Antler invests in women-led companies and gives them an unfair advantage, here's how

Co-Founder of GoFIGR, Helena Turpin, dives into creating her business in Antler Australia's second cohort back in 2020 and embracing the advantage of building with a VC focussed on empowering women founders.

adirani-heraputeri

Adirani Heraputeri

Melbourne-based Community Manager Rani aims to widen Antler’s reach in the ecosystem. Her role involves attracting exceptional founders to the program and supporting the Antler community’s growth and success. Prior to Antler, Rani’s experience includes launching market and building communities for WeWork in Jakarta, working for Indonesia’s biggest angel investment network, a gender lens VC fund, and serving as Global Program Manager at She Loves Tech.

Helena Turpin, Co-Founder of GoFIGR, shares her inspiring founder journey - taking the leap from corporate, she joined Antler Australia's second cohort back in 2020 and hasn’t looked back. She sat down with Associate Partner, Adele Moynihan, to discuss the ins and outs of building and scaling her company, including recent international fundraising success.

Antler’s Track Record of Investing in Women

Antler bucks industry trends of investing in women-led companies. To the extent that 37% of investees in Antler Fund I have at least one woman founder. 

Antler was built on demoractising entrepreneurship and is able to outperform on diversity metrics thanks to factors including the DNA of the VC, comprising 41% women with 35% in leadership positions, and that the firm creates the companies it invests in. This gives the investor control over its “top of funnel” which is important as most VCs outline their main challenge of funding underrepresented communities being simply not seeing enough. 

An Antler cohort usually consists of 25-30% women. It  is encouraging to see this number increase among its investees to 37%. In addition, these businesses account for 39% of Antler’s follow-on rounds, having raised $24m in external capital to date.

Go FIGR

GoFIGR (formerly known as Flow of Work Co) is a talent opportunity and insights platform for medium to large organisations, think those with ~500-2,000 staff members. It enables these companies to talent map their workers and connect employees' skills to existing opportunities. This increases retention and reduces the cost and complexity of company restructures.

Since launching their MVP in 2021, the team has gained significant traction, client wins, and numerous accolades. They recently closed their AU$2.8m seed funding and are on track to hit AU$1m ARR.

Seizing the Opportunity 

Before joining Antler, Helena was a domain expert in HR and Talent, leading product builds and rollouts within organisations such as Deloitte. As a first-time founder, with minimal exposure to the startup ecosystem, she saw Antler as a valuable opportunity to learn and connect with like-minded entrepreneurs.

"It was like startup school, providing me with everything I needed to know to start a business. The Program's education and connections were invaluable."

Nailing the Founder-Market Fit and Complementary Co-Founding Team 

Helena's domain expertise and desire to create a meaningful impact laid the groundwork for GoFIGR. 

Helena and her co-founder, Nicolai, had previously worked together and shared passion for HR Tech. Knowing they wanted to build in this domain, they developed the idea for GoFIGR through Antler’s design sprint process, leveraging each other's skills and passions.

Helena describes, "We didn't come with a fixed idea. It was through the design sprint process and collaboration that we developed the idea. We complement each other's capabilities and personalities."

Their complementary skills and personalities contributed to their success as Nicolai focuses on product building and business processes, whereas Helena, as CEO, leads fundraising, winning clients, and continues to bring innovative ideas and energy to the table.

Thorough Validation and Acquiring the First Customer 

Helena highlights the importance of thorough idea validation and prototyping before investing in product development, she outlines, “The process we follow to this day came from Antler actually. Everything comes from concept research, then very low fidelity prototyping, testing, and iterating before anything goes into build—that is a principle.”

She then shared how they secured their first customer by leveraging their network and pitching their prototype. They spotted an opportunity on an HR-focused Facebook group where the customer sought recommendations for solutions similar to their competitors. 

"We reached out and were upfront about pitching our prototype. The Motley Fool was our first client - they were one of the first customers of Culture Amp - so they know what it's like to work with a startup. Their familiarity with working with startups brought value to the collaboration." 

Navigating the Fundraising Journey

Fundraising is often the full-time role of the CEO during an open raise and demands a significant amount of time and effort , plus women founders face their own unique challenges in this field. Demands are  for women founders due to the disproportionate amount of investor dollars that go to male-founded companies and the increased likelihood of being asked preventative questions - queries centered around the potential for losses, rather than promotional questions - queries focussed on the potential for gains. (Read  about preventative versus promotional questions in this Harvard study.)

Helena managed this by treating fundraising like a sales process and using her recruiter skill set: I spent time researching and understanding the types of investors that would invest in the stage of business and the location that we are in, at the rate of progress that we've had.”

“It was then a mixture of obediently pitching the way that the VC tells you to while using my recruitment skills, bypassing that process by finding out who knew who, find people online, and connect with them. I did have a CRM for this, treating it just like a sales process. You have to have a really disciplined process.”

She then touched on the importance of relationship building: “Relationship building is really, really critical. We got loads of nos. You just get used to the nos and it doesn't bother you at all. We always stay in touch with everyone who says no because it might be no now but yes later.”

She even described losing an investor as she did not follow up with them. 

Helena strategically targeted investors with a strong focus on supporting women-led businesses, which proved instrumental in securing significant backing. 

“We went for all of the kinds of traditional venture capitalists that you might know already, but we also did specifically target those who have a higher propensity to invest in women-founded businesses.”

The lead investor in their recent seed round is US-based and women-focused VC Aliavia Ventures, with Wollemi, the Family Office of Tesla Chair Robyn Denholm, and Antler also participating.

Helena’s parting words for those considering starting their own venture were, “Do it. 100%. It’s the hardest thing you will ever do, but I love it. Do it.” 

Watch the full AMA covering Helena’s founder journey and her actionable advice here. 

If you're an individual seeking to build a startup, applications to join Antler Australia are open.

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