sincere, be brave and fearless — investors fight for the good deals as much as startup founders fight for funding. It’s a two way courting process. Treat the associates well. Everyone wants to meet with the partners, which is great, but the associates can open the right doors and be on your side.
What’s next for PowerToFly?
Our mission is to enable the future of work for companies and women. In the next 10 years we will prove that remote work is game changing for companies and women. We’re building the largest professional network of women in the world. We will be the #1 destination for companies who are invested in their diversity to find highly skilled women, across multiple verticals. But first and foremost, we’re focused on women in tech, quality jobs and quality talent.
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