In episode 23 of the #SWBPodcast, we speak to Nora Bavey, an award-winning entrepreneur and General Partner at Unconventional Ventures, a VC fund investing in startups created by underrepresented founders. Listen to Nora as she recalls her early days as “The entrepreneurial whisperer,” and shares 5 key things every entrepreneur should know before approaching a VC.
By Grusha Manyonyi
Having moved from Iran to Sweden at a tender age, Nora Bavey has made it her mission to improve and increase the underrepresented groups’ possibilities to access capital, technology, and entrepreneurship. Today, she is playing a significant role in democratizing capital in the Nordics, as a General Partner at Unconventional Ventures, a VC fund investing in startups created by underrepresented founders.
Nora is is also the Founder of Unitech and has won several awards, including the Nordic Women in Tech Awards Role model 2020. In this episode, she recalls her early days as “The entrepreneurial whisperer” and shares five key things every entrepreneur should know before approaching a VC.
“We didn’t get to learn how to dream”
Having relocated to Sweden at the age of 5, Nora’s life and that of her parents were different from their peers. They were busy chasing life, and that did not allow Nora and friends who had the same background as them a chance to dream. “I remember from that day on that we never talked about dreams in the same sense that other people who did or my friends did. I remember my friends at an early age talk about ‘when I grow up, I want to do this, and I want to do this.’ And I think for many people who have the same background as I do, we don’t know how to dream, or we don’t get to learn how to dream and wish because we’re so busy creating stability for ourselves and creating that stability for our family,” she recalls.
Nora’s entrepreneurship journey is an inspiring and exciting story. “I think I was always afraid of going into that myself, but I was the perfect partner. They called me for a long time the entrepreneurial whisper because I always ended up working with entrepreneurs. I could understand their vision, what they were trying to do, and the product and the services. And I had such an understanding of this,” she recalls.
“They called me the entrepreneurial whisper because I always ended up working with entrepreneurs. I could understand their vision, what they were trying to do, and the product and the services.”
These amazing opportunities and bold steps made her take that leap of faith and start her own business. “I loved working with entrepreneurs, but I think in my frustration of thinking that I knew better ways to do things, I decided to do it myself at the end of the day. So I remember how I knew that this was the right way because I just felt with every bit of my core that I knew how to achieve what I wanted to achieve. And that was kind of the fuel that lit up the fire. And I’ve been going since then listening to my intuition,” she narrates.
Her First Business
Nora was among the first people to dive into the digital space before the world embraced digital marketing, her first business being a brand experience agency; the company played a significant role in product launches and digital branding in the tech industry.
Being the first people in the industry, it was exciting and liberating to know they could solve individuals’ needs to understand what the market needed. “This was right after the financial crisis in 2008. So I had a huge understanding of what had happened, what the market needed. Above all, I think how to do that in an effective way, globally universally, and I would say that wasn’t just directed to one market. We could use many of the strategies for the same different markets.”
Becoming an investor
But as a foreign, female entrepreneur, she noticed that capital was not accessible to everyone. So she decided to become the investor she needed.
Due to the undeserving and underrepresented communities having limited access to these capital ventures, Nora saw it best if she dived into democratizing and increasing more access to the communities. “I realized the best way to do this is actually to have stronger and better access to capital and make sure that capital gets deployed among these communities and these amazing founders.”
5 Key Things You Should Know Before Pitching to a VC
Nora’s greatest motivation in joining VC comes from the fact that it’s difficult for people of color to access these opportunities. “I truly take great honour of making sure that what I learn, I pass on to others and where I enter, I hold doors open for others,” She says, as she reminds us that before VC’s invest in any business, the vision and mission should be promising and rewarding in the future.
Having been part of this industry for the last ten years, Nora Bavey shares these 5 tips before pitching to one:
1. Remember you’re the Expert- Having all the industry tips and business knowledge on your line of interest will set you apart from the right investor. Before VCs invest in your business, they would want to be sure that you understand and are an industry expert. Therefore, Nora advises that you should feel like an expert because you’re an expert. “You are the expert on what you are doing. If you’re not feeling like the expert, then you need to find out what are those things making you feel not as the expert.”
“Before VCs invest in your business, they would want to be sure that you understand and are an industry expert.”
2. How much do you know about the VC or Investor you’re going to meet? According to Nora, what you need to remember is that business partnerships are long term partnerships. Knowing the VC whom you’re approaching to invest in your business should be a priority. Is the investor competent enough, or is it just the capital? Is he going to add value to your business or not? This is essential information that you shouldn’t miss out on. “And I always say, it’s easier to get married than get a divorce, it’s a long term partnership, make sure that this is someone that you want to be part of your journey and your company and your life for a long time.”
3. Are there other ways to get capital apart from VC? Take time and do your research well of you have to get the capital from a VC. There are various ways of getting capital, and if you can raise this capital without help from VC, it can be the best option for you. “I would also say, make sure that if you can be certain that the VC money or the VC capital is the capital for you, there are many different other ways to get that.” She goes ahead and encourages more founders to build a company from the ground. “I would love for more founders to bootstrap more because, at the end of the day, it only proves your point and creates a much better outcome for you.”
4. Do they validate you as a founder? Before taking that step, you need to understand if they respect you as a founder, if they acknowledge the efforts you’re putting in as a founder. These particular investors boost confidence and increase your morale in being the best entrepreneur in your industry. “Make sure that you also have investors who already validate you as a founder, make sure that you are meeting investors who are focused on your business model and what you’re trying to achieve more than making sure that you’re an entrepreneur according to their model.”
“Make sure that you are meeting investors who are focused on your business model and what you’re trying to achieve more than making sure that you’re an entrepreneur according to their model.”
5. What is their opinion about your industry? Finally, this is vital information you need to find out before pitching to a VC. You don’t want to be in a situation where you’re pitching your business idea to a tech entrepreneur, and you’re offering very different services. Do your homework well and pitch your ideas to someone who has a track record in your industry. Having background knowledge about all the partners and decision makers is vital information, you need to be aware of before pitching to a VC. “Are they serious when it comes to your industry? What is their track record within the industry? Are they serious with underrepresented founders? What is their track record? Don’t just look at the investments that they’ve made. Look at the team, which is part of the partnership team. Who are the decision-makers?”
“Are they serious when it comes to your industry? What is their track record within the industry? Are they serious with underrepresented founders? What is their track record?”
Nora encourages budding entrepreneurs not to be afraid of a No. A no is a redirection and an opening to excellent opportunities. She believes that great entrepreneurs are not taking the steps they need to because of investing emotionally in a single VC. “I would say, don’t be afraid of no, no, no, no. Get used to no and realize that a no is not, no, not, right now. It’s just that it’s a no, not from me. It’s a redirection; don’t be afraid of No. And don’t take that it’s a personal no.”