NorthInvest Founding Board Director Helen Oldham discusses the gender imbalance in angel investing and the exciting opportunities emerging in the North

Author

UK Business Angels Association

14 October 2019

Helen OldhamThe gender imbalance in angel investing is clear to see. Research has found that woman own over 45% of the UK’s wealth, yet only 14% of angel investors in the UK are women. Ahead of our second Northern Women Angel Investment Forum in Manchester on 23rd October, we spoke with NorthInvest’s Founding Board Director Helen Oldham about the work they are doing to address the imbalance and discuss the exciting sectors emerging in Northern cities.

NorthInvest was founded in 2016 by Helen and Professor Adam Beaumont. She met Adam after setting up a tech incubator while working as the Managing Director of The Yorkshire Post. Discussing the origins of NorthInvest, Helen explains:

“We had a conversation about the need for early stage funding in the tech sector, for start-ups like the ones in our incubator, so when Adam invited me to join the Board it was an easy decision

It was going through that process that led Helen to start her own journey as an angel investor. She admits that it was a ‘large learning curve’ when NorthInvest began but she rose to the challenge.

“I actually went on a tour of other angel groups across the country at that point to look at how they worked and meet some individual investors. I was very lucky to meet Jenny Tooth fairly early on and Bridget Connelly; both of those were really instrumental in helping me frame what I wanted to do for my own portfolio but also where we wanted to take NorthInvest.”

One of the core areas that NorthInvest’s strategy focuses on is closing the gender investing gap and encouraging female leaders. They’ve partnered with us to understand the barriers to entry for female investors and understand the challenges facing female founders.

“It has been much more challenging recruiting women into the sector because they don’t tend to come to us organically in the same way that male investors do. We have an active program of outreach to attract more women into the network and we’re encouraging our existing women investors to refer people in.”

Helen believes that it’s the profile of angel investing that needs raising to women who have the funds available.

“It’s not high on their radar of options for their portfolio because typically they are not referred by a wealth management organisation and yet they tend to lean quite heavily on that kind of advice. Profile building is the most important part of changing the landscape. Awareness raising, which is what we’re doing through our own events and the ones with the UKBAA.”

“It has been much more challenging recruiting women into the sector because they don’t tend to come to us organically in the same way that male investors do. We have an active program of outreach to attract more women into the network and we’re encouraging our existing women investors to refer people in.”

NorthInvest is also making strides in terms of engaging women by running a bi-monthly group for women investors and founders.

“We have a really active women investors and founders group, which meets every other month. Typically, there are around 30 to 35 women coming to that each month. Really high-quality entrepreneurs and investors come to that environment each month and we tend to have a mix of education for both investors and entrepreneurs in those sessions. That’s proved really useful.”

It’s an exciting time for NorthInvest at the moment. They recently formed a partnership with Innovation SuperNetwork, the UKBAA and the North East Business and Innovation Centre to manage the £1 million grant funding from Innovate UK for early stage businesses via the Regional Angel Investment Accelerator (RAIA) programme.

“We have had four applications already that they have been accepted into the process and are now going through the finance checks within Innovate UK. We have successfully raised the angel funds alongside three out of the four of those already.”

MedTech and FinTech are two areas that are seeing lots of traction at the moment. Interest from angels is high and NorthInvest is quickly building a community of angels within their network who are interested in opportunities in those sectors.

Personally, Helen is interested in the platforms that enable the sales process to be more effective and automated. She also points out that she’s interested in L&D opportunities and talent, citing an imminent investment in a mentoring platform.

Working across a number of sectors, Helen adds that there’s no shortage of opportunities in the North.

“Typically, we get about one entrepreneur coming to us a day. There’s no shortage of really high-quality opportunities in the north of England. We have a remit that we will only accept entrepreneurs who are from the Northern Powerhouse footprint.”

Find out more about NorthInvest and what they do at https://northinvest.co.uk/.

Register to attend our second Northern Women Angel Investment Forum in Manchester on 23rd October by visiting https://www.womenangelsforum.org/.

Want to learn more about angel investing? Enrol in our The Effective Angel Investor E-Learning course at https://bizangels.thinkific.com/.

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