Gemma Lloyd received confirmation of her latest $2.2 million round of startup funding on a very busy day.
"I got the term sheet the day I went into labour," the co-founder of workplace equity business Work180 said. "I had a deadline."
Gemma Lloyd is the founder of Work180. Credit:Penny Stephens
It turned out her start-up, jobs platform Work180, which screens employers according to how well they support women's careers, more than doubled its target for the fresh cash injection.
Leading the fundraising round was the investment vehicle of tech billionaire couple Kim Jackson and Scott Farquhar, Skip Capital. But the raising also brought on new investors including Giant Leap, an Aussie venture capital fund that backs startups aiming for social as well as financial returns, and angel investor group Investible.
Ms Lloyd and her co-founder, Valeria Ignatieva, say their $2 million business has ridden a global wave of growth, with the United Kingdom's focus on pay equity helping to drive traction overseas. The company's client base has cracked 100 and includes names such as Microsoft and NAB.
Yet this latest fundraising round had a new element: Ms Lloyd was approaching investors seven months pregnant, and completed many pitches via video link. Despite her company's focus on workplace equity, she said the process of telling current and potential investors about her pregnancy did make her nervous.
There was one guy that has a large fund. When I told him I was pregnant he leant back in his chair and his eyes went really wide.Work180 co-founder Gemma Lloyd.
"During my pitches I was purposefully telling them — I wanted to gauge their reaction," she said.
While her existing investors and several new potential backers were congratulatory, not every meeting had the same warm reception.
"There was one guy that has a large fund. When I told him I was pregnant he leant back in his chair and his eyes went really wide, he looked really confused. His tone changed, it wasn't as warm as it was before."
That meeting did not result in investment, though Ms Lloyd said that was a positive.
"Given everything that I’m trying to drive and push, it’s of no interest to me to get in an investor that doesn’t align with those values," she said.
Gemma Lloyd and Valeria Ignatieva have renamed DCC Jobs as WORK180.
Ms Lloyd has previously spoken out about discrimination when pitching for capital, and says while her latest experience was largely positive, there's still work to do to increase the diversity of investor teams.
The process of pitching a company focused on women to rooms dominated by men can be a challenge, she said.
"Even prior to being pregnant the experience of being a woman and raising capital is more difficult."
Pay gap reporting opportunity
The money raised will be used to hire an additional 15 staff, look to global markets including the US and double down on growth in the United Kingdom.
Lead investor Kim Jackson said she looked forward to "seeing further workplace change in Australia and offshore" as the company looked abroad.
Ms Lloyd said the company has gained significant traction in Britain, where companies with 250 employees or more are now required to publicly report the difference in the average of male and female employee salaries.
It's a policy that has made businesses in the region keen to show they offer equitable work places. Ms Lloyd said she'd love to see a similar policy adopted in Australia, which, she believes, would make corporations change their approach to remuneration.
"I think it would [change things], because it's easy to hide these things. If someone makes you put that [information] public, it makes you do something about it."
Global growth means she will soon take her newborn to the UK where she and her partner, who also works for Work180, will share childcare responsibilities while driving the business.
Emma is the small business reporter for The Age and Sydney Morning Herald based in Melbourne.