Women backing Women: Let’s talk about Female Funders

Earlier this month we celebrated the amazing progress of the entrepreneurs we’ve been mentoring since April at our Entrepreneur Academe “pitch fest”. This article is based on my talk to kick off the afternoon. I used 3 bold statements to set the context of what we’re doing at Angel Academe and Entrepreneur Academe.


Bold statement #1: The problem with female entrepreneurship is NOT female entrepreneurs

We’re overwhelmed by both the quantity and quality of female entrepreneurs we encounter. As anyone who knows me will be tired of hearing me say, “Good dealflow is NOT the problem”.

This isn’t just our experience. According to the Startup DNA report written by astar-fanshawe for Wayra, gender-wise startups in the UK are way more diverse than in any of the world’s other leading startup locations: 30% of our startup founders and executives are now women.

Yet there clearly IS a problem: women-led startups aren’t attracting investment at anywhere near the same rate as men. Men are 86% more likely to attract VC and 59% more likely to attract angel investment as men.

This matters and here’s why. Angel and Venture Capital are the largest sources of finance for our high growth potential companies. Those early investors are evangelists for the businesses they invest in. They may also be customers or able to introduce other customers. Some investors will have relevant expertise so provide advice and support as well as much needed funding. None of our current crop of rising tech stars such as Blippar, Funding Circle, Skyscanner, Brandwatch or Unruly nor our established tech giants such as ARM and CSR would be where they are today without this kind of backing.

The reasons often put forward for their relative lack of investment success is that women are less ambitious or start more niche businesses than men. We see no evidence of that. Or that women lack confidence, so need special or additional support. Again, no evidence. Some of the most confident people I know are women and some of the least confident are men.

In my experience, I don’t see much difference in the support men and women NEED. But I do see a big difference in what they GET. I think entrepreneurs of both genders need networks and communities, mentors and investors that look “a bit like them”. A room full of men looks neither welcoming nor supportive of women.

At Angel Academe we believe that for more women tech founders to succeed we need diversity – in audiences at events, on speaker panels and, crucially, among our mentors and investors. We don’t think women need special treatment; just a LEVEL playing-field.

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Bold statement #2: We need more women to step up as angel investors and mentors

At Angel Academe, we’re changing the ENVIRONMENT in which our tech entrepreneurs operate. This needs to be as diverse as the startups themselves. So our mission is to provide women with the opportunity to invest in, advise and mentor outstanding businesses with a woman on the founding team.

Women control almost 50% of the UK’s net wealth, so we can afford it. The majority of this wealth is self-earned, so comes with experience, knowledge and contacts. This isn’t for everyone; you do need to meet the High Net Worth Criteria, but there are 1000s of women in senior and well-paid roles or who are entrepreneurs themselves who could spare £10k or £20k/year to invest in a startup. And you don’t need to be an entrepreneur to be an angel investor, just entrepreneurial.

At Angel Academe, we think angel investing is best done in groups, especially if you’re relatively new to it. There are angel networks throughout the country so join us (or another group) to learn about investing and to pool your funds and expertise with a syndicate.

More women investing isn’t just good for the businesses we women back, it’s also good for entrepreneurship in general. Women make or influence ~80% of consumer purchasing decisions and control ~40% of business budgets. So whether you’re selling enterprise software or a product specifically aimed at women, you need women in your team, among your investors and on your board to reflect your customers.

And it’s good for us too – angel investing creates personal benefits beyond just the potential for financial return. Angel Academe is on a mission to educate women about the benefits of angel investing from the generous tax breaks to the networking opportunities and experience it brings. It’s also great fun and hugely stimulating.

Some amazing women led the way: Sherry Coutu, Dale Murray and Nadia Crandall have been backing tech startups for a long time. Divinia Knowles, Wendy Tan-White, Debbie Wosskow and the women of Angel Academe are continuing the tradition and I know Pip Jamieson, Vicky Brock, Kal di Paola, Suzanne Nobel, Louise Wilson and all the other wonderful founders we’ve backed will do their bit when their time comes. But we need 1000s more women to take angel investing out of the Mad Men era and into 2015!

Bold statement #3: We can’t do this without men

None of this is to let men off the hook. We need you to continue to support and champion and invest in women as well. We also need you to encourage women you know to get involved. We have lots of men among our investors and mentors and they are hugely valued. Angel Academe and Entrepreneur Academe would not have been possible without their support. Simon Hopkins, Simon Thorpe, Bob Schukai, Dave Weller, Damian Nussbaum, James Fulforth and David Pack to name but a few. Thank you.

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The companies that pitched to us were:

Antidote Street is the UK’s leading online retailer for black hair and male grooming brands with the best products, advice and fast delivery.

Aparito use wearable technology and smartphone apps to change the way we monitor patient health and wellbeing in real time.

Beautimeter uses technology to redefine how women chose and use beauty products.

Birdsong is for women who expect more from their wardrobe. We find the best female makers and bring them to you. No sweatshops, no Photoshop.

Club Soda helps you change your drinking, whether you want to cut down, stop for a bit, quit or stick. Online and in socials and events.

Digital Mums retrains mums to be freelance social media managers and connects them to SMEs.

Fluency is a learning and recruitment platform that teaches young people in-demand digital skills and helps employers find the right talent quickly.

GP at Home is an innovative web portal system allowing patients to instantly and securely exchange clinical information and consultations with their doctor.

Happ helps clients collect and interpret the real time customer and employee insight they need to make intelligent marketing and business decisions.

Interests.me brings communities together with collaborative email newsletters.

Movement for Modern Life is the UK’s leading online yoga and wellbeing platform. They make yoga, meditation and movement easy and accessible.

Provenance. How things are made matters. Provenance is the platform for sharing the stories behind your products.

Raremark will empower families affected by rare disease with free and powerful digital tools to make a difference.

Trubikini designs, manufactures and sells high-end swimwear for women online. Our signature product is the ultimate triangle bikini. The original TRUBIKINI.

Vitalfootprint revolutionises the way supply chain information is communicated from farm to fork for the eating out market, to create safe and informed dining out experiences for consumers, and regulatory compliance for food service businesses.

Winerist. Do you like wine, food & travel? Winerist is the largest online platform for wine & food lovers seeking an authentic travel experience.