A business without capital is like a car without gas. It can’t go very far or very fast. And venture capital is high performance gas. Unfortunately, less than 5 percent of VC money goes to women entrepreneurs. That’s holding a lot of women, businesses, and potential hiring, back. Julia Pimsleur is in that 5 percent.
Pimsleur did the extraordinary. She raised $2 million of venture capital for her company, Little Pim, an innovative language teaching tool for young children. Since then, the company has won 25 consumer awards, sells in 17 countries and has revenue somewhere between $3 to $8 million. Then she did the extra-extraordinary; she decided to raise that 5 percent figure. She founded the Double Digit Academy, which teaches women how to get that high-octane capital.
What happens at the Academy? The one-day training program helps entrepreneurs secure venture capital. Entrepreneurs learn the vocabulary and process of raising funds and benefit from a vetted community seeking the same gold-plated brass ring. The Academy costs $800: considering the people in the course will be asking for millions, it has the potential of being a very good investment. Since its founding earlier this year, there have been two graduating classes; the third is upcoming in September. There’s no count of total investment dollars raised as of yet, but the grads are “raising their rounds.”
“There’s a funny story behind it,” Pimsleur says in an interview with VITAMIN W. At the time she was raising her second batch of venture capital, ”The last chunk came very easily through a matching Innovate NY fund. I took it as a sign: it was my time to pay it forward.”
Knowing how long it took her to get up to speed, Pimsleur thought others could benefit from what she learned. Most entrepreneurs “have their heads down” and don’t have much time to learn the ins-and-outs of VC.
Here’s her learning curve. Pimsleur had already owned and sold a successful film company, Big Mouth Productions. She had raised $20 million for the nonprofit sector. Little Pim was doing well, but she was worn out and ready to sell. Her cousin told her she needed venture capital–using the gas analogy. When Pimsleur heard that sad 5 percent figure, she decided she would be in that club. She spent months finding the right funder. To start she joined the Entrepreneurs Organization (open to those with revenue from $1 to 100 milion) where there are only 15 percent women. Although the group was intimidating at first, Pimsleur quickly made friends. (At her first meeting in another city, the group showed pictures of their recent visit to the Playboy Mansion with guys on bunnies’ laps).
“It can be lonely being one of the few women with a VC-backed company. It’s life in the 4 percent. “ To fix that problem, she started a subgroup, called EO-Ellas of other women within the main organization. Their outings probably don’t include the ”Mansion.”
Pimsleur says, “We all have to be part of the movement–part of the solution. A lot of women think, one day I’ll be like Sarah Blakely, or I”ll sell my company for millions and then, I can give back.” But there is no reason to wait. Citing the quote, “Lift where you stand” Pimsleur says, “There are always people nearby who could use your help.”
The Double Digit Academy is accepting applications for the September 26th session.