Had a great idea but struggling to get it taken seriously — just because you’re female? You’re not alone. But, finally, help is at hand. To launch our annual entrepreneurs’ award, we meet the: Angels hell-bent on helping YOU make millions!
- The Mail’s annual female entrepreneur award has opened for entries from the UK
- Just 1 per cent of venture funding goes to businesses founded by female teams
- Here, high net-worth women reveal why they invest in female led businesses
Where is the female equivalent of Elon Musk or Mark Zuckerberg? Can you name any globally recognised billionaire entrepreneurs who are women?
Does their absence mean businesswomen are not as ambitious or as talented as men? We don’t think so.
In fact, we know that’s not the case. Over the six years that the Mail has sponsored the Aphrodite Award, given to a woman who has set up a business while her children are under 12 — part of the hugely inspiring NatWest Everywoman Awards — we’ve seen time and again how brilliant women are as both leaders and innovators.
But they, far more than men, face one significant obstacle. Funding. To launch a business you need ‘seed money’, an initial investment to get it off the ground. This is often provided by an ‘angel investor’, a high net-worth individual who invests their own money in exchange for equity in the company. Think of the dragons in Dragons’ Den. Young companies can also pitch for funding from venture capitalists, who have cash pots from large-scale investors — foundations, pension funds, university endowments, and so on.
As entries open for the Mail’s annual female entrepreneur award, high net-worth women reveal the experiences that inspired them to invest in female led businesses. Pictured left to right: Sarah Turner, Jodie O’Keeffe, Deepali Nangia and Addie Pinkster
But only 1 per cent of all venture funding goes to businesses founded by all-female teams, according to the UK VC & Female Founders report in February 2019. Male entrepreneurs are 86 per cent more likely to be venture capital-funded, and 56 per cent more likely to secure angel investment.
Yet when they do secure investment, women’s businesses show returns of 20 per cent more revenue with 50 per cent less money invested, according to a report from Barclays Bank called Untapped Unicorns.
Women have no problem coming up with ideas for ground-breaking start-ups. But without investment, they struggle to turn their bright ideas into reality.
Now women have decided to take matters into their own hands. By becoming angel investors themselves, they hope to form a virtuous circle — helping other women to make their millions and encouraging those who already have done so to invest in women-founded businesses.
Sarah Turner, 54, (pictured) who is co-founder of Angel Academe, became an investor after a friend launching a coffee-chain business asked if she wanted to contribute between £10,000 and £15,000
We’ve lost count of the number of times female entrepreneurs have told us they are the only woman in the room when they pitch their ideas to venture capitalists, and are often talked down to by male investors. By taking men out of the equation, these pioneering female angels are greenlighting businesses that might never have seen the light of day. And, as their stories show, it’s an exciting world of high risk and reward.
So, as we launch this year’s Aphrodite Award, let’s celebrate not only Britain’s female entrepreneurs but the millionaire women making their dreams come true.
WOMEN LOVE BACKING OTHER WOMEN
Sarah Turner, 54, is co-founder of Angel Academe, a network for angel investors. She is married with three adult stepchildren.
Sarah spent 20 years working with online start-ups, helping them find investors and partners. But not once did she consider becoming an investor herself. ‘I met a lot of angel investors. And they were always men. They never said “Why don’t you do it?” ’
NOW SEIZE YOUR CHANCE TO ENTER OUR FEMALE ENTREPRENEUR AWARD
If you started your business while being a mother and want to tell us your story of coping — or even thriving — in the face of the Covid-19 crisis, then enter our Daily Mail/NatWest Everywoman Aphrodite Award.
You must be based, or have your chief operation, in the UK and have set up your own business from scratch while raising a child, or children, aged 12 or under.
You must show you are the key company owner and your venture must have been in business for longer than 18 months as of the nomination deadline of July 5. The business must also generate a profit.
You must agree that your story can be featured in the Daily Mail. You can be nominated by someone else or enter yourself.
Nominations and evidence must be received by Monday, July 5, 2021. The judges’ decision will be final. No correspondence will be entered into before or after the judging takes place.
