This article was last updated on May 26, 2015
5 Insights, 14 VC Funds, 7 Platforms & Lists, 13 Angel Groups, 13 Accelerators, 20 Articles & 5 Tips
Earlier this year, a Springboard entrepreneur came to us to say she was closing out her seed round and wanted to make room for a woman investor. Her cap table was about to be filled with male investors.
This wasn’t the first time we’ve been approached at this point in the fundraising game, and we have never encouraged our companies to find a woman investor just to check off a box.
Diversifying boards with women leaders has proven to help companies be more successful. Women see problems (and solutions) differently than men, and mixed-gender groups help create diversity of thought.
There’s a strong business argument for entrepreneurs to diversify their cap table, not just their board and not just their management team.
Great in theory, but in practice so few people think proactively about instilling diversity at every level of their company. I want that to change.
Women investors are a small minority. I want that to change, too.
In the meantime, it will take time and it will take effort to find the right female investor who will be your partner and advocate. I wrote this guide to help make your search easier, regardless of your gender.
5 Women Investors On Finding Women Investors
Kay Koplovitz, Springboard Growth Capital and Springboard Enterprises
Diversity on the cap table is ideal, as it widens the pool of human capital available to the entrepreneur. I learned with our first fund, Boldcap Ventures, launched in 2001 and comprised of 44 women investors, that our value to entrepreneurs was our pool of resources that were different than those brought by co-investing funds, which were almost entirely men. They sought us out because they began to realize that we had a network of people and resources they didn’t tap into, and we sought them out for their expanded networks and ability to place follow on capital. I like to promote women as investors in companies needing growth capital, and also of broadening the pool of value-added investors on the cap table. Entrepreneurs and investors work best in combined efforts, men and women alike, and there is plenty of evidence in the market to support that position.
Lauren Flanagan, BELLE Capital USA
Recruiting top female investors, board members and senior management is smart business. Women account for 85% of consumer decisions and the majority of enterprise purchases. Women are starting the majority of new businesses and control 51% of the wealth in the US. Women-led companies are 15% more likely to be profitable and 30% more capital efficient. In the “new girl network,” diversity is a given, and success pattern recognition favors female, serial entrepreneurs with the complete package: maturity, domain expertise, prior success, and a deep understanding of customer, partner and collaborative team dynamics.
Joanne Wilson, Gotham Gal Ventures
It is always a good idea to have both women and men on a board, as investors and in a company. Women and men look at things differently, they analyze things differently, they get involved differently, they share information differently and more than likely provide a different network of people who they bring to the table. Having that diversity in any situation creates a balanced environment and in many ways better checks and balances. Studies have shown that having that diversity at any level in the company has proven that there is a higher chance of success.
There are not enough women investors and certainly it would be great to see more but they are out there. There is always a balance for an entrepreneur behind passive investors and involved investors and that is diversity too. At every stage of growth, starting with funding, there are always challenges but if you can find diversity from the get-go meaning both men and women from investors to board members to employees it is a very positive move in the right direction.
Angela Lee, 37 Angels
I don’t actually think that companies should try to have more women on their cap table for the sake of having more women. What I do think they should optimize for is 1) diversity of background so they’re getting a mix of perspectives 2) investors that add value and mesh well with their working style. Having more women is one way add diversity but so is getting a mix of industry background, personality type, and roles.
Stephanie Newby, Golden Seeds
Women make excellent early stage investors. They are not risk averse — they want to be risk aware. Women want to understand before they write a check. For this reason why we created a series of investor training programs at Golden Seeds. Once committed, they become sought after investors in early stage companies as they are typically very willing to offer their skills, expertise and connections to companies in their portfolio. They are extremely conscientious and are excellent advocates for their companies… 80% of the Golden Seeds investors are women. We love our male investors too. We truly believe in the power of diversity, so have welcomed men in our group since Day One.
