Q&A With Pipeline Fellowship
Changing the face of angel investing and creating capital for women social entrepreneurs.
1. You’re the founder and CEO of Pipeline Fellowship. What is the Pipeline Fellowship, and how did it get started?
Per an Emory University study, women-led for-profit social ventures are 40% less likely to get capital, despite generating 15% more revenue than their male-led peers. My solution? Train more women to become angels and have them invest in women-led for-profit social ventures in exchange for equity.
Pipeline Fellowship is an angel investing bootcamp for women that is changing the face of angel investing and creating capital for women social entrepreneurs.
Entrepreneurs are everywhere — capital isn’t. Since launching its first angel investing bootcamp in April 2011, Pipeline Fellowship has trained over seventy women, who have committed more than US$350k in investment, and has expanded from NYC to Boston and the Bay Area. We launched programs in Chicago and DC spring 2014, and we’ll be heading to Atlanta, Austin, LA, Miami, and Seattle –in addition to returning to SF — in fall 2014.
2. What barriers and challenges exist for women in becoming angel investors, and what does the current angel investing landscape look like for women investors?
Pipeline Fellowship’s first angel investing bootcamp launched April 2011 and, early on, when starting to describe what we were up to, people would exclaim, “Ah! So the winning startup gets the grant, yes?” I learned that people’s free associations when thinking about women and money were contained to philanthropists, donating, giving, and charity, whereas the free associations when thinking about men and money covered broader ground, including financiers, venture capital, and investing. This language disconnect drives my efforts to mainstream Pipeline Fellowship’s movement to change the face of angel investing.
Right after Bloomberg Businessweek announced the launch of Pipeline Fellowship in their November 2010 issue, I was invited to attend an angel group meeting in NYC. Out of the twenty-two people present, I was one of two women and one of two people of color. The group was deciding whether or not to invest in a particular startup. They went around the table and guy after guy said something along the lines of, “My wife and her friends think…,” and, “My girlfriend and her friends think….”
It was clear that the networks and expertise of these women were in the room—only, the women themselves weren’t in the room. That gathering was one more data point on why Pipeline Fellowship’s angel investing bootcamp for women needed to happen and it epitomized a remark recently made by Midy Aponte: “If you don’t have a seat at the table, bring your own chair.”
3. Tell us a bit about some of the successes coming out of the Pipeline Fellowship program.
Pipeline Fellowship has seen the ripple effects of training women to become angels.
In addition to continuing to invest in startups, Pipeline Fellowship alumnae have gone on to join later stage angel networks, such as Golden Seeds and Astia Angel, as well as launch an accelerator (Women Innovate Mobile Accelerator) and angel groups (Topstone Angels and 37 Angels). Graduates have shared that they would not have gone on to invest in more startups, or join these angel groups, had they not participated in Pipeline Fellowship’s angel investing bootcamp, which introduced them to the concept of angel investing and emphasized/underscored the possibility that they could be angel investors themselves.
2013 NYC Pipeline Fellowship Graduation. Photo by Erica Torres
4. Pipeline Fellowship teaches a boot-camp style program. Can you tell us a bit about the curriculum and the types of skills that are essential to angel investing, and how women can get involved in your program?
Pipeline Fellowship’s angel investing bootcamp for women includes three main components: education, mentoring, and practice. The Pipeline Fellowship holds workshops on topics including Due Diligence, Valuation, Portfolio Strategies, and Measuring Impact. The workshops are led by experts, including seasoned angel investors, VCs, experienced entrepreneurs, and impact investing professionals. We match Pipeline Fellows with seasoned angel investors who share best practices and lessons learned. The Pipeline Fellowship Pitch Summit is an opportunity for invited women entrepreneurs to present their for-profit social ventures for a chance to secure funding.
For most of the Pipeline Fellows, this is their first angel investment. They’re attracted by the program’s three components and benefit from the diversity of each cohort. Pipeline Fellows are intergenerational (ranging from late twenties to 60+) and come from a variety of professional backgrounds.
Photo by Erica Torres