Business Angel Groups advocate for diversity

The survey conducted by the SwissICT investor Club showed that 67% of females are interested in investing; however they lack the skills and investing knowledge. As a result, investing groups are endeavouring to support to both aspiring and active female investors.

In an effort to increase and foster diversity among the Business Angels, especially in Switzerland, Nina Portier Reinhart from the Swiss ICT Investor Club (SICTIC) Board conducted a diversity survey among aspiring and actual female business angels in September and October 2016. This Target group comprised of  members of the SICTIC community network and their 23 partner organisations in the start-up and investment ecosystems as well as female organisations such as WomanWay and Women in Finance from the Swiss Finance and Technology Association (SFTA). In the survey she sought to understand the motivations and needs of women aspiring to become Business Angels.

A sum of 47 women, with 89 percent of them based in Switzerland, responded to the survey. In their responses, 67% of them expressed a desire to invest however have not yet done so. This was justified by 24 percent of them wishing to gain more entrepreneurial experience, 17% who lack skills to evaluate opportunities and 20% who mentioned the inability to find the right startup to invest in. Much as they identified these specific hindrances, it was astonishing that the majority are not afraid of failure: only 11 percent indicated the risk of failure as a barrier. Although there is great interest to become an investor, respondents highlighted that they require ample support through education programs and mentorship. They mainly expressed the need to acquire knowledge in particular fields of valuation, legal & tax aspects, and deal terms.

According to the survey, female investors that have engaged in investing activities have made a maximum of 4 investments in the last 2 years. 20 percent of the respondents reported to have made 1-4 investments per year over the last 2 years. More than four investments would be impossible for them due to lack of time or capital or both, and some prefer not to carry out further investments. Nonetheless, 7 percent of these respondents consider themselves as very active investors and have made more than 4 investments per year over the last 2 years.

Measures to foster diversity and the contribution of business angel communities To determine some of the measures investor communities are taking and what their stake on the topic of diversity is, startupticker consulted active female business angels from some of the active business angel groups in Switzerland such as SICTIC (Nina Portier Reinhart, Board Member), Go Beyond (Brigitte Baumann CEO and co-founder), and Business Angels Switzerland (Caroline Gueissaz, Director of BAS).

SICTIC, Education is paramount The Swiss ICT Investor Club (SICTIC) is a non-profit association comprising of more than 100 members, 15 of which are female members. SICTIC has, following the results from the survey, outlined some of the measures they are going to take to promote diversity. Nina Portier Reinhart told that education is the key to increasing female involvement in investing community. SICTIC has therefore designed an education program and various courses such as 1-2h face to face trainings, webinars as well as in depth 1-3 day workshops provided by Swiss and international experts, which will be expanded in the coming years. “We are also actively inviting women to participate in our community, do training, and invite them to join our meetings so as to equip them with the necessary skill and connections and represent them at all levels. We also have agreements with other organisations and we are creating an active community and we offer our continuous support to each of our members such that an investor is not alone.” Women should have the courage to join investor groups and the curiosity to invest. They should reach out to business angel groups and participate in community events to develop dialog and expand their networks”, she adds.

Go Beyond Investing, female investors are a plus for everyone Go Beyond is an early stage investing platform based in Zurich. It constitutes of over 339 early stage investors from 30 countries across 5 continents and comprises of 47% women investors, making it one of the most diverse investor groups worldwide.  Go Beyond Investing is led by Brigitte Baumann co-founder and CEO. In one of her reports, Baumann startes that female business angels are less represented, yet they are a plus for everyone. She thus urges investor communities to support female investors, share their expertise and be their mentor.  “We see diversity as a key success to angel investing both to attract diverse entrepreneurs, to obtain diverse view while doing due diligence and to provide a broad range of support to invested entrepreneurs.  Our investing, portfolio building and investor collaboration approach was designed with women's interests in mind. We provide education with a full angel investing curriculum with videos, webinars, in person meetings and include women, possible from home”, says Brigitte Baumann.

Business Angels Switzerland (BAS) wants a diverse crowd  BAS constitutes 100 members with 13 percent of them female. Three women, Carole Ackermann, Adrienne Perramond and Caroline Gueissaz, are heading BAS in the positions of BAS President, BAS Suisse Romande President and BAS Directrice respectively. This shows that BAS is becoming successful in improving diversity amongst management and members.  “Efforts are underway to improve gender diversity, starting at the head. Amongst members as well, the proportion of women is increasing with women now leading Due Diligences and participating in the jury which is in charge of selecting the startups to be invited to pitch at the monthly dinner meetings. As a private association, BAS is free to choose its priorities and is not trying to be ‘politically correct’: on the empirical finding that mixing genders and ages is improving discussions and debates, BAS wants a diverse a crowd as possible”  says  Frank Gerritzen, Board member at BAS.  Caroline Gueissaz also adds, “We encourage women as well as men to attend our BAS-Academy seminars, to use our toolbox and also to benefit from other members as a coach for their first Due Diligence.”

b-to-v: Women enrich start-up discussions immenselyThe investor group b-to-v is also taking the initiative to foster diversity through various ways, such as events and conferences. In their previous event “Private Investment Academy”, which was organised for female private investors who have an interest in start-up investments, b-to-v addressed various topics within and about the investment industry to acquaint female investors with investing knowledge. They learnt about b-to-v’s investment structures, instruments and tools, and how institutional venture capital investors analyse startups.

“We acknowledge that the there are many potential female investors, who have a genuine interest in venture capital investments, however, experience tells us, that in reality, only few women engage themselves as investors. We aim to contribute and bring more female investors into the venture capital industry. We are sure of the following: women enrich start-up discussions immensely with different perspectives and opinions. In the start-up space we often discuss the future extensively and such contributions are in high demand by all investors. We will have reached our objective if we succeed in inspiring some participants of this academy to engage themselves in the start-up scene and to become active investors,” says Alexander Stoeckel, Partner at b-to-v.

Pic: Nina Reinhart (L), Brigitte Baumann (M), Caroline Gueissaz (R)