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Investments 26 Oct 2017

Women investors, business angels with a mission

In the technology field, the presence of women as either entrepreneurs or investors is still very limited. However, there are more and more initiatives that view the women-technology combination as an opportunity.

“Sixty percent of the world’s university graduates are women, and they also tend to have better grades than men,” says Elena Gómez del Pozuelo, who is a serial entrepreneur, business angel and CEO of BebeDeParis.com. “Women also make 80% of the purchasing decisions in the world. But only 15% of them reach management positions and only 16% start their own businesses.”

“There are studies that show that when the board of directors of a company is comprised of both men and women —and I speak of women in the plural— its profitability goes up 18%,” she adds.

“Diversity is profitable. Our companies need to be more innovative. And to do so, they are going to have to be more diverse,” says Maria Eugenia Girón, angel investor and president of the Fundación para la Diversidad en España, (Foundation for Diversity in Spain).

Both women participated in the panel entitled ‘Who runs the world? Women investing in tech,’ at the recent South Summit 2017. They were joined by Clémence Campillo, COO and CMO of Seed & Click; Emma Fau, founder of EU Capital; Vanessa Colomar, partner at Invoke Capital; Andrea Martinelli, investor and business development advisor at SM Genomics and Pharmacelera; Sylvie Lemaire, business and leadership developer at Bretagne Commerce International; and Anne-Valérie Bach, partner in Serena Capital.

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Left to right: Clémence Campillo, Emma Fau, Vanessa Colomar, María Eugenia Girón, Andrea Martinelli, Sylvie Lemaire, Anne-Valérie Bach and Elena Gómez del Pozuelo.

At the roundtable, it came to light that the gender gap is also reflected in investment. “According to a report by the Spanish Association of Business Angels (AEBAN), during 2015 the proportion of women business angels in Spain was 8%. In 2016, it increased only to 9%,” said Andrea Martinelli. This figure compares to 14% in the United Kingdom and 20% in the United States in 2015.

Martinelli knows what she’s talking about. She began investing in companies in 2012 and is a member of SWAN (the Spanish Women Angel Network), the first network of business angels for women in Spain. “It’s necessary to have more women investors, more balance, more diversity,” she insists. Martinelli does her part as a mentor in the IESE business school program WA4E —Women Angels for Entrepreneurs— and is working on creating Impulse4women,  a project that seeks to have entrepreneurs, women dedicated to risk capital and business angels collaborate with one another.

What is FemTech?

These are the seeds of so-called FemTech, a term that arose from technological startups that develop health products aimed at women. It is now developing into a broader phenomenon that encompasses initiatives that bring women and technology together. Rising Tide Europe  battles on the same front. This European investment fund, has two differentiating features: it invests in European startups and all its members are women.

María Eugenia Girón is the Spanish representative on its investment committee. “The number of women investors in Europe is very small,” she says. “That’s why we want to do something to change this.” Girón also does angel investing through the Swiss platform Go Beyond. “In the first fund we put together, there were 100 European women co-investing in eight startups. Now we’re on the second one, which consists of 100 women from 26 countries, and has made three investments.”

Panel ‘Who runs the world? Women investing in tech’ (South Summit 2017).

More than an investment firm, Girón says, Rising Tide is “a mechanism for sharing experiences, learning, networking and inspiring other women to try this method of participating in the world of companies and business.”

A matter of perspective

In her opinion, being a woman is not a differentiating factor when it comes time to invest. However, she adds, “ it’s true that, in order to evaluate projects oriented to women, having a female perspective helps. When we see that a team of one of the startups in which we have invested doesn´t include any women, we ask ourselves, how can that be?”

Women have a lot to contribute, says Gómez del Pozuelo, because they are well acquainted with their customers, among whom they count themselves. “If at least half of the purchasing decisions are made by women, how can they not be on the boards of directors of companies?”

The lack of female investors can also make it difficult for projects led by or aimed at women to obtain financing, because investors  –who are usually men– might not understand or empathize with them, Girón says.

Gómez del Pozuelo has experienced this first-hand. “When we were seeking financing for Womenalia”,  —a network of professional women, of which she is president— “we went to a venture capital firm.  The board, which consisted of five men, analyzed the investment opportunity and asked us,  ‘Why do we need Womenalia, if we already have LinkedIn?’ They didn’t understand it because they never felt the need that the initiative responds to. “

Lastly, the success and visibility of female entrepreneurs is essential to close this virtuous circle. “Inasmuch as there are more reference models of successful women entrepreneurs, they will inspire others,” says Gómez Groin.

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