13 VC Funds
Either with women partners OR a track record of investing in women
- Women’s Venture Capital Fund — Small fund focused on west-coast digital media and sustainability companies led by women — http://www.womensvcfund.com/
- Illuminate Ventures — Founded by Springboard alumna Cindy Padnos — http://www.illuminate.com/
- Aspect Ventures — Founded by Theresia Gouw and Jennifer Fonstad — http://aspectventures.com/
- Cowboy Ventures — Founded by Aileen Lee — http://cowboy.vc/
- Forerunner Ventures — Founded by Kristen Green — http://forerunnerventures.com/
- Starvest Partners — Founded by Jeanne Sullivan and Deborah Farrington— http://www.starvestpartners.com/
- Canaan Partners — Recognized by Bloomberg Businessweek for investing in women — http://www.canaan.com/
- Scale Ventures — Recognized by Dan Primack for the number of women partners — http://www.scalevp.com/
- Springboard Growth Capital — Founded by Kay Koplovitz and Amy Wildstein focusing on companies at the Series C stage and beyond, with meaningful market traction and business models created with the digital consumer in mind. They leverage an extensive ecosystem built by Springboard Enterprises to select and support women entrepreneurs poised to access institutional capital — https://www.springboardgc.com/
- Rivet Ventures —Planned $50M to invest in companies whose products and services cater to a predominantly female — http://www.rivetventures.com/
- Female Founders Fund —Support, expertise, and capital for female founded comapanies —http://femalefoundersfund.com/
- The Jumpfund — Women-led fund investing in women-led companies — http://thejumpfund.com/
- BBG Ventures — Aol-backed fund led by Susan Lyne to invest in women-led companies —http://www.bbgventures.com/
- Freestyle — Partner Jenny Lefcourt has been freestyling since 2014, a seed stage investor and mentor for Internet software startups — http://freestyle.vc/
7 Platforms, Databases, and Lists of Women Investors
- Angellist — While Angellist is the de facto platform for angel investors, there is a dearth of women angels on the platform. There isn’t a tag indicating gender but there is a “women investors” market that lists many — https://angel.co/women/investors
- Portfolia — Platform of consumer-focused investors to fund women-led consumer companies, founded by Springboard and Kauffman Fellows founder Trish Costello — https://www.portfolia.com
- List of Female Investors on Quora — http://www.quora.com/Women-in-Investing/Who-are-some-notable-female-investors
- List of Female Angel Investors on Quora — http://www.quora.com/Women-in-Investing/Who-are-some-of-the-best-female-angel-investors
- PlumAlley’s Digital Database of Female Investors — Assembled by angel investor and entrepreneur Deborah Jackson — http://femaleinvestors.plumalley.co
- TeckCocktail’s Femanomics List — http://tech.co/femanomics-105-women-in-venture-capital-and-angel-investment-2012-05
- Women 2.0 list of VCs who blog — http://www.forbes.com/sites/women2/2013/04/16/women-vcs-blogs
13 Angel Groups and Funds
Either all women investors or investing in women-led companies
- Belle Capital USA — Early-stage angel fund founded by Businessweek top-25 angel Lauren Flanagan to create an evergreen ecosystem of women investors investing in women-led companies — http://www.bellevc.com/
- Golden Seeds — Largest angel network investing exclusively in women-led companies — http://www.goldenseeds.com/
- 37 Angels — A community of women investors committed to funding early stage startups, led by men or women — http://37angels.com/
- Astia Angels — A global network of female and male angel investors that invests in women-led, high-growth ventures — http://astia.org/content/view/337/795/
- Women’s Capital Connection — A regional angel fund investing in women-led companies surrounding Kansas City — http://www.womenscapitalconnection.com/
- Pipeline Fellowship — An angel investing bootcamp for women with a growing alumnae network of female angel investors — http://www.pipelinefellowship.com/program-overview/alumnae/
- Broadway Angels -An angel investment group made up of world-class investors and business executives who all happen to be women, investing in both male and female-led teams — http://www.broadway-angels.com/
- X Squared Angels — Group of angels in Ohio investing in companies with women in senior leadership — http://www.techcolumbus.org/technology-startup-investments/x-squared-angels/
- Scale Investors — Australia-wide angel group and angel-training company focused on women-led businesses — http://scaleinvestors.com.au/
- Launch Angels — Early-stage firm investing in companies sourced through equity crowdfunding sites, with plans to create a fund to invest in women-led companies — http://launch-angels.com/
- #Angels — Former and current Twitter leaders that have come together to invest (individually) in early-stage — https://medium.com/@HelloAngels/angels-42e1abb7469b
- ArcAngels — Women-only angel fund in New Zealand investing in women-led companies— http://arcangels.co.nz/
- Sofia Fund — An angel fund investing in exceptional, women-led growth companies — http://sofiafund.com/
13 Accelerators and Co-working Spaces
Either focused on women-led companies or with a high percentage of companies with diverse teams.
