the Helm: this fresh concept fund is investing in female innovators

Modern venture group growing the next generation.
August 17, 2018




— the story —

Modern investment fostering projects created by women.

The Helm is a new financial investment fund — plus a support community — helping start-ups founded by women. Female entrepreneurs get less help when they reach out to raise money for their projects and companies, compared to start-ups founded by men. Numbers show that women also get less money from small business bank loans, compared to men.

So both in credit and capital, women owned businesses need help. But women are also thriving — today, more female inspired ideas, projects, shops, services, solutions and applications are making waves in the marketplace and in our everyday lives. One reason is: sprouting communities by-and-for women entrepreneurs. Another valuable help is today’s mainstream web. The web connects, unifies, and offers new ways of doing business.

The female founders at the Helm are doing both: financially investing in women’s projects, and using digital tools to nurture a community that supports women’s start-ups — helping bring their dreams to life: with mentorship, counseling, practical know-how and encouragement.

The Helm is getting attention from well known publications and broadcasters, and showcases a new model to level-out the lack of equality for women in society. The group’s investments are smart, organized, and highlight best business practices. They offer a magazine style newsletter called Women at the Helm with advice, inspiration, practical stories, plus a product collection. A novel approach to investment, the Helm is focused on well-being — with financial success + personal success braided as 2 parts of a whole business. The group invests in early stage projects, with a tech focus, and managed by a female CEO.

continue reading below:

  • materials from the Helm
  • numbers on the gender equality gap in business investing
  • resources for start-ups + female entrepreneurs

on the web | pages

the Helm | main
the Helm | newsletter: Women at the Helm



on the web | learning

Wikipedia | entrepreneurship
Wikipedia | start-up company
Wikipedia | business loan
Wikipedia | angel investor
Wikipedia | investment fund
Wikipedia | venture capital
Wikipedia | maker culture


— 1. | the numbers —

institution: University of New Hampshire
center: Center for Venture Research
report: the angel market in year 2017

  • in 2017 — Women owned ventures totaled almost 30 % of all entrepreneurs asking for angel capital investment.
  • in 2017 — And 23.4 % of the women entrepreneurs received an angel investment.

note: the Center for Venture Research is under the College of Business + Economics.




— 2. | the numbers —

government: US Census Bureau
report: women owned businesses

note | According to the most current — and now out-dated — numbers from the US Census Bureau — 35.8 % of US businesses are owned by women. And that number is growing. They need investment and loans to: get started, maintain a healthy business, grow and stabilize.

Many new kinds of businesses are emerging — now that almost every company uses the web for advertising, design, outreach, sales or to support its customers. That means traditional businesses like restaurants, retail stores, personal care products and services all have burgeoning opportunities now that the web is fully mainstream. On every laptop and smart-phone businesses are bustling. New entertainment companies are also evolving — as well as new digital and web-connected products that play a key role in modern services and home goods.

In the enterprise markets, we’ve entered a new age of software-as-a-service and customized business applications — all based on the web. Today women have better access to higher education — for example: web schools, digital learning materials, new communities that support women’s progress — and women are fully participating in the computer era with business ideas of their own.

Easy-to-use web publishing toolkits are now available to everyone — at any skill level. In weeks or months a product, concept, or publication can be designed and posted to the web with print-quality craftsmanship. Turn-around time for reaching customers, and logging sales is fast and efficient. Accounting software for home office makes owning and operating a business streamlined.

This means that modern software plus municipal web access help all businesses prosper, and help new ideas seed + grow. Today’s web is democratic, offering amazing opportunities that — especially women — have not had in the past. It makes sense that our new era will be a time for equality, for women in business to flourish.

on the web | learning

Wikipedia | enterprise software
Wikipedia | software-as-a-service
Wikipedia | mobile app

note: the US Census Bureau is under the US Economics + Statistics Admin. — under the US Dept. of Commerce umbrella.



— 3. | the numbers —

research firm: Pitchbook

Pitchbook | When it comes to closing the gender funding gap — there’s no silver bullet
chart: female founded start-ups raise only a small portion of overall VC investment

Fortune | Female founders got 2 % of venture capital dollars in 2017

  • with chart by Pitchbook: total value of VC deals by gender
  • with chart by Pitchbook: total number of VC deals by gender
  • with chart by Pitchbook: female founded companies as percent of total VC deals / dollars

note: Pitchbook is a financial data + software co. — under Morningstar co.



