Calling All Angels: How Women Can Close the Angel Investment Gap

Sponsored by Pipeline Fellowship.

You’re familiar with the gender pay gap. But have you heard? There’s an angel gap, too.

Angel investing, that is.

Angel investors are individuals that provide startup capital to entrepreneurs, often taking a personal interest the business’ success. But despite women now controlling over 51% of the wealth in the United States, the University of New Hampshire’s Center for Venture Research has reported that only 19% of angel investors in the U.S. in 2013 were women.

How can we close that gap? By challenging ourselves and other women to step up and invest! But why should this matter?

Why Close the Gap?

According to MIT, about half of all small businesses in the U.S. are founded by women, but in the tech industry only 7% of the startups that attract VC funding are led by female founders.

While women entrepreneurs have a tougher time connecting with venture capital, closing the angel investment gap can help close the funding gap faced by female founders. Geri Stengel of ForbesWoman writes “Women are not only more likely than men to invest in women-led companies, some will sit on the boards of the companies they invest in, according to the Kauffman (Institute).” 

As school counselor and property manager-turned-angel investor, Karen Bairley Kruger observes, “Women are hugely underrepresented in all sectors of business – from entrepreneurs to CEOs to board membership.” This is why bringing more women to the table as investors is critical.

It’s a high-risk way to invest, and a high-reward one. Research sponsored by the Kauffman Foundation found that angel investors reap, on average, a return of 2.6 times their investment within 3.5 years. They’re often driven not just by the pursuit of profit, but also by the satisfaction of having a personal connection to the success of a fledgling business. And according to a white paper by Illuminate Ventures, venture-backed high tech companies led by women are good custodians of the funding they receive. They use their capital more efficiently and make higher annual revenues than those led by male counterparts. 

One woman who is out to close these gaps is Natalia Oberti Noguera. She is founder and CEO of Pipeline Fellowship, an organization that teaches women how to get started as angel investors, and connects women entrepreneurs to capital. It’s a powerful win-win. “We’re changing the face of angel investing,” she says.

Pipeline Fellowship graduates in New York City in 2013.
Pipeline Fellowship graduates in NEW York City in 2013.

Pipeline Fellowship’s bootcamp for aspiring angel investors takes place two days per month over six months and mixes up education and mentoring with hands-on practice. Midway through the program, investors-in-training attend a Shark Tank-like forum where women entrepreneurs pitch their business plans. Bootcamp participants select one company to invest in, each pitching in $5,000. This way, they experience more than just training: It is hands-on investing. “At the end of the program, women have learned the ropes of angel investing and they have actually made their first investment, ” observes Karen Bairley Kruger, who is a Pipeline Fellowship alumna. “They have skin in the game,” adds Oberti Noguera.

Calling all Angels

So who’s the ideal angel investor?

Becoming an angel investor can be a logical next step up for women who have built successful careers. As Oberti Noguera suggests, it is a chance to “Sit at the bigger kids’ table.”

According to Deanna Kosaraju, founder and CEO of Global Tech Women, becoming an angel investor is a “next stage of empowerment” for women who have successfully navigated industries such as high tech. “These change-makers have already proven they can defy the odds and succeed in male-dominated corporate cultures.” Kosaraju would urge them to use that knowledge to mentor an upcoming generation of women on how to traverse similar challenges. “Women entrepreneurs need more than just funding,’ she added. “They need access to role-models and mentors, and female angel investors can make the difference.”

Applicants for the Pipeline Fellowship’s boot camp must meet the SEC’s definition of an accredited investor, namely having net worth of US$1million or annual income of US$200K personally (or US$300 jointly with a spouse) for at least two years. The organization is growing rapidly, bringing boot camps to women in Austin, Atlanta, Los Angeles, Miami, Seattle, and the Bay Area this fall.

“When I realized the impact that entrepreneurs are set to make in today’s changing economy, I knew I had to become an angel,” said user experience designer and creative director Jamie-Lynn Despres, a Pipeline Fellowship alumna. As an investor, Despres is drawn to women-founded tech companies that combine innovation with social impact.

So ladies, it’s time to step up, and if you’re been successful in your career and have the means, consider shouldering some risk. Become an angel investor.

Pipeline Fellowship has opened a call for applications for aspiring angel investors to attend its fall boot camps. Applications close August 31.

Jo Miller

A leading authority on women’s leadership, Jo Miller is a sought-after, dynamic, and engaging speaker, delivering more than 70 speaking presentations annually to audiences of up to 1,200 women. Her expertise lies in helping women lead, climb, and thrive in their corporate careers. Jo has traveled widely in Europe, North America, Asia Pacific, and the Middle East to deliver keynotes and teach workshops for women’s leadership conferences, women’s professional associations, and Fortune 1000 corporate women’s initiatives. Jo is CEO of leadership development, consulting and research firm Be Leaderly. Learn more about her speaking engagements at and follow @Jo_Miller on Twitter.

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