“Here’s $100. It’s yours if you can come up with a sexual innuendo or joke we haven’t heard yet, or one that makes us blush.”
And that’s how Rachel Scherl kicked off her funding pitch.
As a person in the business of female sexual health, a “vagipreneur,” Scherl experienced her ah ha moment while working to fund a breakthrough product in the female sexual health company in Silicon Valley. Here is how it went down…
During the process of raising money for Semprae Laboratories, Inc., a company by women and for women dedicated to the idea that all women deserve sexual satisfaction, Scherl’s business partner and she found themselves in room after room of Silicon Valley (mostly male) investors. They thought the discussions would focus on the breakthrough nature of the product, Zestra, or the market growth represented by the 43 person of women who had experienced sexual concerns and difficulties with no solution in sight. They believed that the powerful clinical data in this potentially enormous untapped market would get their attention. Instead, they encountered an environment that felt more like a seventh grade locker room environment filled with double entendres and sexually inappropriate expressions running rampant – and with very few questions about the actual business, product, team or plan.
It quickly became clear that the well-rehearsed presentation describing how this product worked for women and why, how it compared to Viagra, and potential of market size and growth, was essentially unheard and ignored. With three presentations down and eight more to go in two packed days of meetings, they knew they needed a different strategy of communicating and generating interest.
After a huddle between meetings, they decided to take a risk. Scherl went into the next meeting with a crisp $100 bill and said to the room full of men, “Here is $100 (at which point she smacked the bill on the table for dramatic effect). If anyone in this room makes a sexual innuendo or joke that we haven’t heard before or makes us blush as a result of any comments, this $100 is yours.” She then continued, “Here’s the headline – she likes it more with this product and she will want to have it more. Now let’s talk about the business model.”
In the stunned silence that often followed in those next meetings, the team was able to lay out the plan, the strategy for growth, and why they thought they were the right leaders to accomplish the business goals.
Bottom line: they raised the money they needed.
It is this type of thoughtful risk-taking behavior (infused with some humor) that Scherl realized is sometimes not only necessary, but critical, to establish a female voice in the marketplace that can drive influence and win the deal.