If Trish Costello, CEO of Portfolia since 2014, has her way, there will be no financial cliff where founders of tech startups catering to women and girls can fall to their financial ruin.
Her goal is specific and clear: 100,000 women to invest in Portfolia funds in five years. The recently launched FemTech Fund will invest directly or indirectly in equity-related securities of early-stage companies in the U.S. FemTech marketplace. Costello’s latest push is healthcare-related companies.
The goal there is to raise a minimum of $500,000 and a maximum of $3 million to invest in institutional systems and services that enable or support the health of women and girls.
Collette Courtion, Founder and CEO of Portfolia-backed FemTech company JoyLux, shares how they're redefining women's sexual wellness in Fast Company'sThis Vaginal Device Pomises to Fix Women's Sex Lives. "Women are becoming far much more empowered to embrace their health in all parts of their life,” says Courtion. Joylux found that 50% of respondents reported bladder leakage issues, and when asked if they were interested in a home solution, a whopping 95% answered yes. “That tells me that it’s an underserved market,” says Courtion.
While Femtech is predicted to be a $50B industry by 2025, only 1.4% of venture capital is invested in it. Sign up to learn more about our open FemTech Fund.
Portfolia, Inc., an investment organization largely comprised of women, received important news at its investor summit in Boston last month: its first exit. OtoSense, which Portfolia invested in two years ago, was acquired by Analog Devices.
“We popped open some champagne,” Portfolia Founder and CEO Trish Costello tells Women’s PE Briefs. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but Trish said Portfolia generated nearly 2.5-times its money on the exit. Based in Palo Alto, OtoSense is a developer of sound recognition software that turns sounds and vibrations into actionable meaning.
I was asked to speak at Portfolia and the Angel Capital Association event in Boston this year. I have been asked for several years and this year I made the journey for the day. Truth is, I had no idea how large these organizations are and the impact that each of them has made. I left insanely impressed.
Trish Costello is recognized globally for her pioneering work in preparing general partners in venture capital, through the prestigious Kauffman Fellows Program which she co-founded in 1995 at the Kauffman Foundation and led for over a decade. Now with 550+ Kauffman Fellows in 50 countries, Kauffman Fellows hold some of the most prestigious leadership positions in venture capital and collectively deploy over $200B. From its inception, over 25% of Kauffman Fellows have been women and represent many of the women leaders of the venture world, including such luminaries as Jennifer Fonstad, Adele Oliva, Rise Stack, Trae Vassalo, Karen Kerr, Jodie Jahic, Bedy Yang, Lisa Skeete Tatum and Susan Mason. Trish went on to lead CVE Capital Corp, the holding company of the first Venture Capital Fund of Funds ($1B under management) created to endow an educational institute, and to found Portfolia, an innovative national platform of Venture Capital Funds Focused in Women’s Markets.
Trish was on the start-up team of the Kauffman Foundation’s entrepreneurial efforts, leading the Foundation’s efforts in eco-system, venture capital and resources. She also led its programs for women entrepreneurs and investors. She was an advisor to the Clinton and Bush administrations and led the National Science Foundation’s SBIR Commercialization Task Force.
For the past 10 years, the Silicon Valley Business Journal has honored a class of influential businesswomen in our area.
We culled through almost 300 nominations to finalize this list of 100 influential women. Nonprofits, startups, manufacturing, aviation, legal, finance and even plastic surgery are represented this year. All of the women have made an impact at work and in their communities.
Silicon Valley may consider itself at the forefront of innovation and social causes, but it can be an insular place.
A general absence of women in positions of power at tech companies and venture-capital firms reflect the young-boy network that has reigned for decades. The cabal just doesn’t just look alike but thinks similarly – down to their left-of-center views and taste in music.
“The venture world needs to be disrupted,” says Trish Costello, Chief Executive Officer of Portfolia, an equity crowdfunding platform that focuses on building a community of women-led companies and investors.
