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Inessa Obenhuber (fourth from right) and Donna Hamlin (far right) with some of iLab's women founders. Image courtesy of iLab

Valley investors target Brisbane women

Donna Hamlin and Inessa Obenhuber are hoping to help fix a problem with Australia’s startup ecosystem: access to second-round funding and advisory services. And women are firmly in their sights.

In Brisbane last week to scope out Australia’s startup support services, the Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and investors met with a group of women tech founders at iLab.

They said that while it was often easy to raise seed capital, up to $500,000, there was a funding gap between that and early venture capital investment of $2 million or more. There was a saying in Silicon Valley that you need to visit 100 VCs to get funded. But many women gave up before then.

Of course money is only part of the puzzle, and Hamlin and Obenhuber have a vision for a global support network for both startups and  investors.

“What we’re hearing is that access to that second round of funding is a lot weaker in this [Australian] environment,” says Hamlin, who is also the chief executive of global governance service company Intrabond Capital US.  “The access to mentors and corporate government support or adviser support is not there.”

“If you look at the matchmaking of an entrepreneur and the access to investment capital, that’s one piece of a big puzzle,” she said. “We know that within that first year, especially if it’s a new CEO, they need support and advisory services to make sure they can grow their idea from a piece of paper into a real business.”

Hamlin and Obenhuber’s Global Privat initiative strives to offer a “full solution available for sustained success” for both entrepreneurs and investors, and aims to increase gender representation across all levels of startup development.

Among the system’s initiatives, Hamlin lists an education service aimed at helping high net-worth women move away from third party investors and a networking event called Impact Salon. The event is a monthly dinner party where prominent women in tech, media, fashion and entertainment are invited to discuss a business topic. After dinner Global Privat follows up and helps develop development plans for all guests.

Hamlin says women want to learn how to become qualified, knowledgeable investors. “So one of the things we’re building into this is a way to take people who would like to become more involved in direct investment and high engagement, and teach them those sorts of skills so they become more discerning in how they place their bets.”

Global Privat also aims to share resources, and it currently has partnerships with a range of accelerator and incubator programs. See the list at the end. As  part of their iLab presentation, Hamlin and Obenhuber discussed a growing need for support across new companies’ c-suite and their solution: Board Bona Fide, an “e-harmony for boards”.

“There were a couple of people [at iLab] who said ‘I’ve just lost my CTO, and I’ve got to find a new one’,” Hamlin says. “What we’ve created is a registry where we have people go in and fill out a profile about themselves, including skills, competency, experiences, and a psychometric model with built in styles of thinking.

“If a company calls and they’re looking for talent, we can scan across the directory and find the people who would be the right resources. It’s a free service, so we just make that available and then people can find who they otherwise wouldn’t know even existed.”

Hamlin is also passionate about matching the growing number of female entrepreneurs with resources and skills building. She says that because money predominantly goes towards men, there’s a need to make the difference in distribution more balanced.

“Because the number of women entrepreneurs is growing, we want to make sure the capitalisation manages the shift. And we’re not clear yet on how much of that is skills building or brekaing a stereotypical mental set, but we’re studying that and some research says that women entrepreneurs are a little more humble in the way that they present.”

She says coaching could teach women not be be as reticent as a male presenter, but there was also a need for education around consumer markets, so that “services and products and ideas that are being offered up by women are matched to women investors, so you can find a better fit for where that source of funds should come.

“Which is why when you’re getting more high net worth individual women if you can match them to the kinds of CEO who have ideas for businesses that fit their interests then you are probably going to ship that distribution.”

She has two key pieces of advice for entrepreneurs:

“One; think global, don’t think regional. If you know you’ve got a serious idea that’s going to play in other markets, think from that perspective from day one, and figure out where you may get some access to support either financially or just through talent based from those markets you could enter.”

“The other is the whole diversity play.  Those companies that are thinking ‘can I create diversity on my managment team, can I create diversity on my boards’ are going to get a higher quality of decisions and outcomes. Because we’ve seen from research that as diversity increases so does creativity and commercialisation; creativity is the combining of unrelated items in a useful way — not novel — useful way.”

Global Privat partners

  • 500 startups
  • LunchpadLA
  • Startup Bootcamp
  • Lemnos Lab
  • Stanford University
  • University of Southern California
  • University of California, LA
  • Harvard
  • Berkeley
  • Columbia University
  • Astia Angels
  • Seraph
  • Sand Hill Angels
  • Harvard Angels,
  • Angel List
  • OurCrowd
  • And multiple other governments and economic development chapters around the world.

About Chris Woods

Chris Woods (@tophermwoods) is the Tech Street Journal's Editor-in-Chief. He lives in Brisbane, has worked in places like Sydney and New York (State of), and will someday update his media-news blog.