New Women Angels Seeking to Fund Diverse Founders

By Padmini Parthasarathy

What’s the color of money? It’s pretty white, actually.

That’s why Natalia Oberti Noguera, founder and CEO of the Pipeline Fellowship, has launched Pipeline Angels, an angel group committed to diversity. The goal: to get more people of color, Latinas, and LGBT people running their own businesses.

It’s an outgrowth of Pipeline Fellows, an angel-investing female boot camp of sorts, which has trained over 80 women. The organization aims to pair up these newly minted angel investors with minority entrepreneurs to really make some change.

While many investing groups that cater to women avoid taking a stand on the issue of diversity, Noguera has a very clear goal and she is not pulling her punches.

"Frankly, we’re interested in challenging the non-meritocratic funding space head on. There are people who tiptoe around the conversation, but we aren’t them. We are open about wanting to create a space where women and minority entrepreneurs are welcome," she says.  

Not only are women and minorities not getting funded, they’re not pitching. In fact, together they only make up 8.5 percent of all entrepreneurs pitching to investors. But a 2012 Dow Jones study shows that betting on women is actually a smart business strategy. Companies with at least one woman at the director or vice president level are more likely to succeed than ones that don't. Start-ups with five women executives or more were 11 percent more likely to succeed than the average start-up.

"A lot of entrepreneurs coming to Pipeline Angels are pitching for the first time ever. It’s intimidating to pitch. We want to make our entrepreneurs feel like they’re in a safe space where their ideas will be heard," says Noguera.

Pipeline Angels are a diverse group themselves in many respects. Ranging in age from 20-something to over 60, these angels represent just about every ethnicity, race, industry, and sector. Some have served on boards of family foundations, or worked for start-ups like Pandora. But the group also has an art dealer, a dentist, and a baker. Each "angel in training" commits to a minimum of $5,000 per investment. Going forward, Noguera aims to increase the number of fellows who go through the pipeline, as well as the amount each fellow agrees to contribute.

Noguera sees this as the natural next step. The goal of Pipeline Angels is to connect diverse investors with diverse entrepreneurs for mutually beneficial results.

"The focus is increasing diversity by increasing the number of angels and the number of opportunities for women entrepreneurs," says Noguera.

Pipeline Angels have already funded "Green Life Guides," a company that connects eco-conscious consumers with green products; "Voz," a fair trade fashion brand that connects designers with indigenous women weavers; and many other innovative brands. Here’s to more!


Image: "Angel" via flickr cc