What challenges do women have when seeking funding? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.
The biggest challenge women face when they pitch their first round of funding is a familiar issue to most women in tech and insurance industries, where my company is squarely positioned - you'll likely be the only woman in the room. When I launched PolicyGenius with my co-founder in 2014, I was one of only 500 female startup founders. 76% of VCs are white men. That means you'll spend most of your time pitching to someone who may not understand where you're coming from and the problem you're trying to solve.
One of my favorite anecdotes about pitching is when one VC - a young, single, affluent, white male - asked if people really need life insurance. He said he didn't believe in the business because nobody's ever tried to sell him life insurance. Despite the fact that life insurance is a massive industry (and some of America's largest companies are life insurers), he just didn't get it because it wasn't relevant to him (see, also, confirmation bias). He probably has never bought tampons either, but I can assure him that there's a big market out there for those too.
But the pitching process was a valuable reminder of the power of emphasizing objective performance and knowing my stuff. Many VCs won't understand where you're coming from, but they'll understand market growth opportunity and potential sales. It's hard to argue with metrics, and as much as you might not like making spreadsheets and PowerPoint charts, they're pretty invaluable in getting your point across.
By the time we were ready to raise our Series A, I focused my pitch on the story behind our growth and how it fit into the market. So, while I'd challenge anyone to a spreadsheet competition, there's also great value in framing your pitch around your company story and your intended audience. If you know you're walking into a room of men, make it a story they can relate to before running through the numbers (even if you are selling tampons in a new, creative way, which some new companies are doing. Bravo, ladies!)
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