Why Anu Duggal is Funding Dozens of Women-Led Businesses
Badass Women spotlights women who not only have a voice but defy the irrelevant preconceptions of gender. (Not to mention, they are exceptionally cool.) Here, Female Founders Fund founder Anu Duggal talks about her dedication to helping female-led technology companies receive the investments they need in order to succeed.
Why she’s a badass: Anu Duggal, a successful entrepreneur in her own right, started the Female Founders Fund (F3 or F Cubed for short) in 2014 with the aim of helping women receive the funds necessary to start their own tech companies. “The goal with the fund is really to prove that you can invest in a portfolio comprised of 100 percent female founders and deliver great returns to your investors.”
So far, she’s made good on that promise, helping more than 30 new female-fronted companies across a range of industries, from digital health to recruiting technology, not only get off the ground but also become successes. F3’s Fund I portfolio built more than $1 billion in enterprise value and has raised more than $400 million in venture capital funding in just three years. Those initial companies now employ more than 600 people across the New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles areas.
Getting into the biz: For Duggal, becoming an entrepreneur was second nature. “I’ve always loved sales,” Duggal says. “In elementary and middle school, selling lemonade and then handmade hair clips was my initial start in the world of entrepreneurship.” Then, a few years after graduating from Vassar College in New York, she started India’s first wine bar, The Tasting Room. She also co-founded Exclusively.In., an India-based Accel- and Tiger-backed e-commerce company.
Duggal, who also received her MBA from London Business School, then moved back to New York and saw an opportunity to help aspiring female entrepreneurs. “From a macro point of view, I saw more and more women coming out of some of the larger technology companies and having trouble getting access to capital. So it just felt like there was opportunity to be the brand that was really focused on working with these founders from the early stages.”
Overcoming obstacles: Duggal doesn’t see her gender as a crutch, she simply noticed an opportunity to help out women who wanted to do what she’d done, and she went for it. “I think that the venture industry traditionally has not invested in a lot of women. So you need to make investors feel like they’re missing out financially in order for them to change their behavior patterns,” Duggal says. “But I also think a lot of it is just about setting a goal and seeing it through.”
Duggal went through about 600-700 meetings with investors to find some who were willing to put their money in her hands. "I would say it requires resilience. You have to get used to a lot of no’s, but I think it’s changing. It’s getting better," she says.
Career highlight: "You just get to meet and learn from so many brilliant, interesting people across a variety of different industries. I find that really exciting," Duggal says of her favorite part of her job. Duggal says the most exciting pitch she's received recently came from women who want to tackle sexual harassment at work using an anonymous platform.
Best advice: “Develop a strong network.” Duggal says that developing strong connections in the industry has helped her succeed on a number of occasions. And, she adds, “you have to think big to be successful. You’re really only limited by the size of how large you can imagine. Better to think big and end up in a place you’re excited about than think small.”
What’s next: Duggal is now focused on growing the number of companies F3 works with. “I want to show that we have successfully delivered great returns and invested in a portfolio of women.”