Adventures in Ladytech: So You Wanna Be An Angel?

We all know there’s a problem with the tiny number of women represented in technology, but did you know that there is also a problem with the number of ladies–particularly women of color– who invest in start-ups and new business?

That’s right. In 2012, only 22% of US angel investors were women and only 5% were minorities. Do you ever watch the show Shark Tank? That means that the show’s two female sharks, Barbara Corcoran and Lori Greiner, are two of very few women angels in the entire United States.

How can we change that? With programs like Pipeline Fellowship, which is an “angel investing bootcamp” for ladies who want to become angels. The program trains women to become angel investors through education, mentoring, and practice. Fellows commit to invest in a woman-led for-profit social venture in exchange for equity at the end of the training.

For Pipeline Fellowship CEO and Founder (and friend!) Natalia Oberti Noguera, the problem isn’t just that women and people of color entrepreneurs are not getting funding for their companies–it’s that women and people of color entrepreneurs are also not pitching. “According to the Center for Venture Research, out of all the startups that pitched to U.S. angels in 2012, only 16% were women-led, and, of that 16%, 25% secured funding, while only 6% were minority-led, and, of that 6%, only 18% secured funding,” Oberti Noguera said to me, “We need to get more women and people of color entrepreneurs to pitch their businesses.”

We talked to Lauren Gropper, the CEO and Co-Founder of Repurpose Compostables, who did just that and ended up securing a US$50k investment from the inaugural class of Bay Area Pipeline Fellows. Gropper is a green entrepreneur with a background in green architecture and urban design, as well as sustainability consulting for film and television. (She was actually the founding partner in an environmental media platform created by the always awesome actor Adrian Grenier!)

She talked to us about how she went about finding investment dollars – and how you can also follow in her footsteps if you happen to have a startup or new project yourself.

Tell me how Repurpose came about.

“I had been working in the sustainable architecture field and came across many clients looking to ‘green’ not only their buildings but their business operations. Waste was always such a huge issue and real solutions were just not readily available. Many conversations and meetings led me to my current partners and we launched Repurpose.  Repurpose’s mission is to replace all single-use disposable plastics with high quality, innovative, plant based alternatives.”

How did you connect with Pipeline Fellowship?

“I was actually speaking on a panel at a past Women in Green Forum with Natalia and she suggested I put in an application.”

When did you decide you wanted to go out for funding?

“We have been raising money since the inception of the company–we are always raising! If you have a startup you will always be raising funds, so you always have to be open to that and try to actively seek out those opportunities.”

Has it been a tough process?

It’s certainly not an easy process, but like anything, you need to connect with the right people who believe in what you’re trying to accomplish and it tends to snowball from there. Just surround yourself with the right people.

What advice would you give a young woman who would like to follow your footsteps and become an entrepreneur?

“I think it’s important to try to get comfortable with uncertainty and a lack of security–being an entrepreneur is a very risky venture but it can be well worth it! So whether you’re looking to become an angel investor–or, looking for funds–Pipeline Fellowship is a great place to start.”

So what does this mean for you, fellow HelloGiggles ladies? If you have a start-up and a dream,  check out local tech accelerators, incubators or investment opportunities like Pipeline Fellowship and many others out there. The industry is working hard to fund more women entrepreneurs and create more women in positions of leadership (more Marissa Mayers!), so you’re sure to find something great out there.

What if you’re a little further along in your career and you want to be an angel? You’re in luck because applications for Pipeline Fellowship’s spring 2014 programs in Boston, Chicago, DC and NYC are being reviewed on a rolling basis (just visit their website to find out more). It’s a great way to become an angel and to help us increase the number of women in the tech and business sector.