women-led companies

Part 2 of 3: Kerry Rupp and Sara Brand talk about why they focus their investments on women-led businesses

Kerry Rupp and Sara Brand from True Wealth Innovations recently sat down with Sol Marketing to discuss their new fund, why women-led businesses are a great investment, and what they’re doing to make sure women-led businesses get the capital they need to grow. In this second of three posts, Rupp and Brand talk about their "why."

(Read part one of this three-part interview here)

Why did you start this endeavor?

SB - Well the light bulb came on about a year and a half ago. I knew I wanted to get into venture capital somehow here in Austin. Austin is rated as the number-one startup city in the U.S., we have UT with their research and their new medical branch opening up. Over the last few years of education and career I was always around male-dominated environments. My husband and I started a microbrewery after I worked in the semiconductor industry.

All of these were very male-dominated. I was asked at the semiconductor job to become the executive sponsor of the Global Women’s Forum. After taking the position I read some studies and found that companies with more women in leadership positions performed better financially. At the same time, I was trying to figure out what my company could do about their numbers. Meanwhile I was trying to figure out my right move here in Austin. I realized that women were underrepresented and that I had never met a woman in VC here in Austin.

Of all VC partners, only four percent are women. Three percent of companies are women led, and those companies see 35% higher return utilizing a third less capital. We found a blind spot in the market without funds that are investing with this lens.

KR - When I ran DreamIt we started a DreamIt Athena for woman-run startups. Many times these people had trouble fundraising and/or they received comments from VCs that this market was just not a sector in which they invested. Then I met Sara and found out about her fund. I realized that we really had a significant gap in what the market offered today and what we could deliver.

 

What are some of the unique challenges and opportunities women face both on the investment side and as entrepreneurs, given this underrepresentation?

SB - Well, my mind went first to the disadvantages. What women have traditionally seen is that they are undercapitalized. They don’t have the same networks that most entrepreneurs use to get their companies off the ground. Or they are not willing to ask-- not thinking about it or willing to ask as men have typically done.

Also, as they start scaling the business, because of less capital they tend not to think as big or grow as quickly. Many woman-led businesses end up being undercapitalized and under scaled.

KR - Advantages are that with women making a lot of the purchasing decisions, we have a lot of the point of view around what marketing would resonate, what type of messaging should we use, etc. Because they understand the customer better, this can be an advantage.

SB - That reminds me of another study I read. When entrepreneurs created a product or service based on a particular need they have, they were significantly more successful. Women tend to be the largest percent of that category. The advantage women have here is that there have been a lot fewer leaders at companies addressing the certain needs that women have historically had a better understanding of.

 

Are you getting traction with this? What do you see coming short- and long-term?

KR - These numbers really resonate with people. When you quote the statistics on the performance of women-led companies, people gasp and it really opens their eyes. They realize there is a gap here. The health and sustainability sectors are particularly popular here in Austin, and we are already seeing many startups in these sectors here in Austin being led by women. Although we focus on Texas as a whole, it’s great that we have these types of organizations right in our back yard.

SB - As more women invest and millennials can invest more significant sums of money, this is an area that really resonates with them. Seventy-three percent of millennial women not only want a great financial return, but also to invest in areas that have a positive impact in the world. There are similar numbers for investors that want to invest in more gender diversity.

 

Watch this space for part three.

Part 1 of 3: Kerry Rupp and Sara Brand from True Wealth Ventures are funding women-led companies for the greater good

Part one of three Kerry Rupp and Sara Brand from True Wealth Ventures recently sat down with Sol Marketing to discuss their new fund, why women-led businesses are a great investment, and what they’re doing to make sure women-led businesses get the capital they need to grow.

Who is True Wealth for, and why do you do what you do? Kerry Rupp - We are an early stage venture capital fund. This fund raises money from investors, then invests the money into women-led companies. By that, we mean there’s a woman of significant decision-making influence on the executive level of the company. Companies with more women in leadership do better financially, and having gender diverse teams-- with women making 80-85% of the consumer purchasing decisions-- will have inherent advantages when developing products.

Our target is an early-stage company that is high-scale with opportunity to grow quickly and get acquired in a five-year time frame. They fall under the sustainable consumer or health-related business umbrella.

What do you think it says about someone that meets all that criteria and they work with TW and not someone else? KR- Only three percent of all VC-backed deals are woman-led. Given that women are starting companies at 2x the rate of men, there are a lot more woman-led companies than three percent of the market. An entrepreneur that wants to work with True Wealth specifically understands the need to get more growth capital to women and they believe that having a woman’s perspective brings benefits and insights.

Sara Brand–We have two “customers”: those who invest in us and those we invest in. The primary criterion when making an investment is the financial return. There is also a feel-good component-- the social issue of having woman led companies. Our fund also focuses on people that care about social issues such as gender, health, and sustainability. It makes them feel good that they can make money and do good things at the same time.

What is it that your clients get from you that they cannot get from anyone else? What is singular about the experience you deliver? KR – Well, in one sense that is a really easy question to answer. Because in terms of VC funds that are women-led and investing in early stage companies specifically with women decision makers, there are no funds like this in the central United States. They cannot get this anywhere else besides California and New York.

SB - And, actually, if you look at impact investment funds, and we are one because we have the gender focus. We are also investing in sustainable consumer and health verticals. There are no other impact funds that have a specific investment thesis to get more women to the leadership table.

KR – I think that one of the components that women portfolio companies mention is having someone on their investment side that “gets them” and their market better than a traditional VC. Especially when the end customer is a woman. Having a woman at the leadership of those companies and having an investor that gets the decisions that are being made around design, delivery, etc. of those products. The magic is in the diversity, bringing the different perspective to the table considering most companies are led by men.

With all those pieces in place, how do you put that together to make your client the hero in their own story? SB - A lot of our focus is on women and women entrepreneurs: supporting them and their great ideas, scaling them into the market and the world. The number one issue we found is capital. We have seen a lot of organizations focusing on educating women about business plans, etc.– but not a lot of writing checks to scale their business. They need access to the growth capital.

KR - Thinking from an investor’s point of view, thinking about their investment decision, it allows them to “do good and feel good.” Because they are getting a financial return, given the thesis that companies with women in management teams perform significantly better financially. At the same time, they are investing in sectors that are helping the world and affecting social/environmental issues that matter to them.

Check back for parts two and three of our conversation with Kerry Rupp and Sara Brand.