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Female Founder Spotlight: Monique Morden
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Female Founder Spotlight: Monique Morden

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Catherine Daly
Content Strategist
JUDI.AI Team 2018, Vancouver, BC

In the second article in our Female Founder Series, we interviewed TIMIA President, Monique Morden, about her experience as a female entrepreneur, advisor, and angel investor, and how she’s supporting other women on their startup journeys.

In her 25 years in business, Monique Morden has been a market research consultant, a technologist, a founder, CEO, CRO, an advisor, and an angel investor. She now leads TIMIA Capital, bringing her vast expertise on both sides of the entrepreneur/investor table to every facet of the business.

Like many, Monique’s career path started out fuzzy but was anchored on a love for math and science through her B.Sc. degree from the University of Guelph. Ultimately, she decided to venture into the business world, achieving her MBA and beginning her career as a market research consultant where she was exposed to many different industries, helping clients to solve big business problems with data.

She joined Vision Critical (now Alida), as employee number 26 and immediately fell in love with the startup world. After building Vision Critical’s client services team, helping with international expansion, and creating a global partner channel from the ground up, Monique decided to start again from scratch by founding her own company.

“I love the scrappiness of startup life, the highs and lows, the constant problem solving, the pace of progress, and the all-hands-on-deck culture that most great startups have.”  Monique Morden

Monique’s Founder Journey

Along with two co-founders, Milan Mosny and Sean Wilson, Monique created Mentio, a cashflow forecasting application for small businesses that integrated with cloud accounting software like Xero and QuickBooks. 

Monique and her team entered the TechStars accelerator program in Seattle where Monique was the only female founder in the program. “It was a great experience. They helped educate us about raising funds but it was a lot to absorb while you’re also trying to build your product and your business strategy. The real lessons about fundraising came afterward,” she said.

During its early days, Mentio was acquired by Lendified Holdings which helped the team access the much-needed financing to drive business growth. Operating under the working name JUDI.AI, Monique’s startup pivoted to deliver a credit engine for lenders of small businesses.

When Monique left JUDI.AI, the company had just over $1 million in annual recurring revenue. “I was really proud of that milestone,” said Monique. “Going from $1 million to $10 million can be a long, tough road and I had other things I wanted to accomplish.”

Monique went on to support startups through angel investing and advisory services. She also joined Women’s Equity Lab (WEL), a group of diverse, successful women from regions across North America who share expertise, insights, and perspectives to make smart investments in new businesses, many of which are led by women.

Advice to Female Founders

Around 80% of your job as founder and CEO is raising money. It’s important to understand the angel and venture capital worlds as there are many hurdles to cross, especially as a female founder. Monique offers the following advice based on her experiences: 

1. Research, Research, Research

Educate yourself on the angel and venture capital networks that are available to you based on your industry, stage, location, and so on. There are so many different people and businesses and it can be difficult to navigate it all, especially if you’re uninformed.

Once you start researching the angel networks you’ll find there are big angels, small angels, and some angels you won’t ever get access to unless you have an introduction. You might find an angel who invests exclusively in your space but only invests in later stage companies or a VC who invests in your stage but has no knowledge of your industry and may not be able to help you with advice or connections. 

Identify as many as you can as you’ll need a strong pipeline of investors as you progress through your startup journey.

2. Surround Yourself with Experience

First-time founders struggle to access the same level of fundraising as experienced founders. Monique recalls speaking to an investor who told her, “Monique, I really like what you’re doing and I like you, but I don’t invest in first-time founders.”

At the time, she thought it was really unfair but she said understands his reasoning now. There is so much that first-time founders don’t understand. Unless you’re very young and have lots of time to build multiple startups and make all the mistakes on the first one, it’s a good idea to try to find a co-founder, senior team member, advisor, or anyone who has done it before. 

“Choosing your co-founder is an important decision — probably as important as the person you choose to marry — because you are financially tied together for a long time. So choose wisely.” Monique Morden

3. Pitch Anyone, Anywhere

Get good at your pitch by doing it over and over again and constantly evolving it based on feedback. You can get this practice pitching to family, friends, colleagues, or strangers! Lots of organizations host pitch competitions, so attend as many as you can as a participant and as a spectator. As a spectator, you’ll learn to spot the mistakes other people make and get some good ideas for your own pitch deck, even from different business verticals and industries. As a participant, you’ll gain lots of practice doing public pitches and potentially gain exposure to angel investors or other networks that can help you along your path. 

However, don’t get drawn into only going to pitch competitions. It can be a slippery slope that takes up precious time that you could be spending on the business. After honing your pitch,  focus on presenting to anyone that brings money into the company, whether that is customers or investors. 

