[email protected] Plans Angel Network For Women-Led Startups

By Kara Carlson Austin American-Statesman

WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) The new angel network will be named "Beam." Beam will focus exclusively on Texas-based female founders who may have had difficulty accessing capital. Beam's leadership hopes to lower barriers to access for women, especially women of color.

Austin

[email protected] -- an Austin nonprofit aimed at getting more women into tech leadership roles -- says it is creating an angel network to help close the funding gap for women-led startups.

The network, which will be named Beam, will focus exclusively on Texas-based women founders. [email protected] -- which was founded in 2014 by serial entrepreneur Jan Ryan -- says Beam will be the first Texas-based angel network specifically for women-founded companies. Angel networks offer smaller investments in startups, typically less than $1 million.

Jess Gaffney, [email protected]'s CEO and executive director, said she hopes the network will fill crucial funding gaps for women-led Texas companies.

The name Beam is inspired by the idea of shining light on women entrepreneurs and helping them radiate their own light, Gaffney said. The network will add to a range of resources the nonprofit already provides to help women entrepreneurs navigate access to capital, she said.

Austin-based investor and incubator Notley said it will invest a minimum of $250,000 through the network. [email protected] joined Notley's social impact ecosystem in 2018.

When conducting focus groups, [email protected] found that access to capital has always been a challenge for women entrepreneurs, Gaffney said. She said Beam is hoping to lower barriers to access for women and especially women of color.

"We quickly found out that accessing and understanding capital and fundraising was the biggest barrier to scaling. It has always been something that we wanted to do directly," Gaffney said.

Gaffney said Beam will focus on angel-level investment because women founders aren't getting the early stage funding needed to move on to VC level funding and reach higher steps. The goal is to try to move the needle with the number of women that are institutionally funded, she said.

Only about 2% of venture capital dollars and 20% of angel funding go to women-led companies, Gaffney said. Angel dollars and early investments are especially crucial she said, not only help grow companies, but also to act as a stamp of approval for future investors.

"If it's a huge step to go from zero dollars invested to any dollars invested," Gaffney said. "Especially if it's an accredited angel investor."

Gaffney said many founders on the angel level are interested in taking part in Beam, and also in providing advice, networks and other hands-on support.

"A lot of investors that are investing in women are really dedicated to supporting women founders, so it's often not just a check, it's really getting an adviser as well," Gaffney said.

A few applicants will also receive additional mentorship and be paired with "Guardian Angel" mentors, who will help with pitch coaching and refinement, she said.

The network will offer three investment membership levels: individual/partner; group such as corporate or family office; and investor-in-training for new investors.

The network is also backed by a range of community partners including investors, accelerators and other Austin-based startup organizations. These include, Community Alliance of Texas Angel Network, Austin Chamber of Commerce, Black Women Talk Tech, BossBabesATX, Capital Factory, Culturati, DivInc, Entrepreneurs Foundation, Greater Austin Black Chamber of Commerce, Hello Alice, In Bold Company, Newchip, SKU, Sputnik ATX, and Kendra Scott Women's Entrepreneurial Leadership Institute at the University of Texas.

"We are proud to support the launch of [email protected]'s Beam Angel Network. Today, there are more women turning to entrepreneurship than ever before, and 21% of Austin businesses are woman-owned" Leigh Christie, senior vice president of global technology and Innovation for the Austin Chamber, said in a written statement. "Beam has the opportunity to provide the needed connections and opportunities for these entrepreneurs and our investors." ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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