Founder and former Co-CEO of Outfittery
Anna Alex, Founder and former Co-CEO of Outfittery in conversation with Isabelle Sonnenfeld, head of Google News Lab DACH region and founder of Rolemodels
Isa: Unfortunately, female founders are still frequently faced with stereotypes and an outdated understanding of their roles today. Have you ever had the feeling that you have had to fight against or dispel such prejudices when dealing with investors?
Anna: No! I’ve never felt that way. There are of course stories along those lines, but I’ve just never experienced them myself. I believe that investors understand that women think differently. And the good ones are also able to appreciate that.
Isa: The discrepancy between female and male teams when it comes to outside funding is alarming. There are hardly any women who have raised more than EUR 20 million. In fact, you’re the only team of female founders in Germany with such a high level of funding. Why is that and what are the biggest differences between female and male founders as far as you can tell?
Anna: I think it’s a bit more complex than that. Raising less money is not necessarily a bad thing in itself. It doesn’t say anything about how good and successful your business is because investors measure success differently than entrepreneurs do. So I do not see the smaller financing rounds as alarming. It’s actually very clever if you can create more with less money. The takeaway here might not be that women raise less money. In fact, women may be more likely to have different kinds of ideas that need less money from the start. So, the issue is about establishing more with less money. Fundraising is a total fad in the startup scene; it’s always about who has raised the most money. This is seen as an unquestioned criterion for success, probably in the absence of other criteria, as it is difficult to assess young companies and compare them with each other. Of course, there are many business models that cannot do without all these millions, but I think there are just as many that work well without these large sums of money.
Isa: Why did you decide to accept outside investment? How did that happen?
Anna: At Outfittery we realized immediately how capital intensive it is to develop a successful e-commerce business model. Goods require pre-financing, and the processes around acquiring new customers and marketing need capital as well. That’s why we decided to skip the step of getting a business angel into the company and immediately turned to institutional investors.
Isa: What are the areas where you see great potential for women to get more involved and make a big contribution?
Anna: In the consumer, internet, and e-commerce sectors! The priority is to establish authentic brands there going forward. This has a lot to do with emotions and social empathy. Throwing a few hundred million bucks at a concept is not going to be enough to make it work. What is needed are brands that are managed with care and affection and that are carefully conceived. The market has to become independent of the currently familiar marketing channels. I believe that women can provide added value and make a real contribution.