Practice doing your pitch in 10 minutes, five minutes, three minutes, and one minute — you never know how much time you’ll get with an investor, customer, prospective employee, partner, etc. 


4. Ask for Advice

Before you’re ready for angel investment or seed rounds, try to get in front of investors and ask for advice, not money. Don’t be offended by negative feedback and objections — they are the tidbits of information that will help you get to the next level. Monique often advises founders to, “Really listen to the negative feedback as that is telling you what you need to address; the positive feedback is stuff you have already figured out.”

In Mentio’s early days, the team was advised to focus on enterprise instead of selling into small and medium-sized businesses. SMB SaaS products have a tough road: high cost of acquisition, requires a large customer base,  low customer value and potentially high churn. “If I had taken that advice earlier, we’d have saved six to twelve months of time spinning our wheels on a strategy that was flawed,” said Monique.

5. Bootstrap with Services Revenue

Having access to early revenue really puts female founders in a better position when it comes to raising funds. Founders that have services revenue coming in can bootstrap their business while they build their technology. Angel investors and VCs respect this approach because the founder has proven that they funded the business with paying clients and that they can actually sell and deliver value to customers. Check out TIMIA’s guide Build Your SaaS with Customer Cash for bootstrapping tips.

6. Ask for a Realistic Number

If you’re looking to raise $1 million, make sure it’s realistic based on your history, current state, and forecasts. You need to strike a very fine balance: ask for enough so that you’re a little bullish, but not so much that investors think you can’t raise it. In your research phase, float some numbers and get feedback on how big your raise should be. 

Know your stuff and be aggressive with your ask, but not arrogant. “Be as aggressive as us women can get away with,” said Monique, wryly, “It is better to be oversubscribed than to not hit your fundraising target.”

7. Build Interest with Smaller Investors 

Talk to the smaller investors first so you can make your mistakes, get feedback, and hone your pitch. If some of them are interested in your business, you can soft-circle them and hold out until you find a lead investor. 

Focus on landing a lead investor as they set the terms, perform due diligence, and give you credibility. Once you’ve identified a potential lead investor, mention the smaller investors that are interested to give the lead investor assurance you can fill the round.  

8. Don’t Forget Debt

As a female founder, Monique had no awareness of debt as a viable financing option. In this founder series, we want to change that by highlighting the benefits of debt financing for female entrepreneurs: 

  • Retain ownership and control: We won’t ask for equity in your company, board seats, or personal guarantees. 
  • Low repayments: Your payments stay low so you’ve time to breathe and focus on your business without worrying about high repayments in the early days.
  • You decide how to spend the capital: Unlike other lenders, TIMIA doesn’t tell you how to run your business. Spend the growth capital as you wish.

Note, debt providers look at historical numbers, as well as forecasts, and we expect you to be realistic (as opposed to the more aggressive growth forecasts you might use with a VC). We look at the last 12 months, your forecast, and other factors to determine if you can actually do what you say you’re going to do. 

“If you say you’re going to double your sales, but last year’s growth was just 20%, you will need strong evidence to back up your forecasts.” Monique Morden 

Cultivating a Female Founder-Friendly Debt Financing Business 

TIMIA has always strived to be a founder-friendly business. It was co-founded by serial entrepreneur Greg Smith and experienced tech financing experts Mike Walkinshaw and Andrew Abouchar. The purpose of our products is to help founders maintain equity and control of their businesses by choosing debt over equity-based financing. 

The appointment of Monique as President underscores TIMIA’s continued commitment to the entrepreneur. 

“As a founder, I have great empathy for entrepreneurs — particularly female entrepreneurs — that come to us for financing. I have been in their shoes and I know how tough it is to get access to capital of any kind.” Monique Morden 

TIMIA is actively working to bring more female entrepreneurs into the portfolio and raise awareness about non-dilutive forms of growth capital among female founders. Our origination models are based on numbers, not gender, and our underwriting team is 70% female. If you’re a female founder with between $2 and $20 million in ARR, come talk to us.

More articles in the Female Founder Series:

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TIMIA Capital works with B2B SaaS and software-enabled
companies between $2 – $20 million ARR.

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Catherine Daly
Content Strategist

Catherine joined TIMIA Capital as a freelance copywriter and social media manager in January 2019. She has 15 years experience in marketing and held senior positions at a number of technology companies including Hootsuite, Absolute, and Avnet Technology Solutions. Catherine is an expert writer and marketer and holds an executive Masters in Marketing, a Bachelor of Science in Communications and Journalism, and a Diploma in Digital Marketing.