Angel Academe co-founder Sarah Turner highlights the barriers for women in angel investing and outlines how they are helping to overcome them

Author

UK Business Angels Association

20 August 2019

Credit: Sarah Turner

Women own 48% of the net wealth in the UK yet only 14% of angel investors in the UK are women. Angel Academe, co-founded by Sarah Turner and Simon Hopkins, has been working hard since it launched in 2014 to tackle that disparity by helping more women get involved in angel investing.

The organisation focuses on investing in tech startups that have at least one woman on the founding team. Discussing why Angel Academe was set up, Sarah explains:

“In 2014 there were very few organisations targeting women, either as angel investors or as entrepreneurs, and to do both was unique. I could see that there was a rapid increase in the number of women building technology start-ups but there was nothing changing in the ecosystem in which they had to operate, so they’d typically be presenting to rooms that were 95% men. Inevitably it felt like a bit of a disconnect. ”

Research from Harvard Business Review has found that female entrepreneurs get asked very different questions to their male counterparts. This is something that Sarah herself has witnessed during pitches.

“The style of questioning was just a little bit more dismissive or sometimes they go into a lot of detail on the finances or the technology or something where they thought they could trip the founder up. I’ve been in pitches where there’s a male and a female co-founder, and all the questions would be directed at the man based on the assumption that he’s more senior, even though that may not be the case. I’ve found that some male investors can be very patronising towards me too, often making assumptions about the type of business I invest in.”

One reason why women find it harder in the pitching room, particularly in the world of tech, is the lack of visible female role models. Sarah says:

“Unfortunately we all come with our biases and some of them are hard wired. I think the media doesn’t help. If you think of a top tech entrepreneur, men and women alike think of Mark Zuckerberg or Bill Gates or Steve Jobs. Who’s the woman that’s up there alongside them? We don’t have the role models. It’s not yet common to see the very, very successful women in tech.”

It’s not just women founders that face barriers, it’s also something that holds back women who want to get into angel investing. There’s historically been a lack of access to information and opportunities for women in this area. Shedding some light on why this has been the case, Sarah elaborates:

“Women typically have different networks than men and we’re probably less likely to talk about investing and finance in general than men. I think the way that women make money is often very different too. We’re less likely to have had careers in technology and finance for a start. If we built businesses ourselves, we may not have raised external funding so we haven’t been exposed to the whole equity investment world. If we don’t meet angel investors or entrepreneurs, we don’t hear about the opportunity of angel investing. It’s also assumed that women are more risk averse than men, so they may not get pointed in the direction of angel investing by their professional advisors. ”

“I speak to women who’ve heard about angel investing but assume you have to be super wealthy to do it. They may not know that by joining an angel network you can make investments of £10,000, not hundreds of thousands. I don’t think TV programmes like Dragons’ Den are that helpful. Yes they raise awareness, but actually most people invest through networks, they don’t do it on their own through a TV show.”

Angel Academe offers women angel investors support to ensure they have the information they need before making their first or subsequent investments.

“We provide lots of education, we provide mentoring, we provide support. We recognise that angel investing is something that you learn how to do and you get better at by doing it. You don’t just turn up at an event, hear some pitches and then it’s up to you to work out what happens next. We try to support people through their investing journey by putting them alongside experienced investors. That’s very different from the networks that I went to when I first started.”

One of their most popular offerings is a workshop for new angel investors. Outlining how it works Sarah shares:

“We get people to work through a case study so they end up with a realistic experience of what it’s like to see an investment opportunity from pitch, going through due diligence and negotiation to the investment decision as part of an Angel Academe deal team. That’s something that we’ve found works extremely well. It gives people an idea of how it all works and the people and skills available within the network.”

Since 2014 Sarah has seen significant changes with more women getting involved in angel investing and an increase in women founders.

“We have some very experienced female angels in the network who already have large portfolios of startup investments and they’re really generous in supporting new investors. We also have lots of sector expertise within the network. But many of our investors have learnt to invest through Angel Academe. Some of our best, most active investors are ones who have learnt to angel invest with us. The number of women founders has increased exponentially, even in the relatively short amount of time we’ve been doing this and even in deep tech sectors. They really appreciate the opportunity to talk to women about their businesses and value diversity on their cap tables.”

Looking to the future Sarah wants to see more in-depth and accurate research around women in angel investing. Sharing her hopes Sarah says:

“I would like to see some much more accurate data on women and investing, so we have some benchmarks, so we know where we are and we can track it over time. At the moment, the figures vary wildly. I would also like to see a coordinated awareness campaign around promoting the opportunities as well as the risks of angel investing and how to manage risk. Risk is presented very negatively, rather than as something to be managed.”

“I think we also need to do more to promote angel capital as the largest source of early stage funding in the UK and often more aligned with entrepreneurs’ interests than other funding sources.”

Sarah Turner is co-founder of Angel Academe and she sits on the UKBAA Board. She shares her experiences in angel investing in our E-Learning course The Effective Investor – sign-up to get started today!

Register your interest in attending our Northern Women Angel Investment Forum taking place in Manchester on 23rd October 2019 at https://www.womenangelsforum.org/.

To find out more about Angel Academe and the work they do, please visit https://www.angelacademe.com/.

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