The total number of women VCs precipitously dropped by 40% between 1999 and 2013, according to Diana Report Women Entrepreneurs 2014: Bridging the Gender Gap in Venture Capitalby Babson. No surprise that the percentage of women getting venture capital didn’t improve much in the years that followed. Women-led companies received 13% of capital in 2013 and 14% in 2017*. They accounted for 16% of deals in 2013 and 17% in 2017*, according to Pitchbook. Women CEOs received 9% of capital in 2013 and 7% in 2017*, as well as 9% of deals in 2013 and 9% in 2017.During the past few years, women started taking things into their own hands by starting their own funds. Some specifically invest with a gender lens.
Half-hearted decency pledges, unkept promises to implement gender bias training, vague commitments to become more accessible, with so much noise and so little action, it’s hard to stay optimistic about the state of venture capital. As an industry, it’s clear that we need proactive investors who are not only willing to lead the charge, but also to recruit peers to change the ratio of female investors and investments in female entrepreneurs. Participation must include all levels of VCs, from early stage scouts and micro funds to larger late stage funds.
This summer’s avalanche of sexual harassment scandals at Uber and several prominent American venture capital firms have made front-page news around the globe. Unfortunately, for women in other countries, the story is also the same. In late July, the board of Kenyan software company Ushahidi fired Daudi Were, executive director, after an investigation of sexual harassment by a former employee. She published details online, recounting the disturbing impact of his actions. Eleven other women experienced similar incidents.
Access to capital is unmistakably powerful. Trish Costello, founder of Portfolia, a crowdfunding website that aims to create a new class of women investors, said that, “The goal is to design spaces that work for women in terms of investment vehicles. Men say that there are no female VCs and that is why there is a leaky pipeline, but that simply is not true.”
When it comes to financing business growth, the stats are grim: “Women raise 50% less capital than men do,” explained Geri Stengel, president and founder of digital media and market-research agency Ventureneer and a Forbes columnist whose writing focuses on successful female entrepreneurs, during a breakout session, “And, often, capital means success.” Venture capital firms, in particular, have long been overwhelmingly averse to funding female-run enterprises, “and I don’t see a trend line for any significant change,” added Trish Costello, CEO and founder of Portfolia, a platform designed to help women invest in entrepreneurial enterprises.
Other investing platforms, such as Portfolia..., are specifically recruiting women to be investors. There are two reasons for that. One, they want to train more women to have experience backing early-stage companies, in hopes that those women will invest in other women. But they also expect that the social networks of nascent women investors will be used to support those companies.
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.
What are the next innovations for online platforms for accredited investors? Some of the biggest financial innovators are leading the “accredited platforms” that have taken angel investing and venture capital to the internet. Getting online was only the first innovation. Last year AngelList received a $400 million investment from Chinese investors, creating the largest ever international seed fund and providing new funding opportunities for Chinese startups. Onevest launched 1000 Angels, creating the “world’s largest digital-first, invitation-only investor network.” OurCrowd brought a new level of marketing expertise to connect investors and startups throughout the U.S., Israel, and beyond. And Portfolia brought together women investing in women – including a new way to educate new women angels through the Rising Tide Fund. These are just a few of the many new ideas in this sector. I’m expecting many innovations in 2016 from this clever group of leaders.
According to a recent U.S. Senate report, women business owners receive just 4% of the total value of small business loans and only 7% of venture capital funding. Fundraising can be an ordeal for any small business or startup founder. But it’s no secret that female founders face an especially steep climb.
It’s no secret that women-owned businesses can’t get funding.
The statistics paint a clear and discouraging picture. Between 1997 and 2013, the number of women-owned establishments grew 1.5 times more than the national average (68% versus 47%, respectively) and women-led, venture-backed companies bring in 12% more revenue than male-led companies, according to research from Babson College. Despite this, only 2.7% of all venture-backed companies have a woman CEO. That’s 183 out of 6,517 companies or $1.5 billion out of the $50.8 billion invested between 2011 and 2013.
Male VCs who don’t have female professional peers are especially difficult to pitch on products that serve a female market. “Dozens of times, women have come and told me, I pitched to a firm and what do I hear over and over, ‘Oh, I will go home and ask my wife about it,’” says Trish Costello, an entrepreneur and founder of Portfolia, a venture capital investment platform designed for women. She is also CEO emeritus and co-founder of the Palo Alto–based Kauffman Fellows, a global training institute for venture capitalists.