— 4. | the numbers —

government: US Small Business Admin.
story: US Small Business Administration micro-loan program celebrates 25 years in business

  • small businesses unable to access capital elsewhere, benefit from $50,000 loans at low interest rates
  • small businesses can use the loans to grow their business, create or keep jobs
  • 48 % of businesses getting micro-loans are owned by women
  • 41 % of businesses getting micro-loans are start-ups
  • by comparison — less than 20% of conventional bank loans are made to women

note: the US Small Business Admin. gives support to entrepreneurs + small businesses.


— 5. | the numbers —

government: US Senate Committee on Small Business + Entrepreneurship
report: 21st century barriers to women’s entrepreneurship

The most current — and now out-dated — report from the US Senate said:

  • women entrepreneurs get 4 % of the total dollar value of all small business loans
  • women entrepreneurs get 7 % of venture funds
  • We need updated data to track the persistent lack of equality for women business owners — to fix the gap.

note: the US Senate Committee on Small Business + Entrepreneurship researches + investigates problems.



on the web | resources

ReThink Impact | main

about | ReThink Impact is the largest US impact venture capital firm with a gender lens that invests in female leaders using technology to solve the world’s biggest problems.

ReThink Impact believes that the next generation of extraordinary companies — in health care, environmental sustainability, education, and economic opportunity — will find success through their relentless pursuit of mission, for the benefit of all communities.

Through our extensive network of entrepreneurs, mentors, and decision makers, we’re changing the way people look at social impact. Our diverse community of committed investors from across the country stands with women. We are a conduit for their values and desire for change. Change in how business gets done and how the investing industry works. 100 % of our portfolio of investments: women on the executive team.

Together, we believe the next generation of the world’s best businesses will succeed through their relentless pursuit of positive impact and a commitment to diversity that starts at the top. ReThink Impact is a female focused venture capital firm. We raised $112 million to put towards these ideas. We’re investing to change the game — for people + planet.

description: by ReThink Impact


on the web | resources

US Small Business Admin. | main
US Small Business Admin. | your business guide — plan, launch, manage, grow


on the web | resources

American Express | Where are the resources for women owned businesses?
deck: Women-owned businesses run into a funding + financing gap that can impede their success.
deck: Thankfully, there are quite a few resources available to them.


on the web | reading

Forbes | How new venture capital fund the Helm is supporting female founders
Forbes | How women entrepreneurs are closing the venture capital gap

Fortune | Can experience investing help female entrepreneurs?
Re-Code | A group of women are launching a fund that plans to only invest in other women
Entrepreneur | Why investing in women led start-ups is the right move
CIO | How the Helm is shaking up the VC world


on the web | research

the Boston Consulting Group | report: Why women owned start-ups are a better bet



special section: profile
description: by the Helm

a. | the Helm — INVESTED in WOMEN

The Helm makes it easy to invest in women. We bring you the latest female founded products and companies, tell you why they matter, and connect you with ways to support them directly. And when we say we are invested in women, we mean it. The Helm’s venture fund invests in female founded start-ups, putting capital behind the next generation of leaders in technology and innovation.

The Helm is a community and a venture fund that re-thinks how people invest in female entrepreneurs — a segment of the financial sector that received only 2.5% of all venture capital in 2016 despite consistently outperforming all-male teams. An alternative to philanthropy, the Helm was founded on the idea that additional value can be created for investors — both female and male — by allowing them to see their money drive change first-hand through:

  • bespoke experiences
  • venture education
  • exclusive content
  • behind-the-scenes tours
  • behind-the-scenes series

b. | the Helm — OUR MISSION

We are on a mission to make venture investing truly equitable. And we’re changing the equation on both sides. If you’re a female founder who needs to raise capital, the odds are stacked against you. Of the $58.8 billion dollars invested by US based venture capitalists in 2015 alone, only 7 % of that funding went to female entrepreneurs. And for women of color, that percentage drops to 0.2 %. In 2016, despite the enormous amount of attention on this issue, the amount of capital invested in female founders actually dropped to only 2.5 %.

We’re on a mission to make venture investing truly equitable, tackling the goal from two sides. First, we’re expanding women’s access to capital. Our fund invests in female founded companies with female CEOs. We’re putting resources behind the woman who are the technology + innovation sector, at the helm of companies that will change our culture.

Despite being under-estimated and under-funded, there’s an increasing amount of data that says female founders out-perform their male counterparts consistently. Venture-backed start-ups with female founders have been shown to drive a 35 % higher return-on-investment — and female teams tend to generate 12 % more revenue on average. And this out-performance continues once companies go public.

