This former Googler raised $4.5 million for her start-up — and had a baby the next day

  • Dandelion Energy raised $4.5 million in a new funding round led by NewEnterprise Associates.
  • Dandelion CEO Kathy Hannun gave birth the day after closing the deal.
  • The geothermal energy start-up spun out of Alphabet's moonshot factory, X in 2017.

The day after closing a $4.5 million round of funding for her tech start-up, Dandelion Energy CEO and co-founder Kathy Hannun gave birth to a healthy baby girl.

Most entrepreneurs complain about how arduous the fundraising process is. That goes double for entrepreneurs working in "cleantech." And triple for women in tech.

According to research from the MIT Energy Initiative, U.S. venture firms invested around $25 billion into cleantech companies between 2006 and 2011, losing over half their money on those deals. Consequently, many investors soured on the very notion of "cleantech."

Additionally, Pitchbook researchers found that just 2 percent of VC funding goes to companies with women as their sole founders.

So what's the key to raising a round when you're a woman in tech who is expecting?

"Women should just do what they want in their personal life, go after it, same as you do in your professional life. Obsessing about what investors will think if I'm pregnant, or having any fear of not being able to have a work-life balance causes too many people not to try," Hannun told CNBC. "Fear is more self-limiting than anything."

Though Hannun went through a fair share of paranoia fundraising while pregnant, she says that refreshingly, investors who connected with her company didn't ask her any questions about her family planning, even when she was showing.

"There are no templates that tell you the right etiquette for this situation," Hannun said. "If you focus on it too much, it will blow things out of proportion and make investors worry about how your personal life will affect your business. Yet, you can't conceal things. Pregnancies are very visible."

She had one "Jedi mind-trick" that helped her through the process most of all. "I would ask myself if I were a man going through a divorce, would I feel obligated to tell that to investors constantly? Probably not. And I think those circumstances would be more distracting than being pregnant," the CEO said.

The Google X research lab in Mountain View, California.
Brooks Kraft | Getty Images
The Google X research lab in Mountain View, California.

Hannun believes that her company's ability to lock in a funding round while she was pregnant is a positive indication that change is happening in venture capital, at least among investors who are interested in sustainability.

Dandelion Energy is on a mission to make geothermal energy accessible to homeowners in the U.S., alleviating their reliance on expensive, conventional energy sources like oil. Investors in the start-up's new seed round included NEA, which led, as well as BoxGroup, OPower founder Daniel Yates, Ground Up and earlier backers Borealis Ventures, Collaborative Fund and ZhenFund.

As CNBC previously reported, Hannun and her co-founders started at Alphabet's X, which develops research projects with long-term commercial potential, sometimes called "moonshots" by the company. The new funding brings Dandelion Energy's total capital raised to $6.5 million.

Now headquartered in Brooklyn, Dandelion plans to use the money for hiring and to expand sales and installations of its systems throughout New England. Customers ordering now in the state of New York can expect to have their systems installed this summer -- just in time to avoid the expenses of traditional air conditioning, Hannun said.