You can enter online at everywomanforum.com/mpage/everywoman-awards
In 2012, a friend launching a coffee-chain business asked Sarah if she wanted to invest between £10,000 and £15,000. ‘The scales lifted from my eyes. I’d assumed these men were writing cheques for hundreds of thousands of pounds,’ says Sarah, who invested £15,000. She didn’t make money that time.
‘Angel investing is high-risk, and the trick is to spread your risk over several bets. But it gave me a taste for investing. I wanted to know more.’ She joined some angel networks but found them male-dominated and uninspiring.
‘They went off and spoke to the founders on their own. That worked for them but it didn’t draw in new investors.’ Nor did they talk about opportunities with their wives or female friends.
Sarah had an epiphany: in 2014, she launched Angel Academe with her now husband Simon Hopkins, a network where most of the angel investors are women.
‘Our mission is to empower women as investors and entrepreneurs. We encourage people to collaborate.’
Seven years on, Angel Academe has 100 registered investors, 70 per cent of them women, who have invested in 35 female-run companies, many flourishing, including Provenance, a platform for shoppers to find the supply chain behind products. (Sarah has personally invested in 16 companies.)
The minimum investment is £10,000 — much lower than many networks. The age range is mid-30s upwards, most of the women are from professional backgrounds and some came with horror stories from previous experience.
One left her job as a senior BBC executive to set up her own TV production company and was looking for investment. ‘She’d be in meetings with private equity investors, all men, and they wouldn’t address their questions to her, even though she was the MD. They focused on the men in the room,’ says Sarah. ‘It’s soul-destroying. They’re not even looking at you and it’s your idea.
‘Until now, it has been men investing in men. And actually, women are biased towards their own gender too.
‘They are motivated to back other women, so it’s a very effective way of closing the gender investment gap.’
BABY BLUES MADE ME REASSESS LIFE
Addie Pinkster, 39, is founder and CEO of Adelpha, a female-led corporate financial adviser and investment network; she and her husband, an investment banker, have children aged eight and six.
One day in 2016, Addie Pinkster, then head of hedge fund strategy and development for Citi, had a vision of how she would be remembered. ‘I thought, if I got run over by a bus, my gravestone would read: “Here lies Addie Pinkster, this was her lifetime PnL [profit and loss] and this is how much money she made moving money around the City.” ’
She decided ‘That was a rubbish gravestone’ and soon afterwards left her successful 14-year career in big investment banks to set up Adelpha, which helps growing companies access capital, with a particular focus on female entrepreneurs in the tech industry.
Addie Pinkster, 39, (pictured) who is the founder and CEO of Adelpha, became interested in helping female entrepreneurs after having a vision about how she would be remembered
‘Adelpha means sisterhood,’ she says. ‘There are lots of “Adelphis” in the City — fund managers, streets, buildings like hotels and theatres. Adelphi means brotherhood. It’s the old boys’ club.’
Adelpha has helped more than 30 companies access hundreds of millions of pounds in the past four years; 80 per cent have a founder from a diverse background; 68 per cent are female. ‘This is about opening your eyes to unique investment opportunities,’ she says.
For example, one female-founded business Adelpha has backed is Moody Month, an app that tracks the fluctuations in a woman’s hormonal cycle and how they can affect mood, anxiety and sleep.
‘If you spoke to a male investor, he’d probably go, “Hormone tracking? Sounds like an app to tell you when your period is.” And you can turn around and go, “No, this is really meaningful for women — and millennials and Gen Z are willing to pay for it.” And he will go, “Interesting, I had no idea.” ’
Another is Slick, a digital platform used by hair and beauty salons to help them manage their businesses. ‘A male investor would likely say, “Is that a big business? I just walk into a barber shop and pay 16 quid or whatever.” There is unconscious bias.’
Addie (pictured) said learning how to present pitches is a challenge for women founders
Slick is now partnered with L’Oreal, a thousand salons use its service and two million customers book through the platform.
Addie joined UBS as a hedge fund sales trader in 2004 and thrived on the 5am starts and 11pm finishes. She stayed for nearly ten years. ‘I was in a minority and that really suited me in my 20s. I grew up around male cousins. Many of my good friends at university were male and a lot of the sports I played were male- leaning — cricket, rugby.’
