Growing the business angel community with more female investors

Portrait of Sophie Vellam
Campaign Executive
Business angels
Jenny Tooth and Helen Oldham

Angels Invest Wales held its first female business angels event earlier in the spring, bringing women from a range of professional backgrounds together to share their experiences and learn more about angel investing.

Here at Angels Invest Wales (part of the Development Bank of Wales), we connect investors with Welsh businesses seeking private investment through our digital platform. To date, we’ve registered and onboarded nearly 300 angel investors.

It’s our aim to grow the business angel community here in Wales generally, but also to encourage more women to get involved, particularly as there is still a significant gender gap in this space. We want women to know that this isn’t about having millions in the bank or being part of a large corporate organisation; it’s about sharing the risk and making long-term investments in a way that means you’re giving back and helping others to succeed.

We were therefore excited to host this first event in the hope that we may start to get more women in business thinking about the benefits and possibilities that angel investing may hold for them.  

Jenny Tooth, Executive Chair of the UK Business Angels Association (UKBAA), set the scene on the vital role played by angel investment in supporting the early growth of entrepreneurs, but highlighted the challenges for female entrepreneurs in accessing equity investment.

Women are generally being underfunded – they’re asking for less money and getting less money. Only 10% of all angel investment is going into all-female teams and only around 22% into mixed teams. Notably, Jenny reflected on the fact that women angel investors made up only around 15% of the angel investment market and this had a direct impact on female entrepreneurs attracting angel investment, as female angels make 30-50% of investments in female founders.

Jenny explained that this was the rationale for launching the national Women Backing Women campaign to enable many more women across the UK to recognise the opportunity to invest in female entrepreneurs: “If more women invest, many more female founders will get the finance they need for their businesses to thrive and grow. 

“The underrepresentation of women in angel investing stems from many factors, including the perception that it’s too risky and only for the very rich. But there are ways of mitigating the risk, and you don’t need to be super wealthy; it’s about having some spare money that you can set aside. It’s important to also note that the UK Government offers angel investors generous tax reliefs through the Enterprise Investment Scheme to offset their risks.

“There are great reasons for women to become a business angel. It can be exciting and social, and it can give real satisfaction to see that you are making a difference to your local economy by helping small businesses, especially female founders, to succeed and achieve their growth ambitions”.

In the North of England, work is being done to address the barriers for women investors. Helen Oldham told the audience how she initiated Fund Her North, a collective of women in the investment industry supporting female entrepreneurs from early stage to exit. In September, Fund Her North launched the region’s only female angel syndicate, Women Angels of the North.

Syndication enables angels to spread the risk, share the workload, and maximise the resources at hand to help investee companies. It’s also a way of meeting and working alongside interesting people, which makes it all the more fun.

Helen said: “Women Angels of the North provides a supportive environment for female business angels who are both experienced and new to investing. The minimum investment is only £2,000, so you don’t need to commit a huge sum of money, and it means that you can diversify and de-risk by having a larger portfolio. The amount of time you put in is also up to you; some angels like to be very active in a deal, while others prefer to take a more passive role.

“Either way, it’s extremely rewarding to be part of a community of likeminded women who are sharing expertise and financial influence to back Northern female entrepreneurs. We have found that female founders are often more open and comfortable when they come to a female syndicate.”

Health & Her is a great example of a female-led businesses that has gone from strength to strength with the help of angel investment. Specialising in women’s health, the company secured a six-figure investment in 2019 from the Development Bank of Wales alongside funding from an angel syndicate and the Wales Angel Co-Investment Fund.

Kate Bache, co-founder and Chief Executive, told us about her journey as an entrepreneur and how she has now become an angel investor herself. She said: “Many female founders are focusing on female-related issues; Health & Her is living proof of that. If you invest in female founders, you’re likely to be investing in ideas that are helping women overall.

“The equity finance we’ve received has enabled us to grow and deliver our aim of changing women’s lives for the better. Our investors bring knowledge, expertise, and insights into how we can improve our business. Their ongoing support has been invaluable.”

Carol Hall, Investment Manager at Angels Invest Wales, said: “With the return of face-to-face events, we were excited to get together in person for our long-anticipated first female business angels event. The interest and energy in the room were palpable, and we’ve received fantastic feedback from our guests, who fully embraced the idea of developing a ‘Women Angels of Wales’ group.

“For many women, angel investing has seemed too high-risk, exclusive, and inaccessible, and there has often been a lack of information about how it works. Through this initiative we hope to increase awareness and show that women can really benefit from getting involved. We very much look forward to building on this and trying to move the needle on female investment and entrepreneurship in Wales.”

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