Empowering Women in Tech – Breaking into the Fundraising Game

This article draws upon insights shared at the "Women in Technology" event, featuring Ilaria Chan, Chair of the Tech For Good Institute. The event was jointly organised by the Singapore Economic Development Board and the venture capital firm Pebblebed in San Francisco on 23 March 2023.
From left to right: Ilaria Chan, Chair of Tech For Good Institute; Aihui Ong, General Partner of Transform Capital; Kate McAndrew, General Partner of Baukunst; Allison Barr Allen, Founder of Trail Run Capital; Tammie Siew, General Partner of Pebblebed; Charmaine Ng, Regional Director of Singapore Economic Development Board


By Ilaria Chan, Chair, Tech For Good Institute

According to a February article in Harvard Business Review, venture capital continues to be a predominantly male domain, with women receiving less than 3% of all venture capital investments, and women accounting for less than 15% of check-writers. The same article cites a male investor’s viewpoint from 2015, stating that people are more comfortable betting on individuals who resemble them. How might young entrepreneurs break into the inner circles of decision-makers and funders to secure a seat at the table? And in today’s environment of heightened interest rates where capital no longer flows as freely as before, what is the key to successful fundraising? 

Build meaningful relationships to break into “insider circles”

Despite the widespread attention to women empowerment and racial justice events, gender pay gaps, limited access to capital, and lack of promotion opportunities persist. Women and racial minorities often encounter a glass ceiling, especially when attempting to fundraise in challenging economic conditions. Many believe that having the right connections and pedigree are prerequisites for entering these “insider circles.”

Penetrating these “insider circles” may not involve feverishly pursuing credentials, but rather making efforts to build meaningful relationships with individuals who are already insiders and are willing to extend their network to include an outsider. An outsider must identify and recognise allies  and approach them with enthusiasm and dignity. For women who already enjoy the privilege of being insiders in influential spheres, it is important to consciously uplift those who have been overlooked.

Ten Attributes top investors look for 

While there are fundamental competencies that founders must demonstrate to be considered, the ultimate outcome often depends on the subjective chemistry between the investor and the founder. There is no one-size-fits-all formula, but some of the world’s most renowned investors at Prosus (formerly Naspers), Andreesen Horowitz, Goldman Sachs, and Elementum Ventures tend to look for: 

  1. Comprehensive understanding: Provide a strategic context and then demonstrate intense focus on operational details — a rare combination. 
  2. Optimism but tempered with reality: “We believe that X could occur given Y.” Articulate possibilities while acknowledging potential challenges. Present your perspective with a realistic view.
  3. Quiet confidence: Exhibit mastery of both technology and the market, while also being unafraid to admit knowledge gaps. Avoid pretending to possess knowledge or attending meetings without preparation. Take notes and follow up on pertinent unanswered questions.
  4. The ability to attract and retain top talent: Allow your team to speak without feeling the need to assert dominance.
  5. Adaptability: Recognise that no business plan ever goes exactly as planned. Investors seek founders who can hustle and demonstrate a willingness to be experimental, analytical and iterative.
  6. Alignment with the investor’s investment strategy: Conduct thorough research to ensure your startup fits the investor’s goals. Show that you have done your homework and have ideas on how funders can contribute.
  7. A path to scalability, while addressing potential obstacles: Present how the economics of your startup can work at scale, while also showcasing how key potential impediments have been conceptualised and addressed.
  8. “Earned Secrets”: Showcase unique insights that others may not possess. Demonstrate in-depth research, experience within the sector, or the ability to identify problems others have overlooked.
  9. Coachability: A hunger for guidance and wisdom, coupled with quick learning and the ability to integrate new information into actionable plans.
  10. Grit and energy: the journey to scale is tough and requires enormous capacity for hard work 

Fundraising is about inspiring and instilling confidence. Of course, being a repeat founder always provides assurance but even as a first-timer, articulate your strategies effectively. Be forthright in approach and avoid the perception of being overly promotional.

In conclusion, fundraising is both an art and a science. In today’s challenging economic environment, mere competence and a good idea may no longer suffice. Entrepreneurs need a solid plan and intentional relationships with champions capable and willing to open doors and share their networks.

For more articles by Tech For Good Institute on gender equity, check out the articles below: 

About the writer: 

Ilaria Chan is Chair of Tech for Good Institute, a global keynote speaker, private investor, serves on the Board of Trustees for humanitarian organisations CareForChildren and Emancipaction, an operating advisor to Owl Ventures (the world’s largest Education Tech venture capital fund), and an advisory board member to GlobalSF’s Women Empowerment Initiative and British real estate development firm Kinrise.

The views and recommendations expressed in this article are solely of the author/s and do not necessarily reflect the views and position of the Tech for Good Institute.

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Mouna Aouri

Programme Fellow

Mouna Aouri is an Institute Fellow at the Tech For Good Institute. As a social entrepreneur, impact investor, and engineer, her experience spans over two decades in the MENA region, South East Asia, and Japan. She is founder of Woomentum, a Singapore-based platform dedicated to supporting women entrepreneurs in APAC through skill development and access to growth capital through strategic collaborations with corporate entities, investors and government partners.

Dr Ming Tan

Founding Executive Director

Dr Ming Tan is founding Executive Director for the Tech for Good Institute, a non-profit founded to catalyse research and collaboration on social, economic and policy trends accelerated by the digital economy in Southeast Asia. She is concurrently a Senior Fellow at the Centre for Governance and Sustainability at the National University of Singapore and Advisor to the Founder of the COMO Group, a Singaporean portfolio of lifestyle companies operating in 15 countries worldwide.  Her research interests lie at the intersection of technology, business and society, including sustainability and innovation.


Ming was previously Managing Director of IPOS International, part of the Intellectual Property Office of Singapore, which supports Singapore’s future growth as a global innovation hub for intellectual property creation, commercialisation and management. Prior to joining the public sector, she was Head of Stewardship of the COMO Group and the founding Executive Director of COMO Foundation, a grantmaker focused on gender equity that has served over 47 million women and girls since 2003.


As a company director, she lends brand and strategic guidance to several companies within the COMO Group. Ming also serves as a Council Member of the Council for Board Diversity, on the boards of COMO Foundation and Singapore Network Information Centre (SGNIC), and on the Digital and Technology Advisory Panel for Esplanade–Theatres on the Bay, Singapore’s national performing arts centre.


In the non-profit, educational and government spheres, Ming is a director of COMO Foundation and Singapore Network Information Centre (SGNIC) and chairs the Asia Advisory board for Swiss hospitality business and management school EHL. She also serves on  the Council for Board Diversity and the Digital and Technology Advisory Panel for Esplanade–Theatres on the Bay, Singapore’s national performing arts centre.


Ming was educated in Singapore, the United States, and England. She obtained her bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Stanford University and her doctorate from Oxford.