An increase in women-led start-ups means there’s a spiking demand for women-led funds. Funds, looking to invest into the business-minded ladies. Female Founders Fund does just that. 

Anu Duggal is the Founding Partner of Female Founders Fund, an early-stage fund investing in technology companies started by women. Through the Fund, Anu has invested in some of the quickest growing female-led start-ups in New York City including: Eloquii, WayUp, Minibar, Tala, Zola, Primary, Ringly, Thrive Global, and more.

Leveraging a network of strong female operators, she has been able to get access to some of the most exciting businesses led by women over the past three years of investing. She has been praised for her impact in diversifying venture capital, and has been distinguished on Business Insider’s “Ultimate List of Female Startup Investors,” and “Top 4 Venture Firms Investing in Women”. Having spotted the trend that talented women were spinning out of top technology companies to start their own ventures, she has built a strong portfolio specializing in domains across vertical commerce, marketplaces, digital health and fintech.

But Anu is not only all about investing. In addition to attending London Business School, she went to cooking school in France. She speaks French fluently and these days still enjoys cooking when she has the time. “I also do yoga, which I love,” she adds, “and I just enjoy New York.”

Duggal has investing in her blood. With a father who worked in finance, she spent her childhood moving across the globe from India to Tokyo, Hong Kong and the United States.

A serial entrepreneur, Duggal started her journey by launching India’s first wine bar in Bombay called The Tasting Room. This experience gave her the much-needed courage. She opened the bar at 25 in India, a country she hadn’t lived in since infancy. “People in India were drinking a lot of wine,” she explained:

 So I had the idea. I found a local partner, who also shared my enthusiasm for the idea. I didn’t know anything about wine, I hadn’t lived in India, I didn’t know anything about starting a wine bar. It was very scary. But everything seemed easier after that.

After that she went to business school, followed by co-founding an e-commerce company called based in India – a flash sale e-commerce site for Indian brands. The company was acquired in 2012 by Myntra and she moved to New York to join the other side of the table – as an investor.

At the end of 2013, Duggal began raising money for her Female Founders Fund, to make angel investments solely in women-led companies. “This is about opportunity,” she clarified – financial opportunity. Duggal believes there’s a significant amount of money to be made from investing in women-led startups. With her new fund, dubbed F Cubed for short, she’s set out to prove it. Duggal says she met with 700 potential limited partners. Second meetings, she says, hardly ever panned out. Among the people who eventually contributed to the fund, says Duggal, “There was one meeting. They either got it or they didn’t.”

If you can make a product, that’s great, If you want to understand how to get it to the right people and get them to use it, that’s a whole different skill.

Her “got it” strategy with the fundraise was to focus on great operators and investors. Many of those who came in to the fund were female operators and founders who recognized the opportunity of building a great network around female talent and faced issues in their own fundraise. Anu also had great support from VC’s who recognized that more and more women were building interesting businesses.

There are several qualities in a good angel investor, she said. “I think it’s meeting a lot of companies, understanding what to identify, what is it that really identifies a good opportunity, and talking with other angel investors to get a sense of the landscape.

And I think a lot of it is intuition, especially when it’s the early stage of an investment.

Anu credits her trust in her own intuition to her globetrotting childhood. “I think it gives you a certain level of confidence,” she said.

Because every three years I moved to a new country and you’re always meeting new people, always having to put yourself out there, which I think in business is also very relevant.

One of the best lessons that Anu found helpful building the fund on my her was to surround herself with smart people who could ultimately give a stamp of approval on what they are looking to build. Establishing an investment committee with respected members of the NYC venture and operating community was incredibly helpful for potential investors.

Sutian Dong, a partner at Female Founding Fund saw a rising tide of women starting businesses at her previous VC firm, FirstMark [Capital]. Although the firm saw more women pitching their businesses than ever before, it wasn’t actually funding more female-founded businesses. The Female Founders Fund mission to help women create valuable businesses really resonated with Sutian: “The opportunity with Female Founders Fund was unique in spotting a non-obvious opportunity, as well [as] to say there are more and more women starting unicorns, or billion-dollar business opportunities that will change markets or create new ones.”

The big goal for us when it’s all said and done is we want to be the first place that a female entrepreneur thinks of raising money when she is on her first round of capital.

At the heart of it, Duggal says she loves seed investing and working with entrepreneurs early on to help them develop and build ideas. “We have built a larger network and ecosystem which is enabling us now to do that at even larger scale. Ultimately we will remain seed investors but will continue to grow geographically and also eventually bring on more people outside of NY. The most exciting thing for us in the past 12 months has been seeing the number of serial female entrepreneurs we have had the opportunity to back and we are looking forward to seeing this continue to grow over time and be at the center of that ecosystem.”

Duggal expects to close the Female Founders Fund in 5 to 10 years. She hopes the fund can provide a two or three times return to its investors. And if she succeeds, she plans to open successively larger funds in the future.

I want to prove that when you invest in women you get a great return.

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