We’re also up-ending the system by changing who is invited to do the investing. Typically, men with wealth are invited to invest their money and amass more wealth. Women? They’re invited to give away their money philanthropically. Who receives capital and who’s asked to invest it is biased by gender. Philanthropy can’t be the only way we’re investing in equality — and it can’t be the only place where women are invited to write checks.

That’s why we’re re-imagining the experience of investing to create value beyond the term sheet. In addition to investing in female companies: the Helm members get access to exclusive events + content, customized perks, and empowerment through education.


c. | the Helm — text


d. | the Helm — OUR FUND

We believe that innovation is not gender specific, so we do not accept that 97.5 % of the most valuable capital supporting innovation should go to male founders only. It’s imperative that female voices have a role in creating the companies, tech, and systems that will shape our future. This is a problem that needs to be solved. It’s also an opportunity to drive out-sized returns by investing risk-taking capital into the next generation of female innovation.

Our fund invests in early-stage, high-growth technology companies with women at the helm. We invest in 8-12 deals per year, most at the seed stage, and provide strategic support to our founders to help their companies grow. We drive value for our portfolio investments and our member community.


e. | the Helm — WHY VENTURE

We’re focused on venture capital — impact through access to capital — one of the most valuable resource available for entrepreneurs looking to achieve world-changing scale. Venture is the risk-taking financial support that helps new ideas while they become businesses. It’s a fuel for companies looking to grow. And right now, it’s not accessible to women.

Venture investing is one of the most unfair forms of capital. Of the $58.8 billion dollars invested by US based venture capitalists in 2015 alone, only 7 % of that funding went to female entrepreneurs. In 2016, that number dropped to 2.5 %, despite the cultural spotlight on this problem.

Access to venture capital is plagued by an enormous amount of gender discrimination. Investors evaluate men on vision and promise. Women, however, are judged on proven history. We see the enormous challenges female entrepreneurs face when they try to raise capital — especially at the seed stage. Every day we see brilliant, tenacious women creating innovative, necessary companies but struggling to get them funded. It’s not uncommon to take 6 months + 100 meetings to close their seed rounds — or be forced to take alternative forms of funding that lock them out of the networks they need to grow.

So if we want the future to include companies that consider women, are led by women, and create wealth for women, we need to invest in them now. Because we also know that when women do break-through and get access to capital, they out-perform their male peers. This creates a new avenue for impact: investing directly in the female founders who are going to become the leaders in innovation and investment of tomorrow.


f. | the Helm — INVESTING in FEMALE INNOVATION

Our unique investing philosophy. We believe there’s a huge financial opportunity to invest capital into incredible founders, and provide the structural support they need for their vision. At The Helm, we invest in female innovation. To qualify as a potential investment for The Helm, you must be an early stage, tech enabled company — helmed by a female CEO.

What we look for in potential investments:

problem-driven businesses — Having a large addressable market is important for any venture-scale business, but the companies we get most excited about are the ones that have a unique insight into a pervasive, challenging customer problem. We invest in solutions centered around promoting resource efficiencies, leveraging technology to increase accessibility, creating products for underserved consumers, and enriching ecosystem infrastructures.

experienced founders — At the seed stage especially: the composition, experience, and character of the founding team will carry strong weight in our investment decisions. Founders’ unique vision and professional + personal backgrounds tell us why a founding team is in the best position to solve the problem they’re tackling.

tangible product — We consider ourselves seed investors. To us, that means that we won’t be writing a check into a company before there’s a tangible MVP and feedback from customer testing. Our expectations for traction change depending on the industry — but regardless of sector, we look for data points that indicate a passionate group of early users.

We’re active supporters of and partners to the companies in our portfolio. Community is the primary driver of our platform, and once The Helm is invested, we leverage our network of members, advisors, and mentors to provide ongoing strategic support to our founders as they scale their companies. Our community is a diverse mix of people — enthusiastic about driving access to resources for female founders. Their experiences range across industries: leaders in media and tech, successful founders, artists and activists. Collectively, our community is an influential and sophisticated focus group.

We like to meet with founders as early as possible. We want to get to know you! And give you the opportunity to get to know us. We meet with founders when they’re still in the idea stage, and we’re happy playing the role of sounding board + friend — before we play the role of investor.



[ story file ]

story title: the Helm: this fresh concept fund is investing in female innovators
deck: Modern venture group growing the next generation.
year: 2018
posted by: managing editor

section: digest
theme: innovation + entrepreneurship