- Springboard Enterprises — Global accelerators for Technology and Life Sciences companies led by women — http://sb.co/
- Astia — Community of experts supporting women-led startups — http://astia.org/
- 500 Women — 500 Startups’ Angellist syndicate investing in women founders — https://angel.co/500-women
- AVINDĒ — Texas-based training program for women entrepreneurs — http://avinde.org/
- Women’s Startup Lab — Bay-area based accelerator and community — http://www.womenstartuplab.com/
- NewMe Accelerator — Virtual Accelerator for diverse teams — http://www.newmeaccelerator.com/
- RockHealth — Healthcare IT accelerator with high percentage of diverse teams with a sister non-profit XX in Health — http://rockhealth.com/
- Upstart Accelerator — Accelerator for female founders and part of Global Accelerator Network — http://upstartaccelerator.com/
- Hera Hub — Co-working space for female entrepreneurs in San Diego — http://herahub.com/
- Prosper —Accelerator for women-led companies based in St. Louis — http://www.prosperstl.com/
- Dream It Athena —Dream It accelerator track focused on providing female startup founders hands-on support — http://www.dreamitventures.com/dreamit-ventures-launches-dreamit-athena-first-comprehensive-accelerator-program-female-startup-founders-hosted-top-tier-accelerator/
- Mergelane — Colorado-based accelerator for women-led companies — http://mergelane.com/
- Equita — Bay area accelerator for women-led companies — http://www.equita.co/
Favorite Blog Posts on Raising Capital
First, read Mark Suster’s 6-step relationship guide to VCs. Then read Paul Graham’s primer and Inc’s primer on how to raise capital. Know the difference between a VC and angel pitch deck, and why it is critical to reference check potential investors. Then read NAV Fund’s tips for a good first pitch and Mashable’s tips for presenting to the full partnership. Remember that it’s not about what you say but how you make them feel. Have a lean strategy for raising capital, and round up investors using one of these three fundraising approaches. Don’t get discouraged by the reality of first time funding. Learn what you can by reading about those who have made it through, like Alexa von Tobel, Penny Herscher, Paul Stamitou, and Rand Fishkin. VCs have a different way of thinking about your business than you do, so read insights from Angela Haines, Chris Dixon, Inc and the Wall Street Journal so you can understand the perspective they bring to the table. In the end, remember to be yourself. All the advice in the world can only take you so far.
5 Recommendations for Using These Resources
- Do your homework — Look at the fund’s recent investments to get a sense of the regions, sectors, and stages they focus on in order to better assess whether you are a fit.
- Always go through a connection — Find mutual connections to one of the General Partners on LinkedIn and ask them for an intro. Give your connection a forwardable email under 5 sentences with a Dropbox link to your executive summary or pitch deck. Show you’ve done your homework.
- Be politlely persistent — Investors are busy and spend a lot of time filtering potential investment opportunities. If they don’t respond to your intro, don’t spam them until they do. Don’t give up until you get a definitive “No” but try another mutual connection, network to someone they trust, and track them on social media so your follow-up pings are timely and personal.
- Remember you need a champion — The investor courtship occurs in stages, from first contact, to a call or meeting, to the partnership meeting, to due diligence. If you want any real shot of getting investment, you need to find your champion within the fund or angel group who will stake their reputation on you and advocate you within the group. Make it easy for your champion to market you.
- Don’t give up — It’s going to take longer than you think, especially for first-time entrepreneurs. Recruit a “personal advisory board” to support you through the process with encouragement, connections, and a dose of reality when you need it. It can be done.