Investment fund Portfolia announced it has added Angela Jackson of the Portland Seed Fund as a venture partner for its new fund called the FirstStep Fund.
Jackson will continue working with the Portland Seed Fund but will bring her expertise, along with four other partners spread across the country, to finding startups with a female angle: companies either founded or run by women or producing a product or service of particular interest to women.
Portfolia Inc. CEO and Founder Trish Costello came to Portland Wednesday from San Francisco host get together with Jackson and prospective investors and entrepreneurs. Twenty-three people, seven off them men, met in the boardroom of local angel investors Stephanie Kelly and Jason Saunders in the Brewery Blocks. Jackson introduced them as "friends of the ecosystem."
Men may participate but the First Step fund is designed to introduce women to startup investment. The goal is to learn about such things as convertible notes, follow-ons, signable pro-ratas and funding rounds that can often seem the exclusive domain of an all-male club.
Half a percent
Jackson tested the room, saying of male accredited investors, 30 percent invest in the risky world of startups.
"What is the percentage for female accredited investors? Half of one percent." Costello said the fund will "feel like an MBA in investing." Investors can watch the monthly "pitch calls" live or on video delay, and they can research the companies and ask questions. "You'll dip your toes into startup investing."
As for spotting winners and losers, "We don't sugar coat it. You go on the ride with them (the startups), doing everything short of making decisions." That is left to the five experts like Jackson.
Costello quotes Victor Kiam's old Remington electric shaver ad. "He said 'I liked it so much I bought the company.' You are what makes these companies successful."
Accredited investors (people with at least $1 million in net worth or an annual income of over $200,000) are allowed to invest a minimum of $10,000 in the fund. Most angel investments have a $50,000 minimum and venture capital investments a $1 million minimum.
"Not my wife"
Although Portfolia, which is on its seventh fund now, does not restrict its investments to the buzzworthy field of femtech, some of the examples for why the women in the room should put their money in FirstStep were femtech examples. For example, Costello talked about a woman who had invented a product for dealing with short term urinary incontinence in women who recently gave birth. The pitcher was met with blank stares from a room full of male venture capitalists, one of whom commented "Bladder control issues? Not my wife."
Holly Madorra of the company Madorra is working with women on vaginal restoration for cancer survivors who can't use hormones. She announced that just that day she had received another round of funding through Portfolia. She was almost giddy at the news and received a round of applause. The atmosphere of excitement and good humor was unlike what you see at an all-male huddle of investors.
Fortune favors the bold
Jackson said she had seen groups of Angel investors who after six months had still not written a check, because they felt either ignorant or intimidated. "With men there's a boldness. What I love about men is they like novelty. In startup investing, Men tend to invest in novel areas," she said, like a doctor investing in something totally non-medical. "Women invest in their passions or their area of expertise."
She said it helped to listen to them men as they talked frankly about each company's a chance of making it. Part of what Portfolia offers is the chance to listen in on skilled investors doing their work.
Portfolia now has 600 investors, many of whom are "rock star women," said Costello. The goal is 100,000 female investors by 2022. Costello was long-time CEO of the Kauffman Fellows Program, a global development program, and Jackson is one of the best-known angel funders in Portland. Costello joked that she had tried to work with Jackson for years but Jackson was "too busy."
Himalaya Rao-Potlapally was there representing the Willamette Angel Fund from Willamette University in Salem where she is about to get her MBA. She was looking into whether the two funds could partner. As the founder of a CarBar, a food delivery service, she has entrepreneurial experience, but her goal is to work in venture capital in California.
It's a movement
Former Nike executive Kate Delhagen told the Business Tribune, "I'm pre-tired, but I'm known in town as the founder of Oregon Sports Angels." This angel group seeks out sports, apparel and fitness companies.
Delhagen said she had "hit the button," meaning she clicked and invested in the FirstStep fund.
"Any time I can lead by example and I have the capacity, this was an easy one to say yes to. I believe we need to change the face of investing figuratively and literally."
She said Pipeline Angels and Astia Angels are similar in spirit, demystifying investing for women and getting them in the game.
Part of her role is to be helpful. When a woman whose business is cosmetics made from Brazilian rainforest superfoods spoke up to thank the Portfolia team, Delhagen leaned in and reminded her to say her company's name. Teadora.
"At OSA I faced this. First, a lot of women want to do this but it's intimidating or it's prohibitively expensive. But these guys have done a good job of demystifying it and lowering the bar to where it's accessible. Ten thousand is a significant number but it's more accessible than most. The second is I think there's a rising tide of women who want to help women: that's the gender angle on this. Female founders have a good track record. In med tech its particularly obvious. It's really obvious if you are the consumer, you can understand if that founder has a value proposition."
Delhagen explained in venture funding "you either bet on the jockey or the horse. That takes gender out of the equation. In this it maybe a female jockey (the founder or CEO) but not a female horse (the product). My expectation is that Portfolia surfaces great jockeys who happen to be women, and a subset of them will have a great horse. And those are the one who will get the investment."
The future is female
Jackson told the Business Tribune that Women's wealth is outpacing men's as they live longer, but they tend to invest conservatively in stocks, bonds and real estate.
"Women are often a one-band social service system for the rest of the family."
The Pacific Northwest might be small but it has a secret superpower.
"The research shows Oregon as a venture capital state doesn't really fog a mirror in the ranking rankings. But we have an edge, we're highly collaborative, scrappy and inventive. We manage to punch above our weight by deploying capital in early state ecosystems."
Reporter, The Business Tribune
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