Investors Share Advice With Entrepreneurs At Pipeline Fellowship Conference

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Female angel investors come together to share expertise at first ever Bay Area conference.

By Carolyn Gerin (Co-Founder, Adorii)

“Never invest in anyone you wouldn’t have to your home for dinner,” quipped Cyan Banister, Uber and Zivity investor, setting the tone for an intensely fun and resonant day at the Pipeline Fellowship Conference, making one thing abundantly clear: female investors put a huge emphasis on relationship-building with the seed-stage companies they help launch. And it seems they want to enjoy the destination as well as the journey (in startup speak: ‘empire building to exit’).

As Susan Preston, lead instructor Angel Resource Institute and the Clean Energy Angel Fund pointed out: “after the funding round, you’ll be with the company for five to seven years, it’s like a marriage.”

Marya Stark, The Angel Fund co-founder expands: “Women are natural angels, story tellers and relationship builders. To invest in someone, you will do a lot of favors for them, and will need to ask yourself, who do I want to spend time with?”

Are we seeing a trend here? And where’s this relationship going?

…all the way to the bank from the looks of things. I’m not going to call this gang of financial femme-power the ‘new guard,’ because many of them have been out there swinging for their entire careers. But clearly with these women, it starts with relationship building: they care deeply about investing in viable companies that create social impact (having fun along the way offered at no additional charge). Most interesting? Profitable exits were discussed after lunch.

The format of the day was an organized romp through everything that this female co-founder wanted to know: trends in investing, due diligence, structuring the deal, valuation methodologies, valuation exercises, case discussions, the post investment relationship, and valuable insight into what angel investors are really looking for (and what makes them tick).

Pipeline founder Natalia Oberti Noguera stated in a TechCrunch interview that “Pipeline’s aim is to take down bias against women in the VC world and the startup ecosystem at large.” The Pipeline Fellowship hosts angel investing immersion “bootcamps” for women.

Here’s how it works: the Fellowship trains women philanthropists to become angel investors through education, mentoring and practice. Pipeline Fellows commit to pool their money and invest in a woman-led, for-profit venture of their choosing in exchange for equity and a board seat. One of the highlights of the day was actually valuating a company use case through guided exercises and formulas and ultimately pitch an investor.

The type of investing discussed throughout the day: socially responsible, socially impactful, and ‘gender lens’ investing, with an emphasis on promoting female founders.

Panelist Gwen Edwards has extensive experience in the space and spoke of ‘being the only girl sitting at the boys table’ in earlier days, but has taken this valuable experience to launch Golden Seeds, her successful fund focused on female-founded startups.

The Panelists Weigh In: (Entrepreneurs: Pay Attention!)

From Jackie VanderBrug, Criterion Ventures, Gender Lens Investing National, on pitching:

“Men and women present differently: Men tend to exaggerate their past successes, while women tend to downplay them. I always give men a ‘significant haircut’ before I decide to invest money in their concept.” Note to women: “speak to your accomplishments and don’t downplay them” and “Women are 12% more likely to run a profitable venture and only 50% as likely to get funded. You can’t be what you can’t see…”

From Heidi Krauel, New Island Capital on pitching:

“There’s a huge difference between audacity and humility. Can you listen and be coached, or are you too close to your idea?”

From Bedy Yang at 500 Startups on funding:

“We check our gut to find the winners and see whether we’re right, right before it scales. We’ll write the first check within an hour, but the second check might take up to six months.”

From Charles Hudson, SoftTech VC:

“There’s a huge difference between a difficult entrepreneur and an unpleasant one. Difficult people may have deep conviction about their concept, and that’s a good thing, but if they can’t be coached, that’s an red flag.” …and “The Minimum Viable Product (MVP) needs to be there, over just a ‘paper concept’; in 12-18 months, where does the product need to be for the market?”

As the co-founder of Adorii and a femmetrepreneur, I felt almost like a ‘spy in the house of investors’ hanging on every word uttered by the panelists. The Angel Investing Overview book provided (my new playbook) is worth its weight in gold for founders or newly minted angels.

I was heartened to meet so many committed and exciting women (and a few stand out gents): Charles Hudson, at SoftTech VC and Christopher Austin, Partner at Goodwin Procter (and event sponsor) who support female founders, moving the needle with their actions, and setting a visible benchmark for other men in the space.

Every angel was approachable, excited and clearly enjoying life at the funding table. Underneath it all was a deep conviction to create positive, profitable and viable change in the world, while helping launch and grow female-founded ventures.

Hats off to Natalia Oberti Noguera Founder, Pipeline Fellows and A. Lauren Abele, COO, for an outstanding and inspiring event. Partly due to the Pipeline Fellowship experience, I decided what I want to be in my next career: an angel investor for femmetrepreneurs.

…every time a female founder (gets funding), an angel gets her wings.

Women 2.0 readers: Are you looking to become an angel investor? Let us know in the comments!

About the guest blogger: Carolyn Gerin is a Co-Founder at Adorii, the premiere daily sales event e-commerce site for the engaged and invited. The site launched in June 2012. Adorii just took home the gold for Tech Cocktails’ Hottest Seattle Startup. She is also the creator/co-author of the bestselling “Anti-Bride” 3-book series for Chronicle Books, and serves as Sr. Editor of Destination I Do Magazine. Follow her on Twitter at @antibride.