By Kristina Montague, Managing Partner of The JumpFund and Investment Committee member, Next Wave Impact Fund US
One of the Southeast’s most important investors on why social impact investing pays
The face of angel investing is changing, and rapidly. Five years ago at the Angel Capital Association (ACA) annual summit, where individual angel investors and fund and network managers meet to discuss new trends, best practices and network for deal syndication, there were maybe 30 women out of over 500 attendees and a line for the men’s bathroom (not the women’s).
At the 2018 ACA Summit this spring in Boston, the numbers of women have grown exponentially (upwards of 30% of attendees) and the theme of the conference centered on diversity, inclusion and impact. The ACA is embracing and celebrating the increased diversity and interests of its membership and this year’s summit clearly showcased those efforts.
Joann Wilson, aka the Gotham Gal and a prolific angel investing only in women in tech, kicked off the conference, followed by Tom Croswell, CEO of Tufts Health Plan, who spoke on the ROI and company performance improvements they have experienced by intentionally creating a diverse workforce.
Panels, workshops and keynotes on growing diversity among our angel ranks and examples of innovative funds and networks targeting women and minority founders dominated the conference agenda. Trish Costello of Portfolia and Alicia Robb of the Rising Tide and Next Wave Impact Funds discussed how they are creating non-traditional platforms for women new to angel investing.
These new model fund platforms include extensive education and training, online “ask me anything” sessions and lower entry-level investment thresholds to encourage first-time, and particularly female, angels. Melissa Bradley of Project 500 and Kwame Ulmer of Tech Coast Angels offered examples of how their groups were breaking down barriers to entry for founders of color and creating new networks and sources of funding for undercapitalized entrepreneurs.
An overarching theme of this conference was Impact Investing, which heretofore had taken a back seat to more “nuts and bolts” sessions on angel investment strategy and tools. This year, a half day pre-conference sponsored by Next Wave Ventures, Investors Circle, Foley Hoag and Veris Wealth Partners invited key players in the early-stage impact investing space to gather and start “mapping the impact investor landscape.”
The end goal of this exercise is to better connect impact investors to each other for syndication opportunities and provide a resource for impact ventures seeking funding. The discussions then flowed into the ACA Summit with sessions on “You can do good AND make money with Impact Investing” and “10 things learned from 10 years of impact investing.”
Leaders of major impact angel groups were in attendance including Village Capital, Investors Circle, Social Venture Partners and Big Path Capital, many of whom had not attended ACA Summits in the past.
The ACA as an organization also made a pledge to both increase diversity among its membership and to support members’ increasing appetites for double or triple bottom line returns. The ACA board presented a revised and updated diversity and inclusion policy to its membership in response to the #metoo movement and the bad behaviors coming from some VCs in Silicon Valley.
The organization has also launched monthly syndication calls for its members on topics such as Growing Women’s Capital, Impact Investing and Clean Tech. For an industry formerly dominated by high-net-worth white males, these are welcome changes to those of us who have entered the angel investment arena in recent years and are putting our collective capital to work in different ways.
Angel investors are beginning to realize that impact metrics — environmental sustainability, social responsibility and a diverse, equally paid workforce — are just better business metrics and make for potentially higher returns in the risky world of early-stage investing. As Big Path Capital mentioned in their ACA session, this is about smarter money.
I applaud the ACA for embracing this new frontier and continuing to expand the number and diversity of angel investors who are leveraging their capital to make the change they want to see in the world.
Kristina Montague, Managing Partner and Cofounder of JumpFund in Chattanooga, is revolutionizing access to capital for women in Tennessee. The JumpFund is the Southeast’s first fund to invest women’s capital exclusively in female-led companies. We’re proud to have Kristina as a LaunchTN board member. Find her @TheJumpFund on Twitter.
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