A shift came in 2012 after the birth of her first child. ‘I had pretty bad postnatal depression.’ Six months of maternity leave became ten months. ‘I reintegrated slowly, with lots of support. I don’t know how much it was the depression and how much it was having a child, but my priorities changed. Colleagues thought I became more empathetic.’ In 2013 she was headhunted by Citi, where she worked for three years.
Addie is now using her City experience and network to help other women. ‘One challenge for women founders is learning how to present pitches. Lesson one: use the word “strategic”,’ says Addie. ‘Men don’t have to describe themselves as strategic to be perceived as strategic. Women’s strengths are more likely to be seen as empathy and emotional intelligence.’
What does she hope will be on her gravestone now? ‘Here lies Addie Pinkster. This is the difference she made to these people’s lives and these companies. And here is the net impact on the world from those two things.’
DEMOTED TO THE ‘MUMMY TACK’ AT CITY FIRM
Deepali Nangia, 47, is the co-founder of Alma Angels, an angel community supporting female founders; a venture partner in Speedinvest (which has female founders only), a venture capital fund; and an angel investor in Atomico Angel. Her husband is an insurance executive and they have two children, aged 15 and 11.
Deepali Nangia, 47, (pictured) who is the co-founder of Alma Angels, became interested in launching an angel investor network after being passed over for promotion in the City
A turning point for Deepali Nangia was when she was passed over for promotion in the City. She had 12 years’ experience at senior level, a supportive husband and a nanny. But she also had ‘two human beings depending on me and I was responsible for everything from their homework to their head lice!’ She hoped her company would be supportive. Instead, her (male) boss offered her a lower-paid, more flexible role. In other words, Deepali was on the ‘mummy track’.
‘I felt completely let down. I had given all these years and was very good at what I did.’ She left, feeling broken by the challenges of being in a male-dominated world.
‘It’s not easy to go into a room with eight white men and have a conversation when you are different. I have lived here for a long time now, so I can talk about anything. But I can’t play golf or talk about football, and the men are not going to talk about spas or childcare.’
Deepali (pictured) has invested in about 20 female founders to date
Her reincarnation started in 2014, when she was asked by Kensington and Chelsea London Borough Council to help launch an angel investor network to create more jobs.
‘Naturally, I attracted more female investors,’ she says. ‘At that point there weren’t many female founders building scaleable companies.’
She found a new purpose: supporting female founders. ‘It’s what makes me most happy,’ she says.
Her influence is wide-ranging: large-scale, through investment funds at Speedinvest and Atomico Angel; philanthropic — in 2019 she co-founded Alma Angels to support female founders; and personal — she writes out cheques herself.
Deepali has invested in about 20 female founders to date (personally and through Atomico Angel) including PensionBee, an online pensions consolidator. Founded by Romi Savova in 2014, PensionBee recently floated on the stock exchange with a value of £365 million.
Deepali, who first invested in PensionBee in 2017, backed a winner. ‘I am a super-happy investor,’ she says. ‘I am a believer in Romi. Most satisfying to me is she’s a female founder who had two children while she was building the company.’
I THOUGHT ONLY OLD MEN WHO LUNCH DID THIS KIND OF THING
Jodie O’Keeffe, 49, is a philanthropist, angel investor and director of NW3 Ventures. Her husband is CEO of a cosmetics business; they have three children aged 20, 18 and 17.
Jodie O’Keeffe, 49, (pictured) who is a philanthropist, angel investor and director of NW3 Ventures, became interested in supporting female businesses after her family had a windfall
About seven years ago, Jodie O’Keeffe’s family had a windfall when a business they held shares in was sold. Rather than keep the money, though, they decided on an altruistic approach.
Philanthropy relies on good judgment — so to guide her giving, Jodie, a former journalist, did a graduate certificate in business (philanthropy and non-profit studies) in Melbourne, Australia, where the family was based at the time.
She noticed certain inequities: men tended to be the recipients of charitable services. ‘It’s actually very similar to start-ups,’ she says. ‘So, that’s when I decided that whenever I’m giving money, funding or contributing to something, I need to make sure the end result is equitable. That is how my support of women came about.’
