As a classically trained pianist, published poet and also a painter, an artistic career certainly beckoned for Victoria Silchenko. But the world of start-ups proved the biggest passion for this Renaissance woman originally from Russia and it’s in the entrepreneurial financing field that she is making a big mark.
Acclaimed as one of the leading alternative funding experts in America and even invited to the White House as a “crowdfunding champion,” Victoria devotes herself to helping fellow entrepreneurs find the means to make their dreams come true via her advisory firm Metropole Capital Group and her annual forum.
“I know what it takes to start a new venture and it is not just hype. By being both a “numbers’ person” and having a creative side, I feel I’m able to understand people’s inspirations and at the same time move their attention to the financial side of the business. If you don’t know how to justify how much money you need to raise, how profitable your company is likely to be or what it takes to get to a break-even point, you probably should not be yet on the entrepreneurial path,” says the Los Angeles based Ph.D., who boasts two degrees in economics and used to work with legendary figures like Arthur Laffer and Michael Milken before striking out of her own.
While being a high achiever and a maverick herself, Victoria is one of of those rare people who combines exceptional professionalism with warmth and humility.
“It’s been my honour to work with some of the brightest minds and boldest teams in the world and helping young ventures with financing and global expansion strategies right from the start,” says Victoria. The variety of her clients has been impressively broad - from super-star digital media businesses like Shoedazzle or Rock.com to ventures providing new clean technology for the oil business.
Perhaps her proudest achievement is creating the annual Alternative Funding Forum which has become one of the premier events in entrepreneurial ventures financing.
“My conference business is a good example of, as they say, ‘turning lemons into lemonade.’ Over the years of my advisory business, I became increasingly convinced that a lot of start-ups failed in acquiring capital not because of their business models, but due to intrinsically defined investment metrics imposed by VCs and angels looking for up to forty times returns. Who can deliver such a return? Mostly high-tech. But how are we going to give a boost to other industries? My frustration has turned into an inspiration to create an event that would lay out the whole map of funding options available to all types of start-ups and unite leading financiers and entrepreneurs challenging the status quo.”
What is on the schedule for this year? “We cover it all - rewards based crowdfunding, equity crowdfunding, royalty financing, peer-2-peer lending, alternative currencies, EB-5 financing and more. Our fourth annual event is set to be on November 6 at LA’s iconic Century Plaza Hotel. Please read the details at our website www.metropoleglobal.com and stay tuned!”
Victoria calls herself as a crowdfunding evangelist and continues to believe in the opportunities presented by a new and rapidly growing industry with heavy lifters like Kickstarter, Indiegogo, Lending Club or AngelList.
“Crowdfunding basically is an online tool that gives you an opportunity to raise a small amount of money from a large pool of people for your business or project. It’s also something female entrepreneurs should be taking very seriously, given the state of the funding scene.”
Victoria points out that studies show the probability of women owned businesses receiving venture capital is thirty per cent less than that of male owned businesses.
But she adds: “While I wouldn’t deny the existence of a ‘boys club’ in the business world, I refuse to believe that VCs don’t like to support women. The main issue is that most female owned businesses are out of the high-tech realm and instead tend to focus on areas like retail, social care, and fashion or, like mine, consulting and these industries are not exactly the industries that can bring the desired return, unlike tech.
“However, crowdfunding can spread capital across a much wider scope of business areas. Guess what - to date, over 60 per cent of crowdfunded projects have been originated by women.”
Victoria also teaches MBA students at one of the leading universities in California, the California Lutheran University (CLU). The 30 hour course on Entrepreneurial Finance which she built from scratch last year has become a hit among students. “One of the most pleasant emails I recently received was one from a former student who wrote that my course has inspired her to launch her own business. Yes!”
But while spending most of her entrepreneurial life on an advisory and teaching side, Victoria leaves time to keep learning herself.
“I trust there are two sources of knowledge - people we meet and books we read. I’ve been blessed to meet amazing individuals and it is often I read four to five books simultaneously, especially studies on finance, philosophy and psychology. I always have at least one book in my purse – with my usual yellow pencil. I do not have a Kindle. And I don’t own a TV.”
Victoria writes about crowdfunding, angel investing and venture capital for The Huffington Post and a range of business publications. Plus she is on the board of LAVA, the Los Angeles Venture Association and draws on her international background – having lived and worked in Moscow, Paris, London and Luxembourg - to chair Global LAVA, which helps local businesses with international trade ambitions.
In what little spare time she has, Victoria loves to continue exploring her artistic side and getting back to Russian literature. “As amusing as it sounds, when I was recently re-reading Dostoyevsky’s passage “Beauty will save the world”, I refleted it is entrepreneurship that is certainly saving the world now.”
*Learn more at www.metropoleglobal.com or @metropoleglobal