What Was Lacking At Philly’s Angel Venture Fair? Women.

By Diane Mastrull

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) It was noticeable to many who attended the recent “Angel Venture Fair” in Philadelphia that there were few women exhibiting and presenting. Leaders now want to figure out what can be done to change that scenario for next year and years to come.


Why are there so few women here?

That was the first thing that occurred to me when I walked into the elegant second-floor Lincoln Hall ballroom at the Union League on May 5 to take in the 19th annual Angel Venture Fair, the oldest and largest gathering of angel investors and entrepreneurs in the Mid-Atlantic region.

At table after table sat male after male. Exhibit booths ringing the room were predominantly manned by men. In the two small breakout rooms, where officials from 24 non-university start-ups gave 10-minute presentations to possible investors, audiences were predominantly male. (Later, 10 college-student start-ups got one minute each to present onstage at Lincoln Hall.)

For South Philadelphia entrepreneur Dana Donofree, the gender inequity only added to the stress. Her company, AnaOno Intimates LLC, one of only four women-led presenters at this year’s Angel Venture Fair, makes bras specially designed for breast cancer patients.

Donofree, 35, a survivor of the disease, pitched to 39 potential investors. Only nine were women.

“Pitching in general is a really difficult thing, but when you’re pitching about a woman-owned business for women, as a very sensitive woman issue — we’re talking about women that dress when they had a loss of their breasts — it’s a very challenging topic to address in a roomful of men,” she said.

In such settings, she’s doing double duty, Donofree said. “I have to kind of break down those barriers of not only having a sensitive subject, but also letting [investors] understand how important it is to a woman to really feel beautiful and good about yourself.”

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