She set up a philanthropic foundation which is based in Australia and has funded projects such as One Girl, an education programme for girls in Uganda and Sierra Leone.
Her giving developed beyond nonprofit groups when a friend introduced her to Scale Investors in Melbourne, a network of angel investors geared to backing women.
‘It had never occurred to me that I could actually be an angel investor. I imagined such people were older men, private equity types who were well-connected, wearing suits and going out for lunches.’
When the family moved to London in 2017, Jodie joined the UK equivalent of Scale investors: Angel Academe. She now has 14 female-founded companies in her portfolio, including a cyber security business, health apps, and Nix & Kix, a vegan, low-calorie soft drink. Her average investment per deal is around £15,000.
Jodie (pictured) said around 48 per cent of wealth in the UK is controlled by women, but women don’t tend to take risks
The drive is to make money. ‘Angel investing is definitely about making a return. If there’s a social impact, that’s a bonus.’
She used to have 15 companies but one failed. She hasn’t made any money yet. ‘All the others are still going, so I’m in with a chance! Generally I would expect exits [when companies go public or are taken over by a larger company] in seven to ten years from investment.
‘If we’re to change the landscape for female founders, people like me really need to be encouraged to participate. Around 48 per cent of the wealth in this country is controlled by women, but women don’t tend to take risks.
‘They’ll put it in an ISA or a bank account or whatever their financial adviser tells them to invest in.
‘It’s a great retirement portfolio career, or if you’ve been raising kids and now you have more time on your hands and you’re financially able to do it, it’s a really interesting thing to do. I’m proud of being able to help these women get their businesses off the ground.’
ENTREPRENEURS WEPT TEARS OF FRUSTRATION
Suzanne Biegel, 57, is an investor, philanthropist, founder of Catalyst At Large, a consulting firm that invests in women, and co-founder of GenderSmart, an investment initiative to unlock capital towards women. Her husband is a visual effects engineer.
In 2000, Suzanne, a U.S.-born tech entrepreneur, sold IEC, the corporate e-learning firm she ran with her business partner, to a multinational.
She made a lot of money and wanted to celebrate. ‘I thought, I’m going to go sailing around the world,’ she says.
That didn’t happen. First, her husband landed his dream visual effects job in Hollywood — and then Suzanne became immersed in a new enterprise: investing in women.
Suzanne Biegel, 57, (pictured) who is an investor, philanthropist and founder of Catalyst At Large, met men who were sexist and devalued women at the start of her tech career in Los Angeles
She started her tech career at IBM in Los Angeles. ‘It was very male and, of course, there was sexism,’ she says, particularly as ‘Silicon Valley’ took off. ‘Tech became a “bro culture” dominated by young, overconfident, obnoxious men,’ says Suzanne, who worked for an IBM-backed tech start-up in 1991. ‘These guys were enormously sexist and devalued women. There were lewd comments, men asking girls to get their dry-cleaning and using offices for “partying”.’
Suzanne soon left. ‘I saw how hard it was for these women to access capital. If a man and a woman walked into an investor’s office, they would speak to the man and think the woman was there as a door stop. It just makes you so angry and so frustrated. I’ve held hands with a lot of women entrepreneurs and there have been tears of frustration.’
Suzanne (pictured) decided to help female entrepreneurs after seeing how hard it was for women to access capital
In 2000, she set up Catalyst At Large, with a global focus on investing in women. It is part of a movement that she estimates has unlocked $20 billion in capital towards women. ‘But when you think there’s tens of trillions of dollars of capital in the world, that’s a drop in the bucket.’
Suzanne and her husband moved to the UK in 2009.
Alongside Catalyst At Large, she is working with SheEO, a global network of ‘radically generous women’ supporting female founders of companies with a social impact.
Suzanne launched a UK arm in 2020 that has backed five companies, including Clothes Doctor — an anti-fast fashion company. ‘The biggest challenge for investors is women don’t believe they know enough to do it,’ she says.
‘Men will know 20 per cent and act like they know 80 to 100 per cent. Women will know 80 per cent and act as if they know 20 per cent. That is what’s causing us to not have the talent.’
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