01 Feb 2002


Springboard Boosts Funding Prospects for Women Entrepreneurs


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According to a recent study by the venture capital research firm VentureOne, even in average economic times, women CEOs typically receive just 6 percent of the $69 billion available in venture capital in the United States. In an effort to improve the odds, women representing 23 companies took the podium at HBS on November 9 during the Springboard: New England 2001 venture capital forum to pitch their businesses to some 200 investors in the audience.

Organized by the Washington, D.C.- based nonprofit Springboard Enterprises and Boston's Center for Women & Enterprise, the event was the seventh in a nationwide series. Presenters were seeking capital in the $1 million to $15 million range for companies involved in software, life sciences, business products and services, information services, information technology, and consumer products. The entrepreneurs were chosen from a pool of 150 applicants by a committee of top venture capitalists and business leaders from around New England.

In opening remarks, HBS Dean Kim B. Clark said entrepreneurship has become not only a tremendous engine of growth in the United States but also a critically important style of managing. "I want to salute those of you who are here making presentations today and trying to build companies," he said. "We need people with that kind of courage and vision." HBS senior lecturer Robert F. Higgins, who is also founder and managing general partner of Highland Capital Partners in Boston, told the group, "This is about making money and investing, but it's also about entrepreneurship. Having half of our society somewhat inhibited in their access to capital is a bad thing." Higgins cochaired the forum with HBS professor Myra M. Hart.

With venture funding exceedingly hard to come by in recent months, it's too soon to tell how the entrepreneurs fared financially as a result of the event. But Andrea C. Silbert (MBA '92), founder and CEO of the Center for Women & Enterprise, noted that 90 percent of the companies that participated in last year's New England forum are still in business - remarkable news given that quite a few were dot-coms. "The participants selected for this year's Springboard forum represent some of the best talent in the New England entrepreneurial community," Silbert noted. All told, entrepreneurs at the past six nationwide forums have raised over $600 million for seed, first-, or later-round investment capital.

Adapted from an article posted on the HBS Working Knowledge portal. Visit www.workingknowledge.hbs.edu for more coverage.

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Class of MBA 1992, Section H

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