Karen Cahn , the Founder and CEO of IFundWomen, has dedicated her career to closing the funding gap for women entrepreneurs and opening up their realm of possibilities through maximizing confidence. A successful pioneer in tech and media, she spent 10 years as an early Google Intrapreneur leading several monetization teams in search, display, and video.
When Karen Cahn started the Branded Entertainment business on YouTube back in 2006, she and a rogue group of sales and product managers, connected big consumer brands and video creators. Her group created the first native video ad experiences monetized on YouTube.
IFundWomen is the go-to marketplace for active participants and supporters of women-owned businesses. They offer access to capital “through crowdfunding and grants, expert business coaching on all the topics entrepreneurs need to know about, and a network of women business owners that sparks confidence, accelerates knowledge, and ignites action.”
Despite Karen Cahn’s busy schedule, she has kindly offered advice and reflection on her success story in the following interview.
As the founder of IFundWomen, what led you to create this company?
IFundWomen was created when my first startup—a video platform for female creators—was failing. We were out of cash. We set up a crowdfunding campaign to raise $30,000 to keep the proverbial lights on. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but eventually, we ended up meeting our goal.
We had the idea to create a crowdfunding platform specifically designed for women entrepreneurs to get their ideas funded. Why? Because crowdfunding should be the first stop on every entrepreneurs’ journey. It allows a startup to prove there is demand before investing in supply.
We realized that there was no one to teach us how to crowdfund. We knew that coaching was a key ingredient to any successful entrepreneurial story, so we offered coaching on how to crowdfund.
Lastly, we knew that women thrive when they’ve got a community of sisters around them to push them to keep going. We made community a core part of our offering as well.
You coach and mentor women on how to start smarter, better businesses. How else do you try to fill that role of mentorship in your life? What do you look for in your own mentors?
I truly believe that women can solve all the world’s problems. I love having a diverse group of investors and partners that has helped me build IFundWomen from the ground up.
I think one of the ways that women differ from men is that women tend to ask for help when they need it. This has definitely been my strategy with building IFundWomen. Test, learn, iterate, and have strong coaches around me to show me the way.
What do you believe is the most valuable thing to invest your time into?
I eat, sleep, and breathe funding for women entrepreneurs. At IFundWomen, our #1 goal is driving funding into the hands of women. That’s what I invest most of my time in and care most about.
What’s one thing you believe every entrepreneur should know?
Overnight success takes five to 10 years. Do not quit your day job when you have a startup idea! You should work in your 10% time to prove there is demand before investing in supply. We believe at IFundWomen that no founder should go into debt or max out credit cards funding the earliest days of her startup.
As a woman in business, you are always meeting new people across all backgrounds and industries. If there’s one thing people take away after meeting you, what do you hope that is?
The one thing people get about me right away is that I’m no BS. I get straight to the point, and tell people the truth about their business idea (only if they ask).
This approach not only saves people time and money, but it also engenders trust. I’m not a “yes” person or a person who just wants to be liked. I’d rather people know that I care about them and their business by giving them honest, constructive, no-BS feedback.
What is a key business strategy that you took away from your three years as General Manager of AOL Original Video?
Know what your customers want to buy and sell that exact thing to them. For example, when I started at AOL, I knew that, at the time, Verizon was looking to market to women because women make 80% of the household purchasing decisions.
So, my team and I went hunting for the best women video creators, gave them a budget to make whatever they wanted, which not only yielded a 7-figure deal from Verizon, but also got AOL an Emmy nod.
The IFundWomen COVID-19 Relief Fund provides microgrants to women-owned businesses that are being impacted by this crisis. What charity or foundation is IFundWomen currently supporting?
Our number 1 KPI at IFundWomen is driving funding into the hands of women-owned businesses. To that end, our COVID-19 grants go directly into the crowdfunding campaigns of entrepreneurs raising capital on our platform.
We believe that no founder should have to go into debt or relinquish equity while building the earliest days of their startup. This is why we provide access to rewards-based crowdfunding and grants. Any of our crowdfunders that have been impacted by COVID-19 are eligible for our COVID-19 grants.
Additionally, since our inception, we have given 20% of our standard crowdfunding fees back to women raising capital on our platform. Meet some of our Pay-it-Forward grant recipients here.
IFundWomen is closing the funding & confidence gap for female entrepreneurs. How does IFundWomen advise businesses such as hair and nail salons to strategically pivot during the COVID-19 crisis?
Think smartly about how you can meet your customers where they are and deliver some sort of value. For example, can you deliver hair color with brushes and instructions? Can you do house calls while wearing a mask?
Karen Cahn has proven that success can come from every angle, including failure. She has learned from previous challenges that determination is everything when it comes to striving for what seems to be impossible.
IFundWomen is driving funding into the hands of women-owned businesses and closing the funding gap and confidence gap for women entrepreneurs. Lack of funding should not prevent women from taking on business challenges and empowering others through their ventures.
Karen is living out the BLENDtw vision of generating positivity and confidence for entrepreneurs across all walks of life with connections.
Through IFundWomen, women are exchanging experiences with other women to help shape their understanding of the world and prepare them for the future. This overwhelming support between women is inspiring us all to strive to do the same: to reach for the “impossible.”