By Christine Condon
Natalia Oberti Noguera, founder and CEO of Pipeline Fellowship, an angel investing bootcamp for women, often gets asked why she started her company. She had grown a network of women social entrepreneurs in New York City in 2008 from a six-woman network to 1,200 within two years. And throughout, she kept hearing from them how hard it was to secure funding for their ventures.
In the Women Who Lead series by Ellevate Network and 92Y, Oberti Noguera shares that the entrepreneurial-minded women she knew went to their networks to pitch "their change-making ideas." People were keen about the investment; they were ready to write out a check. But then the tide shifted. "As soon as [the entrepreneurs] clarified they were aiming to have a for-profit venture, people would back away, and say, 'Well, let me know when you start your sister non-profit.' This was such an Ah-ha moment for me...Changing the world and how we perceive how someone changes the world is gendered."
We often talk about breaking the glass ceiling in business, breaking through invisible barriers in corporate America. Similarly, Oberti Noguera is tackling this perception of where success should come from for the female entrepreneur. "Whenever society would hear that a woman was looking to change the world, they would assume, 'Oh, she's going to start a non-profit. Guess what? When a guy says he's going to change the world, people are not thinking he's going to start a nonprofit."
Oberti Noguera believes in building a business to do good in the world. She says, "I believe the for-profit social venture is a sort of hybrid model... A hybrid has the heart of a nonprofit and the efficiencies of a for profit."
According to a report by the Center for Venture Research in 2014, "Women-owned ventures accounted for 36% of the entrepreneurs that were seeking angel capital and 15% of these women entrepreneurs received angel investment in 2014." Oberti Noguera contends we need more hybrid investors--people who see the value in investing in women's businesses--who see the value in investing in women. "There are a lot of high net-worth women who...are making a positive impact with their money through donations...and sharing...that they can make a positive impact with their money by investing in women entrepreneurs...in exchange for equity." In this way, women are not just investing in great new businesses but in other women--making their business ventures and their success possible.
Oberti Noguera also tells us that a very prominent, white male V.C. was asked a few years ago: Who do you look for when you invest? He stated, "Someone like me." Oberti Noguera says, "So we invest in what looks like us, and what's familiar, and what makes us comfortable. So my take was, well, let's turn that on its head--this whole concept of pattern recognition. Let's get more of us--let's get more women, let's get more men of color--on the investing side, because we're probably going to be more open to investing in more of us."