Secrets of a SexTech Founder: Fundraising
What’s it actually like to run a sexual wellness startup? For the first in our new series going under the sheets with the brains behind HANX, we caught up with our Co-Founder Farah Kabir. She swapped a career at Goldman Sachs for condoms, and recently led a seminar at the world’s only SexTech School to share her secrets with the next generation of sexual wellness startup talent.
Despite the uncertain economic climate and well-publicised challenges facing us, there’s no deterring the next gen of female entrepreneurs. Fresh off the back of a no-holds-barred interview with The Independent about sexism in fundraising, Farah shares her expert view on the realities of raising investment in a taboo industry and how to ensure female founders get a fair share of the money pot.
Girls Just Wanna Have Funds
“When it comes to the startup landscape, fundraising is still very gender-biased. As two young girls taking on a stale, male dominated industry, Sarah and I have heard constant ‘no’s and were initially laughed out of the door by funds. I’m also a woman from a Bangladeshi Muslim background, so I already don’t fit many people’s idea of what a ‘successful founder’ looks like. I’ve come up against misogynistic attitudes when seeking investment to grow the business - I’ve even been sexually propositioned in a pitch. Conversely, on the few occasions that I’ve been joined by a male advisor, the difference in investors’ attitude towards HANX has been palpable. It’s frustrating, but that’s why allyship is so important, too. We’re lucky to know and have men support us as we grow, with advice, Angel investment, proudly shopping our Condoms or even just a well-timed Linkedin post.
On the positive side, I’m in a position to represent women who aren’t usually part of the conversation, both in raising investment and healthcare innovation in the UK. Last year I spoke at 10 Downing Street’s roundtable on disparities in healthcare for women of ethnic minority communities alongside a lineup of incredible healthcare leaders. It was a humbling moment to be invited, and whilst I can’t possibly represent the experiences and perspectives of all women of the Bangladeshi Muslim community, it made my mum very happy!"
Open Up Venture Capital
“We know so many female founders who are bringing real change to market, but struggling to secure financial backing - for the sake of consumers and the economy, this needs to change. I’d love to see more women, especially women of colour, in decision-making roles in VC, as there’s a real lack of diversity. The 2021 Rose Review* found that nearly half (48%) of investment teams have no women at all - and I’ve seen this myself when fundraising for HANX. Women and underrepresented founders often create businesses that address a specific need in their lived experience. When VC investments are led by predominantly white, middle aged men, it’s very unlikely that they’ll understand the huge opportunity in front of them. I’ve been told in pitches that ‘women don’t buy condoms’, when our own data, and experiences dating (!), prove the exact opposite.”
Create Future Founders
“We need to empower the next generation of entrepreneurs and investors, too. We need greater education at school on starting a business and building an investment portfolio ( be it small or large!). We’ve even welcomed a small syndicate of women from our community who were able to put in a small but meaningful investment, and now are both part of our growth journey and first-time investors! Women tend to be more risk averse, but demystifying the process would encourage so many future female founders, Angels and VCs to take that step. I truly believe financial literacy would have an almost limitless positive impact on society.”
“Finally, we need less reports and more tangible action and accountability from investment firms. I see the same cycle repeat itself periodically: statistics on the dire situation for female founders, followed by corporate pledges - and minimal moves to make tangible change. From government grants to investment funds, it’s time for action, not words.”
Key Advice for Female Founders
- Trust your gut - it has your best interests at heart.
- Work with friends. Found a business with your best friend. My Co-Founder Sarah is my work wife, confidante, supporter and vice versa. We’ve known eachother since we were teenagers (we met over a bunsen burner back in secondary school!) and basically grew up together. We’ve been through it all - adventures, breakups, and now growing our business together. You need someone alongside you in business who has your back and knows when you’re making an authentic decision, and conversely, when you’re doing so under pressure to go in the wrong direction.
- Finally, I’d say have a sense of humour in all aspects of your life. We sell condoms, so we have a giggle every day! Always look for the lighter side.
Support With Your Wallet
“Not everyone can invest in female-founded businesses but we can all vote with our cash! Take a look at Buy Women Built’s incredible directory of female-founded businesses, many of you might not have even realised are founded and led by women. Here are a few female-founded businesses I’m loving right now:
- Nina Mohanty of Bloom Money
- Ashleigh Hinde of Waldo
- Vivien Wong of Little Moons
- Celia Pool of Dame
Connie Nam of Astrid and Miyu
- Keep up with the behind the scenes at HANX HQ over on Linkedin.
- Wanna be part of our team? Sign up for updates on future job opportunities at HANX.
- Experienced sexism as an entrepreneur? Share your story here.