UPDATE: OCTANe Effort To Get More Female Founders Funded Involves Diversity of Support

It’s well known that female entrepreneurs tend to have more of a challenge accessing capital.

Last year, female founders raised $2.88 billion, which represents a mere 2.2% of the $130 billion total in VC money invested. And, it’s the exact same percentage as 2017, according to news reports.

Yet women represent 36% of overall business ownership.

Nationally, there is an effort to change that. All Raise was founded in 2017 by 34 senior female investors from institutionally-backed VC firms based in Silicon Valley, Boston, LA and NYC. All Raise is a nonprofit with HQ in SF.

And, there’s the Women Founders Network in LA. That’s a network of women who provide access to capital, visibility and mentorship to female entrepreneurs.

Locally, OCTANe, a lifesciences and tech accelerator in Aliso Viejo, has seen pretty much the same low percentage of female founders coming through its LaunchPad accelerator and getting funded.

Out of the approximate 600 companies that have gone through LaunchPad, 86% have received funding. But only about 3% of that has gone to female-founded companies.

So OCTANe is making a concerted effort to increase that statistic as well. But with a different tactic.

It created the Women Leaders of OCTANe Initiative. And, it’s supported by men and women.

OCTANe CEO Bill Carpou told OC Startups Now how this differentiation matters: it involves putting “all the power of diversity behind this initiative.”

That diversity includes gender, experience, age and industry, he explained.

“Do you want to limit the support women get to only women, or open it up to a very diverse group from a gender, experience, expertise and current job content perspective?” Carpou said. “This is what makes our initiative different and a new model needs to be built.”

The ultimate goals of the initiative are:

– to get more women-operated SoCal startups through the LaunchPad accelerator

– to get more women-operated companies funded

– to support women in their career development and growth by providing access to resources and power networking opportunities

-to connect female leaders with public and private board seats.

The funding effort involves a local and global reach including NYC, Boston, London and the nation-wide Angel Capital Association.

Besides Carpou, some of the men supporting the initiative include Andrew Lyon, the dean of engineering at Chapman University, and Wallace Walrod, chief economist for the Orange County Business Council.

OCTANe has also increased female representation on its board of directors. Three years ago, there were two female board members. Today, there’s 10.

Private Networking Event

On Wednesday, OCTANe held a private networking event in Irvine in support of its initiative.

In attendance were female founders, CEOs, board members, investors and leaders from throughout the SoCal tech and lifescience ecoystem.

“We want to expose female entrepreneurs to a broader spectrum of expertise, resources and capital,” Carpou said.

Kristine Peters with OC United Way said she came to support female entrepreneurs. Her organization has a Women United group that’s all about female empowerment and networking.

Jennifer Bell, a co-founder and CMO of K9 Align, said she’s glad OCTANe has identified this challenge and is working to alleviate it. K9 Align created a wearable that provides therapeutic treatment for dogs with mobility issues stemming from hip dysplasia and arthritis. See related story here.

“It’s great for female founders and investors to support each other,” she said.

More about OCTANe’s LaunchPad

OCTANe’s LaunchPad accelerator is in the Top 5 of Small Business Development Center accelerators.

OCTANe’s board members represent a collective $240 billion in revenue at their respective companies.

About The Author

Deirdre Newman is a long-time journalist, who's covered OC startups for a few years.

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