Originally published on May 4 on LinkedIn
America’s small businesses are the engines for job creation and Pittsburgh, my hometown, was just named the number one best city to start a business right now. According to Inc. Magazine, “There is unprecedented revitalization going on in the city driven by universities and a talented workforce, making Pittsburgh one of the greatest innovation hubs.” That is great news for not only for entrepreneurs but also for me.
My background is not entrepreneurial, but my marketing experience, especially the expert knowledge of marketing to and influencing female consumers, turns out to be a pretty sought-after capability. Marry that experience with a desire to grow my personal wealth while investing in entrepreneurial businesses, particularly those that are women-owned and women-led, in Pittsburgh, and you have the wind beneath angel investing wings.
Angel investors provide capital for business start-ups, usually in exchange for ownership equity. While venture funding and angel funding are on the rise, only seven percent of venture capital funding goes to women-owned businesses. On the angel funding side, about 26 percent of the angel investors are women, though there is rising interest in investing in women-owned businesses.
The Next Act Fund, of which I am a founding member, has formed to increase the wealth of its members while addressing those gaps. Here is how angel investing has given me wings:
- The network is phenomenal. I mean phenomenal. Just the networking with investors and entrepreneurs is worth its weight in gold.
- Unlike some business cultures where only millennials matter, both the entrepreneurs and the investor groups really need marketing help and welcome experienced opinions with open arms.
- The learning curve is fast, steep and incredibly energizing. It’s like going to college all over again but in three-hour increments, with the smartest people in the class, all aimed at making money. I love capitalism.
- The screening pitches are powerful. I worked on many pitches in the past where we’d balk at only having an hour to pitch. The pitches I’ve participated in this past week were between 10 and 20 minutes, plus Q & A. That’s it. It’s fast, compelling and it works.
- The “beautiful baby syndrome” is when someone is so in love with the technology or business they are pitching that they focus too much on the attributes and not nearly enough on how they will make money. Lesson learned.
- It’s not 9 to 5 and not for the feint of heart. There are meetings, not office hours. Decisions involve big sums of money and fast decisions. Sign me up.
In the case of Next Act, I get to increase my personal wealth, change the dynamics of women in angel funding and support female-led business growth. That’s a trifecta for me. Angel investing has given me wings and I look forward to taking flight on entrepreneurial adventures.