Right now, the alternative funding universe for women is just being constructed. If there's anyone who's qualified to help design it, it's Trish Costello, the former CEO of Kauffman Fellows, a startup-financing leadership program. She spent 10 years working to increase the range of people pursuing venture capital as a career. "What we saw was a lot of women left the business," says Costello. "Even when they were highly successful in terms of their [return], they were often not fully integrated into the leadership of the funds."
Frustrated, in 2013, Costello left Kauffman to start Portfolia. Instead of trying to convert women into career investors, she's working to persuade them to make investing a serious sideline. Rather than restrict participation to the well-connected or seriously wealthy, anyone who plunks down $10,000 in a Portfolia fund--each of which invests in six to eight female-run companies--immediately becomes a Portfolia LP (limited partner). LPs get a front-row seat to the entire funding process: They can watch the entrepreneurs pitch online, ask founders questions, and talk to the fund leads about deal terms and due diligence.
Portfolia LPs like Peggy Northrop, herself an entrepreneur, say the experience has demystified investing. "One thing I had worried about with angel investing is you have to be really, really rich," says the co-founder of PaperQuilt, a collaborative storytelling platform. "This makes it something you can plug into and learn from. You can develop some confidence."