Anu Duggal exemplifies the principle of “pay it forward.” She began as an entrepreneur and now devotes her professional life to helping others do the same with her organization Female Founders Fund. And it looks like the world could use her help: Even though women start businesses 1.5 times more than the national average, only about 2.7% of venture capital goes to female CEOs, according to Inc.. Duggal has been hard at work evening the scales.
Built for Finance
Duggal grew up as the finance-equivalent of an “army brat.” Her father worked in the financial space, and his travels around the globe exposed young Duggal to a range of cultures and experiences. Unsurprisingly, she’s a woman of diverse passions: She attended cooking school in France, graduated from Vassar College and honed her corporate acumen in London Business School. Duggal’s culinary acumen landed her a position at the late chef Floyd Cardoz’s famed Tabla restaurant — a longtime gastronomic landmark in the Big Apple.
Duggal also parlayed her passion for culinary pursuits into India’s first wine bar in 2005. Similar to her approach to her current ventures, Ms. Duggal’s investment in The Tasting Room was founded on carefully calculated forethought: She noticed Indian people were drinking a lot of wine and needed the right venue to explore it, according to Tech Republic. Duggal and her partner Rajeev Samant started The Tasting Room to fill the need.
Despite the international footprint of her endeavors, Duggal maintains a close bond with her South Asian roots. One of her early ventures, Exclusively.In, is an e-commerce site focusing on South Asian fashion, similar to GILT.com. She also served as CEO of Doonya, a Zumba-like dance fitness movement driven by Bollywood beats. During her two-year tenure, Duggal helped strengthen Doonya’s brand—and accounting books, according WOMEN VC. She guided them through a round of growth capital, helping provide a more solid financial foundation upon which Doonya has continued to build.
Even after Doonya, Duggal continues to flex financial muscle. Female Founders Fund focuses not so much on giving women-owned businesses a boost, but on providing golden opportunities for investors. Not only do women-run enterprises perform better than those started by men, they also have a lower failure rate. In 2015, First Round Capital performed a 10-year review that revealed some compelling numbers: Teams of founders with women on the squad performed 63% better than those with all-male founders. For Duggal and her partners, the numbers were too obvious to ignore. Female Founders Fund seeks to showcase opportunities for investors who may want to bolster their portfolios with the lower-risk investments that come from female-powered organizations.
Succeeding with a Male-Dominated Audience
The success of Female Founders Fund stems from its ability to maneuver the rocky terrain of finding investors. Duggal has noted that many investors care less about the gender of the owners and more about the numbers. Because those with the checkbooks are on the lookout for lucrative exit strategies, Duggal and her associates have to rise to the challenge of showing them the money. The vast majority of investors are men. As they present each opportunity, Female Founders Fund has to try to make products and services that are often geared towards women tangible for a male audience. Duggal has also noted that often men have never used—or even thought about—the product they are considering putting their money behind.
Once Duggal and her associates bridge that gap, investors—and companies—succeed. Female Founders Fund has helped fuel a portfolio of businesses that includes brands like Billie, Zola, and WinkyLux.
Keeping Everything Balanced
When she’s not working on deals, Duggal is working on wellness. She begins each day with meditation and an invigorating walk to work. To help maintain a balanced lifestyle, Duggal indulges in relaxing Epsom salt baths, which help her wind down after a rigorous day, according to an interview with Shape.
Even though she’s vocal about the opportunities for those who invest in women-powered businesses, Duggal doesn’t have to say a word. Given the success of her ventures, it’s clear her numbers don’t lie, and Duggal lets the money do the talking.