2015 may just be the year the momentum to invest in women started to really take hold.
I've previously posted on why the women in entrepreneurship trend is important for future economic growth as well as on the blossoming number of resources from accelerators to angel networks out there to support women launch and scale their businesses and the need to show more getting-it-done entrepreneurial role models for women. However, it's worth highlighting a few advancing women in entrepreneurship trends from the past year:
Women are the 63%. First Round Capital released its 10-year portfolio review, enthusiastically discovering that their investments in companies with at least one female founder "were meaningfully outperforming our investments in all-male teams". Indeed, as First Round proudly notes "companies with a female founder performed 63% better than our investments with all-male founding teams".
Heavy weight investors are jumping in. Ellevate network's Sallie Krawchek raised $10 million in Series A funding (led by Morningstar) to launch Ellevest, a new digital investment platform for women.
Women are joining forces not only to create opportunities, but to generate wealth. Andrea Turner Moffitt, a leading expert on women investors (she's the author of the book "Harness the Power of the Purse: Winning Women Investors") joined forces with early-stage investor Deborah Jackson to launch Plum Alley Investments, a private investment platform offering new opportunities to invest in companies led by women entrepreneurs.
Scaling is not just for the boys. The growing and coveted list of "unicorns" includes female-founded companies such as Eventbrite, Theranos, Houzz, Medallia and 23andMe.
No April Fool: Craig's List founder Craig Newmark partnered with Women Who Tech to launch the first-ever Women Startup Challenge to fund women-led startups.
Governments get it. In September, the city of Boston launched "Women Entrepreneurs Boston". The initiative aims to advance Boston's women entrepreneurs by providing the skills, technical assistance and network needed to launch and grow their ventures. Earlier in the year, the City of New York announced WE NYC (Women Entrepreneurs New York City), an initiative to expand female entrepreneurship in New York City.
And ahead of the economic trend, a strong, vocal action-oriented advocate has been leading by example: investor Joanne Wilson.
Joanne has been putting her money where her strong belief in women entrepreneurs is--long before the studies and lists showed it was "good" business or the not-to-be-missed-startup trend. And if it's not enough to have a serious angel portfolio to manage (Joanne's investment portfolio includes over 45 women-led companies) and a prolific blogging habit to maintain (where, I might add, she frequently highlights female founders), Joanne launched WeFestival in 2011 as her way to further support women in their business ventures, by bringing women entrepreneurs together annually to ignite more opportunities and move their businesses forward.
We have touched so many women who met by attending WeFestival. At WeFestival they have found a business partner or mentor, become involved in a Meet-up or finally found the confidence to launch their own business - plus a whole lot more. WeFestival is a place for women to connect and be heard. To know that we have built a place where women feel empowered through their peers is unique. As more women build companies, take their companies public and become household names we know that WeFestival is part of that journey. That knowledge gave us the vision to expand the festival so we can continue to bring women's entrepreneurs together for years to come.--Joanne Wilson
Another indicator of a strong market trend towards women's economic empowerment: the WeFestival is expanding (again) in 2016. And Joanne has partnered with her sister Susan, to grow the impact of WeFestival (women co-founders, yet another positive business trend, I'd personally like to see more of). Rachael Ray has signed on to be the keynote. Women supporting women, is another doing-business trend which I'd like to see become a daily business habit in 2016--given the enormous economic power in the back pockets or handbags of women (women control $11.2 trillion of investable assets and control or influence 70-80% of all purchasing decisions).
By supporting women entrepreneurs, we create a powerful catalyst to inspire and empower women across the globe - including young girls - to make significant contributions that can impact economic gains and positive social change, in their own communities and throughout the world.--Susan Solomon
Now in its sixth year, WeFestival truly is one of the best, most connected events for women entrepreneurs. WeFestival's sole focus is to support women entrepreneurs move their business forward. On top of inspiration (it is worth noting that women in 135 countries tuned in online to watch WeFestival 2015 programming), it is the purposeful connections and camaraderie that keep WeFestival's community of super energized, passionate, supportive women entrepreneurs coming back each year: 30% of WeFestival attendees have been to more than 1 event.
"WeFestival served as a huge resource for me on multiple levels...but perhaps the most profound was just offering up pure inspiration and motivation." - Alison Chace, Founder Pink Wisdom.
The growth of entrepreneurial women - I'm keeping my eye on this economic trend and wondering where Joanne (and WeFestival) will lead us to next.
WeFestival 2016 is being held on April 13-14 at One World Trade Center in New York City. Applications to attend start December 1.