Karen Cahn is the founder and CEO of iFundWomen, a crowdfunding platform that, like the name says, helps women entrepreneurs raise money for their startups. But it’s more than that – iFundWomen is a community “for women, by women,” that offers expert coaching to help drive success, local cohorts for connecting and collaborating in an entrepreneur’s home state, and in some cases, grant money, part of iFundWomen’s paying it forward, all to help female entrepreneurs successfully launch, and grow, a new business.
Failure As A Foundation For Success
It was the failure of Cahn’s first business that inspired the former internet executive to create iFundWomen. At the forefront of the digital revolution, Cahn’s first job out of college was at Salon.com. in 2001, her second job, Cahn joined Google, years before the search engine became the behemoth it is today. She stayed 10 years. Recently, Cahn worked at YouTube and AOL (now Oath), before deciding to launch her own software business. Cahn thought she was ready to be an entrepreneur.
“I spent a year and a half, and my own money, to perfect a product for an idea that I didn’t know if anyone else wanted but me. And after all of that, when the product wasn’t great, I had no money left to fix it. So, my co-founders and I, as a Hail Mary to make payroll, launched a Kickstarter campaign. And for days, no one contributed” says Cahn. “So my instincts as a monetization guru kicked in. I started making as many phone calls to my network as humanly possible and we started getting our campaign funded. I learned that crowdfunding is all marketing and sales, nobody tells you that.”
Ultimately, Cahn and her co-founders raised $30,000 for their company, but the experience gave them a new direction. Crowdfunding offered entrepreneurs a great way to raise funds early, to determine if people will want the product or service being created, and without going into debt. But Cahn noticed there were no crowdfunding platforms to help women specifically, even though women were opening new business at a record pace. Over the past five years, the annual growth rate in the number of women-owned firms has been more than double that of all businesses.
So, Cahn and her team pivoted to create a new company to fill this need: iFundWomen. The startup funding platform provides female entrepreneurs with access to capital through crowdfunding and grants.
Cahn says, “I believe that more women need to be taught about raising cash rounds in the early stages of their business as opposed to pursuing venture capital or worse, maxing out their credit cards or taking out a loan. It’s tough for women to get a loan and when they do, they pay higher rates, get lower loan amounts and have a higher payback. Don’t go into debt funding your startup.”
Venture capitalists rarely invest in women-led businesses. In 2019, just 2.8% of the $136.5 billion invested by venture capitalists went to all-women teams. Compared to the 86% of all venture capital investments going to all-male teams. By 2020, the proportion of dollars to female-only founders had dropped to 2.3%.
Partnering with Our Sisters For Parity
iFundWomen is an open platform, the sector doesn’t matter once the business is vetted. Since inception, iFundWomen has raised millions of dollars for hundreds of entrepreneurs. Cahn describes her crowdfunding platform as a startup sisterhood, a community of entrepreneurs helping each other succeed.
“The rising tide lifts all boats. The reality is, money is power, and when women are financially independent, we can control our own destiny. That’s what I’m all about as a person and an entrepreneur” Cahn says.