You might need to pitch your business many times before you secure an investment – this is a lesson that Shaney Vijendranath says she learned in the process of pitching her tech startup, MomSays.
Vijendranath is a well-known, award-winning blogger of the blog You, Baby and I, which she launched in 2014 as a way to connect with mothers with similar experiences.
Through her blog she has collaborated with some of the biggest global brands such as Mattel, Disney, LG, Volvo, Samsung and Unilever. You, Baby and I was named Africa’s most influential parenting blog in 2016 and won the Best Parenting Blog in South Africa the following year.
Vijendranath launched her data analytics platform, MomSays in May this year after seeing “a real need for a supportive and authentic platform that can help moms cut through the clutter and easily find the right products for them and their children.”
Participate at startup competitions, your future investor might be sitting in the audience
The platform helps brands engage with new moms, who make up a very influential demographic, by utilising the collective knowledge of thousands of experienced moms in the country.
Vijendranath says the following statistics should be considered, Bizcommunity.com reported that 60% of the 18 million female consumers in SA are the primary buyers in their households and 83% of new moms are millennials, of which 46% trust the recommendation of other parents above any other channels, according to Forbes.com.
Depending on the product or brand, MomSays makes use of its extensive network of influential moms to facilitate product testing, brand events, panel discussions and social media activations.
Vijendranath secured a R1-million investment in 2018 from the I’M IN Accelerator program which is part of IDF Capital. She says she together with her team are raising their second round.
According to Vijendranath while the original idea (for MomSays) was bootstrapped, the investment allowed them to get product-development expertise to fast track to market. “Thanks to our investor, we could launch with more features than we expected much quicker, hire freelancers, put some money behind branding and marketing.”
Vijendranath adds: “We were opened up to a whole new world and made some connections through our investors. I had a mentor who helped a lot with regards to monetising our platform.
“Having an investor also attracts other investors which has been good for us. We are currently speaking to a few angel investors for round two. As it usually is, more people believe in your startup when you tell them that investors are already backing it.”
The perfect pitch
Vijendranath got the opportunity to polish her pitching skills when she was chosen for the Collective Global Accelerator, a flagship programme of The Collective Foundation which aims to create a network of social entrepreneurs who want to make a difference in the world, including health and wellbeing, education and opportunity and environmental sustainability. She spent a month in London, UK with 10 other entrepreneurs from around the world.
“We had to go through two rounds of pitching before we were accepted.
“I learned so much about the industry – like how to pitch your startup, how to negotiate with potential investors and how important it is to read the fine print.”
This year Vijendranath was also chosen as one of Forbes Africa’s 30 Under 30 List in 2019.
Vijendranath shares her experience of finding the perfect investor and the ups and downs of being a woman techpreneur .
What is the difference between your two projects – You, Baby and I and MomSays?
You, Baby and I is my personal blog. It will continue to be a blog that will educate moms, especially first-time moms, on topics around motherhood and create conversations we don’t necessarily discuss often.
MomSays is a technology startup focusing on data and analytics. The platform was created to help moms find products based on recommendations from friends, family and experienced moms. MomSays creates opportunities for companies to effectively engage with this influential demographic in a way that produces results.
How many times did you have to pitch MomSays to investors?
Wow, I can’t even recall that number, but it has been a lot.
It wasn’t easy at the beginning, but my husband and I just kept on trying, we eventually had an investor in the United States of America interested however I wasn’t keen on moving my company there, so we kept on pushing until the right investor came along.
I think it is important to note that getting an investor is like going into a marriage. You and the investor need to be on the same page and get along well if you want the relationship to work. There’s no need to rush into it so you don’t necessarily have to take the first deal you get.
You don’t necessarily have to take the first deal you get
What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs who are pitching their businesses?
1. Keep it simple.
2. Have a good elevator pitch.
3. Know your stats.
4. Know your competitors.
5. Don’t be afraid to participate at startup competitions, your future investor might be sitting in the audience.
What have you learned from pitching your business?
1. Confidence is key – At first, I was very nervous but then I realised that this is about me and what I love. I need to be confident and be proud of what I created.
2. Not everyone will like your business idea and that is okay. Don’t expect the audience to go crazy for it. You might be faced with difficult questions, but you should know how to handle it.
3. Be authentic – You are your brand! Your investor will invest in you, not just the business.
4. Don’t give up – You might need to pitch a lot before you get investment.
Tell us about your experience as a woman in tech.
Honestly, it was a bit of a lonely journey for me in the beginning. I used to be in competitions that only had like three women in total pitching which was quite sad, and majority of the judges were male, but a lot has changed since then.
There are a lot of women in tech, however there hasn’t been loads of opportunities for us, but that is changing. There are now more female venture capitalists and investors that focus on female-founded startups only which is amazing news! We’ve come a long way.
What challenges have you faced as a woman in tech?
I think the biggest one is [finding] an investor who understood my startup and why it exists. Many people don’t take the parenting industry seriously which is quite sad because it is a booming one!
I think another challenge is that sometimes women in tech are not taken seriously especially if you have kids. They think it’s a hobby that you will get over. But moms can be entrepreneurs too. We are pro’s at multi-tasking.
What is your advice be to other women in the same field?
1. You have to be strong – I know it’s hard but sometimes you have to push and fight for what you want.
2. Support is important – don’t try and do everything on your own. Make sure you have a good support system.
3. Collaborate – Don’t be scared to collaborate with other women in your industry. Collaboration over competition.
4. Don’t forget to take time for yourself especially for your mental health. There are so many entrepreneurs who fall into depression because of how crazy and tough the industry is.
5. Network – I think we underestimate the power of networking.