This year is shaping as the year women become a part of the mainstream in the venture capital industry. There are two aspects to this – the number of female investors is increasing, and the number of companies they invest in that are founded by women is growing.
It’s a double whammy.
There is a good reason for this, says Laura McKenzie, CEO at Scale Investors, a female focused angel investor network. Ms McKenzie will speak at the InnovationAus.com Women in VC event in Sydney on 23 February.
“The data shows that women make good investors,” she says. “They take more time and they are more scrupulous. They tend to look at different aspects of the investment than do males.”
“And they do especially well when they invest in companies that are started by women.”
She says this is because it is human nature that people – male or female – tend to have more empathy with people like themselves.
“We invest in companies that are run by people we can imagine being, or who we would like to be. Woman investors are drawn to companies founded by women.”
Since it was started in Melbourne in 2013, Scale has attracted over 100 angel investors with the great majority of them women. It has invested more than $6 million in ten Australian startups, including intelligent building company Switch Automation, now a leading international player in the field, and Trademark Vision, a successful trademark search firm.
Scale is now moving beyond its angel investor origins and now plans to launch a $20 million investment fund under the Commonwealth’s Early Stage Venture Capital Limited Partnership (ESVCLP) program.
“That’s the next stage,” says Ms McKenzie. “We will apply the same principles as we have with our angel investors. We’re nearly there with the funding and we are on track to launch in March.”
Another speaker at the Women in VC event, Jo Burston, also sees substantial growth in women investors and startups. She is founder and CEO of employment agency Job Capital, founder of the female entrepreneurial movement Rare Birds.
Ms Burston is a leading global authority on women’s entrepreneurship, and was recently invited by Microsoft to address 45,000 delegates at its Worldwide Partner Conference in Toronto on the subject.
“We seemed to have hit critical mass. There are more and more female investors, and there are more and more female entrepreneurs. There is just a much higher profile for women across the board.
“For a long time it was a man’s world, and venture capital also did not have a very good reputation. It wasn’t something women wanted to get into. There were no female role models or mentors.
”Now all that is changing. There are now many women seeking to raise capital, and many women capable of providing it.”
She says women in Australia are now starting new businesses at the same rate as men, quoting data from the Australian Government’s ‘Profile of Australian Women in Business’ report.
“The report shows that Australian women have the entrepreneurial drive to start businesses, and that Australia has a good environment for them.”
But it is not just that more women are starting businesses, she says, but the way they are doing it.
“An important difference with female investors is their willingness to look at the social impact of their investment, and not just at the purely financial side. “Women are much more likely to reinvest in the community and to be involved with other startups. It’s becoming areal movement.
“There has never been a better time to be a woman investor or a woman entrepreneur. The barriers to entry have come down, but the barriers to success remain high. Many of the women I meet have global aspirations, and they need substantial finance to compete on a global scale with what is coming out of the US and China.”
InnovationAus.com will host the inaugural Women in VC Forum on February 23, focused on pathways for connecting women to venture capital.
The international keynote speaker is US entrepreneur and businesswoman Key Koplovitz, the founder of USA Network and the cofounder and chairman of Springboard Enterprises. She is also managing partner at Springboard Growth Capital.
More than 200 senior executives and startup founders are expected at this forum, to hear first-hand how the venture capital space has evolved from a female perspective and what mechanisms the sector can put in place to encourage more women to join and stay actively engaged. Speakers and panellists at the event include:
- Kay Koplovitz, Managing Director, Springboard Growth Capital (USA)
- Laura McKenzie, Chief Executive Officer, Scale Investors
- Marty Gauvin, Chair, Innovation Investment Committee, Department of Industry, Innovation and Science
- Anne-Marie Birkill, General Partner and Executive Director, OneVentures
- Cath Rogers, Executive Director, Airtree Ventures
- Elaine Stead, Founder, Blue Sky Venture Capital
- Rick Baker, Co-Founder, Blackbird Ventures
- Topaz Conway, Chair, Springboard Enterprises Australia
- Jo Burston, Chief Executive Officer, Rare Birds
- Sandy Plunkett, Founder, Innovation Clearinghouse