International Women’s Day Q&A: Namrata Sandhu, CEO and Founder, Vaayu

What Should You Look for When Choosing Your Investors?

I’d encourage founders to keep their values and company culture front of mind during the fundraising process and consider how that aligns with the investors they’re meeting. The relationship between investee and investor is like a marriage – you’re with them for the long haul and want to avoid ups and downs, so it’s important to choose a supportive partner that will help you achieve your goals.

If the VC is the right fit, they will wholeheartedly buy into you, your philosophy and vision for the business, rather than trying to force you into another direction. Without being too demanding or unreasonable, convey your convictions openly but don’t be afraid to walk away if something doesn’t feel right. For us as a sustainability startup, we’ve sought out partners that don’t just pay lip service to our values and it’s paid off.

 

Does It Matter if Your Investors Don’t Align With Your Personal Values?

Absolutely. Remember, investors are people you want to feel comfortable interacting with over a long period of time and as your business grows at pace. In the race to secure a multimillion-pound investment, don’t lose your sense of judgement.

When having conversations about your startup, interrogate your investor on their knowledge of the space, where they see the opportunities and their reasons for investing. If you can ensure they understand your ambition, objectives and the market, you can be much more aligned in terms of how you move forward and build the business in the long-term.

 

 

What Questions Should You Ask Potential Investors? And How Can the Conversation Change/Evolve As Your Business Grows?

There’s a risk with some investors that you’ll be a tick box exercise, helping them to fill a quota whether that’s because you come from a diverse background, operate in a desirable sector or so on. My entire career has been spent in sustainability, I live and breathe it, so I need to know climate change, and the technology we’ve developed to help companies manage their carbon footprint, is taken seriously.

When conversations progress in the right direction, I recommend speaking with the founding partner of the VC firm you’re in talks with. Doing this can ensure that there’s a top-down understanding of your solution, the problem you’re trying to solve and any associated nuances – it’s something that worked well for us.

No request should be off limits during investment talks, so if it’s a burning question you want to get off your chest, put it out there.

 

What Advice Do You Have for Female Founders Who Find Their Gender Impacts Their Investment Opportunities?

Be confident in what you’re doing and believe what you’re building will be successful. As a female founder, I’ve found that it’s important to prove expectations wrong from the get-go. That confidence makes a big difference. Set an expectation for yourself, what you want to achieve and push for it. Keep that conviction.

In the short space of time we’ve been operating, I’ve seen that there’s an increasing number of female partners entering the VC space and that’s hugely encouraging. It’s not that you’re going to get a free pass, but it levels the playing field and removes any biases that may have otherwise been present during the pitching process.

 

This Year’s IWD Theme Is ‘Break the Bias’ – What Does That Mean to You?

In trying to break gender stereotypes and remove barriers to female empowerment, we have in some ways institutionalised bias. Why do women (and not men) need mentoring programs, female-only founder forums and to be a talking point of boardroom statistics? If we remove siloed frameworks and instil confidence and self-belief through better early learning opportunities, I believe we can equalise the gender division for future generations, and rebalance the paradigm to create more diverse, inclusive and fundamentally fair workplace cultures where women can thrive.