Closing the gender gap for entrepreneurship
Women's Angel Investor Network, or Wain, is all set to kick off its fourth investment cycle and Dubai-based founder Heather Henyon today smiles back on the initiative she started to help women entrepreneurs in the region.
In 2013, Henyon began sharing her idea of a women's angel fund investing in women-led businesses. Being an active member of Dubai's investing community she was aware of how few women investors were present and how even fewer women businesses were getting funded.
A key driving principle for Henyon was to build a strong community of financially savvy women investors alongside successful women entrepreneurs. So, while the investment process still sits firmly with the participating angels, the back-office work is handled by a CEO and two managing partners who take a percentage of any profit on exit.
"I started Wain because I understood the importance of angel investors for startups based on my own experience as a founder of a mobile money company with two very engaged angel investors. I also saw the opportunity in the Mena region for women angels based on the fact that there are a large number of women-led startups in the region and I wanted more women to feel greater self-confidence when investing and dealing with financials. One of the value-adds we bring to startups is our own entrepreneurial experience and ability to relate to what it's like to start and build a business - many of our members are founders," says Henyon.
To date, Wain has made seven investments in six companies, and has 30 angels and invested almost $500,000. Wain targets a certain profile of angel investors due to the high risks of startup companies - only one in 10 survive. An angel has to be a high net worth individual to be a member (they can afford to lose their investment).
"Angels pay a membership fee for each investment round and since not all angels have a financial background, we insist they take part in a financial training programme so that the basics of investing and due diligence are understood by everyone," adds Henyon.
The company has held three successful funding rounds - 2014, 2016 and 2017. Investments per company range from approximately $50,000 to $100,000.
"For our fourth cycle starting in January, the minimum investment per member is $10,000," she says.
A key part of Wain's philosophy is to get involved with the business and mentor the entrepreneur who rarely has a robust support network in place. The network's negotiating strategy is to get a seat on the board, or if there isn't one, to be instrumental in setting one up.
Henyon, further adds: "We see many entrepreneurs in edutech and health tech especially female founders. We primarily look at tech companies since they need to be high growth in order to provide the kinds of returns we seek (10x) in order to compensate for the high risk we take as early stage investors."
Rebecca Hill, director, Wain, says: "Wain follows a robust and rigorous investment. We have been able to attract a fantastic group of angels and entrepreneurs, done without a marketing budget. For me, this is what underlies Wain's success."
Joumana Jallad, co-founder, Stone Fine Jewelry, has invested in two companies with Wain; she is renewing in 2018 and will join Wain's fourth investment cycle.
Jallad, said: "It has been very rewarding to invest in women-led companies that have stirred our minds and also our hearts. Several Wain companies have been recognised for their significant social impact in the region and beyond and we are very excited to be alongside these amazing entrepreneurs. Wain gave me to access investment opportunities in the regional technology startup ecosystem and that has been tremendous both in business terms but also personally."
Similarly, Barbara Baumgartner, managing director, Rent-A-Jet & Advisory Board Member, DayOne Response (w), says: "I have invested in six companies with Wain and look forward to joining the 4th investment cycle (my third cycle as a Wain member). Wain gives me a portfolio which is important when investing in early stage companies and an opportunity to engage with the entrepreneurs and their companies. I also enjoy being part of a women's network focused on business and investing with like-minded professionals."
Henyon is a savvy investor and activist for women's financial literacy. She is a regional expert on fintech, a financial analyst and is often asked for advice from both investors and entrepreneurs. Based on Wain's success and in addition to her startup portfolio where women-led firms outperform the non-diverse teams, Henyon is already looking at scaling the enterprise into a more global proposition called Mindshift Capital.
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