BOSTON — According to Pitchbook’s fourth quarter data from 2018, there were 8,383 venture-backed companies funded last year in the U.S. and those companies raised $130.9 billion in financing, making 2018 a funding bonanza not seen since the dot-com era of the early 2000s. California, Massachusetts and New York continued to dominate venture investment activity, attracting 79 percent of total U.S. capital invested and 53 percent of U.S. deals completed.
Sadly, women founders in search of capital investment for their firms were not invited to the party. Pitchbook went on to reveal that while all-male founding teams in the U.S. were awarded 76 percent, or $109.36 billion, in investment capital in 2018, companies with one or more female founders received 12 percent of investment capital, $15.76 billion, and all-female founding teams received just 2.2 percent of investment capital, or $2.4 billion.
As Massachusetts continued its capital investment dominance, it was reported in the annual “State of Women-Owned Businesses” report compiled by American Express that the Bay State ranks 46 of the 50 states in growth of women-owned firms from 2007-2018. In that period, women-owned businesses in Massachusetts grew about 20 percent, compared to an overall growth rate of 58 percent. Further, Boston ranks 48 out of the 50 largest metro areas in the country for growth of women-owned businesses. States with the largest growth of women-led ventures in 2007 – 2018 were Florida (87.8 percent increase since 2007) and Georgia (87.6 percent increase since 2007).
How can Massachusetts women Lean In and access business development resources available right now? Here are five resources to investigate.
Launched in 2015 by Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh, Women Entrepreneurs Boston was designed to support women entrepreneurs by providing skills, technical assistance and networking opportunities needed to grow businesses. At the WE Boston launch, Mayor Walsh noted, “We know that women-led businesses continue to face challenges, including limited funding and finding mentors and networks to support them as they grow,” he said. “I am proud to kick-off WE Boston to better address these challenges and promote economic equality in Boston.”
In partnership with the Mayor’s office of Women’s Advancement and office of Business Development, WE Boston will support all women entrepreneurs, from high tech start-ups to home-based businesses, as well as established bricks-and-mortar mainstays of Boston’s neighborhoods.
In October 2019, WE Boston plans to present its fourth annual Women Entrepreneurs Week, which will bring together leaders in Boston’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and feature high-profile speakers, skills-building workshops and round-table discussions to help women build networks and scale their businesses.
In 2017, Mayor Walsh and WE Boston announced the launch of iFundWomen Boston, the first crowdfunding platform for women owned businesses. The City Women Entrepreneurs Boston program will work with iFundWomen Boston to funnel investment dollars to women entrepreneurs.
The Massachusetts Office of Business Development not only helps businesses that relocate their operations or headquarters to the Commonwealth, but also provides resources to aspiring and existing business owners. The 2019 Micro-lending Program seeks to increase the flow of capital into small businesses to create growth and job creation. The program’s mission is to lower the barriers to capital access, an obstacle often faced by small business owners.
Aspiring entrepreneurs in search of a step-by-step guide to starting a business will find information on writing a business plan, guidance to help the business owner choose the best legal entity for the company, tax information and small business assistance groups.
CWE was one of the first business development resources for women who aspire to launch a venture and the organization is still among the best and most comprehensive. CWE is a nationally known nonprofit organization dedicated to helping women (and men) start and grow businesses.
Since 1995, CWE has worked with more than 46,000 entrepreneurs in MA, NH, RI and VT. CWE also operates the Veterans Business Outreach Center of New England (VBOC of NE) that focuses on assisting veterans, active duty service members and their families with starting and growing businesses.
In person and online workshops are available. Courses and workshops include business plan writing, legal clinic, financing options, certification for women business owners (WBENC), marketing and customer service protocols. Scholarships and sliding scale fees are available.
According to Bond Street, the small business financing resource center, CWE is “The top organization for women entrepreneurs — especially across all socioeconomic classes and types of businesses. This organization has been around for a long time and has fabulous programming, even if you want to open up a cookie business instead of a tech firm.”
Babson College Women Innovating Now is a program designed specifically for high-growth women entrepreneurs to accelerate their entrepreneurial paths. WIN Lab recognizes that women build businesses differently and the program empowers women to disrupt, experiment and build successful enterprises on their own terms. Once WIN Lab participants are ready to grow, the Lab provides the road map, expertise and community support needed to successfully scale their ventures.
Created in 2013, the Lab is an accelerator that begins in September with an intensive overnight retreat, followed by weekly content sessions where participants explore topics such as customer acquisition and financial projections. The program is five months long and one does not need to be a Babson College alumna to enroll. The Lab is also free, but there is an application process. WIN Lab does not provide seed funding, but there are opportunities to participate in pitch competitions attended by real investors who will give advice and encouragement.
Women are underrepresented in the life sciences industry but there is now a program created to change that by supporting biotech start-ups led by women. In November 2017, the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center, with Governor Charlie Baker, launched the Massachusetts Next Generation Initiative (MassNextGen), a five-year program that will fund and support early stage biotech companies run by women. The program will receive significant support from anchor sponsor Takeda Pharmaceuticals.
“This initiative is really targeted to encourage and support more women entrepreneurs in the life sciences industry and to also provide them the skills, the tools and the network they need to go out and successfully raise funds for their small innovative companies,” said Jennifer Griffin, a Vice President at the Massachusetts Life Sciences Center.
Each year, MassNextGen will select two companies that will receive $50,000 and executive coaching, which will include mentoring and access to a network of entrepreneurs, investors and industry experts.
“We want to make sure that we’re investing in big ideas that are led by women-owned companies here in the Commonwealth,” Governor Baker said during the announcement at Takeda’s Cambridge, MA office.