The Obama administration is hosting the first ever White House Demo Day today to “give every American the opportunity to pursue their bold, game-changing ideas.” It turns out that women especially need such opportunity, and money speaks louder than words.
Getting all innovators in front of the right financial institutions and businesses is one thing. Getting people to invest capital is a bigger, more pressing problem and opportunity.
Research from The Diana Project released by Babson College last year found that 5% of venture-backed firms have women on their executive teams. According to the US census, just over 50% of US citizens are women. Basic math tells us that the US government needs to shed light on the truth: Every paradigm-shifting innovation deserves to see the light of day and the only ones who can make that happen are the people holding the purse strings.
Half the country's population gets 95% of the money. That has to change. Talking about it isn’t helping enough. "We can't begin to expect our country to remain competitive in a global marketplace unless we have all hands on deck. Ability isn't the issue. Opportunity is. The good news is that this is fixable but we have to stop talking about it and take concrete, sustained action,” says Julie Lenzer Kirk, US Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship Director, Economic Development Administration under the US Secretary of Commerce.
Victoria Pettibone, Vice President at Astia, agrees that change won’t happen until a sense of urgency is placed on doing instead of saying. “I will be representing Astia’s call-to-action at the White House Demo Day event: It’s time to invest dollars not just words.”
Astia is a global organization of 5,000 female and male experts from the investor, industry, and entrepreneur community who are committed to propelling women’s full participation in high growth entrepreneurship. This author has served on the Astia board since 2010.
Indeed, there has been plenty of talk that tends to include statistics from the expanding body of research of the financial impact when at least one woman is on founding team. FirstRound 10 Year Project added interesting insights based on a decade of analysis focused on seed funding. The data set included 300 companies and almost 600 founders. The findings are compelling; companies with female founders performed 63% better than male-only teams.
Despite findings that show strong financial performance, a popular reason many investors give about the dearth of female representation in their investment portfolios is that they just don’t see enough women founders seeking investment. With more than 1,000 high-growth businesses with women in equity positions in Astia’s purview, the validity “where are all the women?” diminishes. “The disparity between women-at-the-ready and actual dollars invested in women is incongruous,” Pettibone says.
Startup investing is risky business. Every investor is looking to discover that supernova with abysmal results, yet few change how they invest. Exposure to the financial impact of new pipeline approaches, such as the unique Astia ExpertSift, may demonstrate a much-needed disruption. The model has been honed over the last 15 years and has delivered impressive results versus other approaches that aim to help female founders. “Over 60% of companies that present at our venture showcases receive funding or an exit within twelve months versus 6% to 9% in other organizations or programs,” says Pettibone.
Astia isn’t just leading the discussion on what real change on this topic looks like. The team founded Astia Angels, a network of independent investors, in 2013, meeting their own call-to-action. With $32.5 million in syndicate, Astia Angels has invested $6.5 million into 28 companies.
The White House Demo Day takes place today, August 4, between 1:30 and 4: PM ET. Innovators and interested parties are encouraged to participate by hosting or attending a pitch party online or by joining in on the conversation fun on Twitter using #WHDemoDay.