Investing Program for Women Expands to West Coast

By Toni Vranjes

July 25, 2012

On the East Coast, dozens of women have graduated from a training program that helps them break into the male-dominated angel-investor community. Now, the program is heading west.

The Pipeline Fellowship holds “angel-investing bootcamps” for women philanthropists. This September, the group will launch new six-month programs in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Each one will include 10 women, says founder and CEO Natalia Oberti Noguera.

The group has already held five bootcamps: one in Boston, and four in New York.  A total of 50 women have completed the training programs in those cities.

As more women receive training, they’re shaking up the world of angel investing.

Program Goals

Breakout group at a Pipeline Fellowship conference in New York.

In 2008, Oberti Noguera launched New York Women Social Entrepreneurs. During her conversations with members of the group, she realized how difficult it is for women to get funding for their for-profit, social ventures. That inspired her to launch the Pipeline Fellowship in 2010.

Her goals were to provide more capital for women entrepreneurs, and to increase the diversity of the angel-investor community. She cited recent statistics that show the need: only 12 percent of angel investors in the United States are women, and just 5 percent of angel investors are minorites. Greater diversity will open the door to more women and minority entrepreneurs, she says.

Elements of the Program

The training has three components:

  • education: The participants attend workshops that cover topics such as due diligence, portfolio strategy, and determining valuation.
  • mentoring: Each participant is matched with an experienced angel investor, who provides guidance and support.
  • practice: Participants commit to investing in a woman-led, for-profit social venture when the program is completed, in exchange for equity and a board seat.

The participants, known as “Pipeline Fellows,” invest in “hybrid businesses.” These ventures focus on financial performance, as well as social and environmental goals.

A key event is the “pitch summit,” which gives women entrepreneurs an opportunity to present their businesses to the fellows. After the summit, the fellows narrow the field to about three startups and conduct due diligence on them. Ultimately, they select one of those to receive a $50,000 investment.

The first class selected PhilanTech, which helps nonprofit groups streamline the grant-management process.

When they’re done with the program, the graduates can maintain their close bonds. An alumnae network called “Pipeline Angels” provides continued opportunities for networking, education and investing.

In addition, the Pipeline Fellowship organizes conferences on the angel-investing process. The conferences are the official kick-off of the program, and they’re open to the public.

Participant Demographics

The program trains diverse groups of women. The participants’ ages range from the late 20s to the late 60s. Also, the group strives to increase gender and racial diversity in the angel-investing community, and it especially encourages Latinas and black women to apply.

The participants’ professional backgrounds also have been varied. They’ve included consultants, lawyers, tech-startup employees, and nonprofit professionals.

Experience in the financial sector isn’t necessary to participate.

The program also might appeal to women who have left the paid workforce to stay home with their children. Stay-at-home moms might be attracted by the opportunities and flexibility offered by angel investing, says Oberti Noguera. She encourages stay-at-home moms to apply for the program.

“We’re creating a more diverse community of angel investors,” she says.

Program Eligibility and Requirements

The group considers a variety of criteria, such as whether an applicant meets one of the definitions of an accredited investor. Those include:

  • net worth greater than $1 million, either individually or jointly (excluding the value of primary residence); or
  • individual income exceeding $200,000 for each of the past two years; or
  • joint income exceeding $300,000 during each of the past two years.

Participants need to pay a $4,500 program fee, which is due when the bootcamp starts. They also must commit to invest $5,000 at the end of the program — money that goes to the chosen entrepreneur.

If you’re interested in the West Coast investing programs, you should apply as soon as possible. Interviews already have begun, but the group is still accepting applications.

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