Why we’re launching an investor accelerator
By Heather Wentler
For the last three years we have hosted an event at Forward Fest, Madison’s entrepreneurship festival, about how women can become investors and why it is important. It has been well attended every year, which has never been a surprise to me. I’ve received dozens of calls over the last eight years from women asking how they could get involved in investing.
We’ve never had a great answer for them before now.
In January, we will launch our first investor accelerator in response to what we see as one of the biggest gaps in the entrepreneurial ecosystem: an open forum for learning about what it means to be an investor and developing your skills.
There’s a lot of false assumptions around investing—the biggest one being the idea that you have to be super wealthy before you can even start thinking about investing, but there are many others.
Many people think that Shark Tank is a realistic model of what it means to be an investor and that the investor terms represented on that show are the only ones available. But there are dozens of ways to structure a deal, and in the time between deciding that you want to invest in someone and actually writing a check, there is a long negotiation process where you and the founder go back-and-forth on the terms.
The public’s general lack of education about venture capital and other forms of investment options weakens the entire startup ecosystem.
The monopoly of knowledge at the top prevents people from becoming investors who would bring much-needed diversity of thought to the table. It means that when founders start pitching, they lack a basic understanding of what investors are looking for. And it means that when people get approached by a friend or a family member about investing in their startup, they often don’t have the basic understanding to evaluate the business objectively, and they end up making a decision based mostly on their personal relationship with the founder.
We believe that women should be able to learn about investing even if they don’t yet have the funds to begin investing. That’s why our accelerator has no income or wealth requirements and is affordably priced.
It’s hard to find national averages for angel investors, but we know that less than 5 percent of venture capital partners in the U.S. are women. We know that this presents a barrier to investment for women entrepreneurs because venture capitalists tend to invest in the people within their networks. By educating more women about what it means to be an investor, we aim to add more women to the ranks of angel investors and venture capitalists.
Our investor accelerator will educate women about the many different ways that they can invest in startups—whether they meet the criteria of an accredited investor or not. And they will also learn how to evaluate a business to know if it’s a sound investment.
By running our investor accelerator in tandem with our Triple Threat Venture Training, we will provide a real-life opportunity for the participants in the investor accelerator to ask questions and evaluate pitches.
We know that the flaws of our current system extend beyond just the underrepresentation of women, which is why our program is built around our guiding principles. We teach investors how to check their biases and avoid the trap of only investing in founders that feel familiar. We’re introducing them to innovative, more equitable ways to structure deals, because we know that women tend to be passionate about creating wealth for their communities and turned off by the extractive nature of the traditional venture capital model.
I can’t wait to see the ripple effect of empowering more underrepresented people to become investors. I look forward to the future investor swarms where I’m no longer one of two or three women in a room of 100. As more women, nonbinary, and BIPOC individuals step into their power and begin to invest, they will bring much-needed change to the startup ecosystem as a whole.