Giovanna Forte, MD Funnelly Enough UK: Make Sure You Raise Enough Money

Giovanna Forte is MD of Funnelly Enough Limited, the company that developed and sells Peezy, the medical system invented by her GP brother Dr Vincent Forte. The business launched when Peezy won the first Medical Futures Innovation Award, presented by Nichola Horlick, in 2002.  NHS aproved, British-made Peezy offers Right-First-Time urine sampling for women, the elderly and the very young. It reduces contamination and retest rates, saves money and improves front-line care and infection control. The dignity and hygiene Peezy brings to an unreliable process has made it attractive to UK healthcare markets; on trial in France, Portugal and Korea, it has also excited interest from the USA.  You can find Giovanna on her blog and on Twitter @Giovanna_Forte.

Pemo: What personal lessons being a woman have you taken out of your successes &/or failures in raising investment?

Giovanna: I have a bit of an issue with the whole 'as a woman' thing because I don't go & do it as a woman, I go & do it as somebody running a business. I don't think it should occur to anybody to invest in me or not invest me because I'm a woman. It's the business that I'm asking to invest in. If the business facts & the business plan are as good as it should be then that's the reason they invest. The fact that my front looks different than the bloke with the tie has absolutely no bearing on whether or not they would invest. I've had absolutely no issue, I've had no obvious problem or doubt with anyone thinking they should or shouldn't invest because I'm a woman. I think that I'm making a product for women actually works in my favor. That's the thing, I don't think that your gender is relevant & I don't think that you should consider it to be relevant either. 

Because if you go into something like that thinking I'm a woman therefore I don't think I've got that good a chance, you're immediately putting yourself at a disadvantage.  That's your problem & not the person you are presenting to. 

The chances are is that it's going to be women you're presenting to anyway. You don't look at your potential investors & think 'Well you might not invest because you're a woman or you might invest because you're a woman.' You're looking at them as a check book sitting there & that's reciprocal.

Pemo: That's really great advice, thank you.

Pemo: In total with all the rounds of funding you've got, how much have you raised?

Giovanna: So far we've raised GBP870k.  Most of it is friends & family.  After the first round I've kind of slightly resented writing checks to people who've raised money for me.  I've done it myself.  It's quite a lot of work.  Sometimes it is worth haggling with your vc or whoever is doing it for you & reducing my percentage because people talk to you in industry dialogue.  Sometimes they'll go what about this or that & you're thinking 'What are they talking about? I can talk about urine but I can't talk about this.'  But I have done most of it myself.  It's friends & family & people you meet. 

If you're looking for funding mention it to pretty much anyone you meet because if someone is attracted to your product & your business & they can see that you have a passion, chances are they will say 'Well I know someone who...' That's how a lot of my funding has come along, just someone you meet in the pub.

Pemo: So you're a great networker, that's fantastic!

Pemo: You were just mentioning that other people have been raising funding for you & you've been giving them percentages.  Has that been the majority?

Giovanna: No, no that was the first two. Since then I've just launched into another round to raise GBP400k.  Now I thought we needed GBP200k we've now started to get some good contracts for Peezy in private health care & we're inching our way into the NHS so I'm thinking we'll be selling this many by the end of the year we need this much money. One of my CoDirectors said we keep making this mistake, let's assume we make no sales this year & make sure we can survive that. Then if we do it will be fine.  And they're absolutely right.  I launched my business plan on Friday, I've already got 2 meetings this week with people wanting to invest.  So I think we'll be fine.

Pemo: Good. 

Pemo: What qualities do you think women entrepreneurs need specifically for sourcing investment? 

Giovanna: I think the same as anybody else. 

Just to be dogged, to be determined, believe in what you do, write a bloody good business plan & be honest. If you don't know the answer to any question (this goes for anything) then put up your white flage & just say I don't know or yes I'm wrong. 

Then you can overcome whatever that thing is & get it right & carry on.  Just complete candour is a good thing.

Pemo: Brilliant that's really good advice.  I really appreciate your contribution today & good luck with raising the next round of funding.

Giovanna: You're very welcome, thankyou

Thanks to Alexander Blu for music 'Moderato'

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