Is there a lack of funding for women entrepreneurs, immigrants, people of color, moms, or people over 40? If so, why? Soulaima Gourani, CEO of Happioh, discusses her new startup, as well as pivoting during COVID, Zoom-fundraising, and how she overcame fundraising barriers by not making excuses and pushing herself to constantly beat the odds.
Soulaima Gourani, CEO of Happioh
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Soulaima was pitching a startup concept focused on women flocking to virtual communities. She met resistance, however. “Who would want to meet virtually when people can meet in person?” she was asked. During the pandemic, she pivoted to a more pressing model—a company called Happioh. (Happy-Oh)
What is Happioh?
Due to a lack of organization and planning, 56% of action items and learning opportunities are lost after in-person and virtual meetings. Did you know the primary reason people are ghosted is often because the people they are awaiting a reply from are overwhelmed? When colleagues or clients struggle to keep action items and critical information organized, they become unresponsive. This is what Happioh, which is currently in fundraising status, is being built to address.
Investment barriers for women and immigrants
Investment is sluggish for women, minorities, immigrants, moms, and people over 40. Soulaima fits in all of those categories, which means her chance of success in Silicon Valley is 0.2% . Focusing on women only, merely 6% of VC money goes to women. Although we aren’t sure what is truly driving this number, Soulaima guesses bias could be a factor. With this realization, however, she doesn’t let it discourage her–she chooses to be motivated by beating the odds.
If you don’t have a rich network, build one!
One important aspect to her success is building and maintaining an incredible network. Because the first round of funding, which she calls the Hustle Round , relies on the wealth of your friends, she explains this doesn’t have to be a non-starter. You can build this network with hard work, consistent kindness, honesty, maintaining your integrity, de-risking as much as possible, and not being a jerk! Her first Hustle Round raised around 700k.
How to do virtual fundraising
Due to the COVID pandemic, Soulaima explains how pitching investors has changed and how she prepared for Zoom fundraising . She sees Zoom fundraising as saving founders time and money BUT also increasing the diverse pool of talent for investors to meet more companies and make more returns.
There are challenges to Zoom fundraising, of course. Soulaima explains why it’s so important to carefully craft your background , use great lights, audio and a polished background.
Check out Soulaima’s Video Pitch