Chapter 5. The Context

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1 45 Chapter 5 Financing High-Growth Enterprise: Is Gender an Issue? A summary of research conducted by Nancy M. Carter, Ph.D. Candida G. Brush Elizabeth J. Gatewood Patricia Greene Myra M. Hart The Context Entrepreneurship is recognized as the engine of growth in the U.S. economy, and women are playing an important role. Their number, growth in sales, growth in employment, and contributions have increased dramatically over the past ten years. In 1992, it was estimated that more than 600,000 women-owned firms had sales greater than $1 million (Women Owned Businesses: The New Economic Force, 1992). By 2001, the National Foundation for Women Business Owners estimates that women-owned enterprises will constitute 40 percent of U.S. businesses, employ 27.5 percent of the total work force and generate $3.6 trillion in revenues. Figures recently released by the U.S. Census Bureau report lower numbers for 1997 that reflect the adoption of new qualifying criteria. To be considered women-owned under the new definition requires 51 percent ownership, $1,000 minimum annual revenues (up from the previous criterion of $500), and that the business be privately held. The new criteria exclude many high-growth ventures that are publicly held and at the upper end of the revenue continuum. The change in definition results in depressing the reported contribution of women-owned businesses. Whichever data is used, the growth and contribution of women-owned business is indisputable. What has financed this remarkable growth? Research suggests that over the past ten years, women have become more successful in securing debt financing for their businesses but still have minimal access to equity financing the kind of investment needed to spur high-growth ventures. Since 1995, debt financing has become more available through government initiatives (the Small Business Administration s Women s Prequalification Loan Program), private banking programs (e.g., Wells Fargo Bank and BankBoston programs for women business owners), and women s business organizations (Women Inc.) training programs and assistance centers. For example, the National Foundation for Women Business Owners reported that in 1998, 52 percent of women business owners reported they had used bank credit (as compared to 59 percent of male business owners). Approximately one-third of women-owned businesses have credit lines of $50,000 or more, 16 percent have lines of $100,000 to $500,000 and 7 percent have lines in excess of $500,000. Women business owners access to equity markets has been less successful. A study of the venture capital industry conducted by Stout (1997) indicated that of the 1,200 companies that received venture funding in 1996, only 30 were women-led. Women s disproportionately low share of equity investment is all the more

2 46 Women in Business: Access and Success remarkable since the unprecedented growth rate of the venture capital industry parallels the growth rate of women-led businesses. Since 1994, the annual funds raised and invested by independent venture capital firms have risen every year. In 2000 alone, $103 billion was invested, reflecting a 75 percent increase over Not only have the total dollars invested reached new highs but the number of companies receiving equity funds rose from 3,967 in 1999 to 5,380 in 2000 ( This is roughly an average of $19 million per venture. But despite this explosive growth in equity investment, women-owned businesses are receiving only a tiny percentage of equity capital. The Issue Why is the equity investment in women-led ventures so tiny? What explains the apparent disparity between the numbers and contributions of women-owned firms and the small amount of venture capital investments they receive? The Diana Project To investigate the apparent disconnect between opportunities and resources in equity funding for high-growth women-owned businesses, the Diana Project was formed. Funded by the Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, the U.S. Small Business Administration, and the National Women s Business Council, principal investigators representing five universities proposed to investigate supply and demand for equity capital and to compare growth models in male and female-led businesses. A theoretical model was developed that encompassed the structure of the industry and actions of three key players in the process. Venture Capital Firm (Investment Process) Strategic Choice Human Capital Structural Barriers Investor Entrepreneurial Firm R l t First are the investors, the people who supply the funds. Paramount to these individuals or partnerships is the rate of return and risk protection. Second are the venture capital (VC) firms, which are the deal-makers bringing the capital suppliers and capital users together. They range in size from large to small, but all participate in a search/screen process, evaluation, negotiation and often provide management advice to the firm. Third is the entrepreneurial firm whose paramount concern is often on the value that would be added by VCs, at what terms, and with what relationship. The intent of the model is to reveal where barriers might exist that preclude women owners access to equity financing for their businesses. Literature reviews show that the majority of research has focused on venture capital firms, their decision process, and the relationship between venture capital firms and

3 Financing High-Growth Enterprise: Is Gender an Issue? 47 funded firms. Minimal research has examined the entrepreneurial venture and the process undertaken to acquire investment, and no studies we identified examined the experiences of women-led ventures in securing equity investments. Mapping the VC industry The first stage of the Diana Project sought to determine the supply and demand for equity capital by mapping the investments of institutional investors. Data from the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA) between 1957 through 1998 were used to deduce patterns of disparity between financing of women-led and men-led ventures. Data from Springboard 2000 was used to examine the experiences of women owners in The NVCA data was originally collected by Venture Economics and includes information on companies funded by venture capital since The data set includes information on 20,000 portfolio companies, 34,000 executives, and 120,000 company investments and is provided by 4,500 private equity firms having 7,000 private equity funds. The data are updated quarterly. Only businesses receiving funding are included. Hence, comparisons to businesses not receiving funding is not possible with this data set. Over the ten-year period 1988 to 1998, 8,298 equity investments were reported by NVCA members (of these, 3,992 were not identifiable by gender and 4,016 were male-led). Of these only 290, or 3.5 percent, were reportedly made in women-led businesses. Between 1996 and 1998, the percentage representation improved from 3.8 percent to 4.1 percent an 8 percent increase. But despite the improving trend, women-owned/led firms receive only 4 to 5 percent of all invested venture capital. In contrast, women own more than 35 percent of all U.S. businesses (about 7.4 million). In January 2000, the National Women s Business Council and a consortium of partners launched a historic women s venture forum, Springboard 2000, to enhance the proportion of investments in women-led businesses by putting the spotlight on worthy ventures. The premise of the initiative was that the disparity that existed disadvantaged not only women-owned businesses but also investors who may be unaware of attractive investment opportunities. In 2000, forums were held in Silicon Valley (San Francisco), the Mid-Atlantic (Washington, D.C.), and New England (Boston). In 2001, a forum launched in the Northeast (New York City), and two more are scheduled, one in the Midwest (Chicago) and one in the Southwest (Dallas). In 2000, 900 applications were received, and 84 companies were chosen for coaching and presentation. A total of $1.02 billion was sought by the ventures for an average of $10 million per venture. Since the 2000 forums, $408 million has been raised by 26 ventures, and one company was positioned to launch an IPO but withdrew because of the market downturn. These investments compare to those made in new ventures overall for first quarter 2000, which received $22.7 billion for 1,557 companies ( The data from NVCA and Springboard 2000 are revealing but not conclusive. Tracking equity investments to determine the distribution by gender is difficult since the leading data bases, National Venture Capital Association (Thompson Financial) and Venture One (PriceWaterhouseCoopers), do not report composition of the management team and/or analyses of the gender breakdown of businesses funded by venture capital. The Diana Project and the Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership are tracking the funding experiences of the Springboard 2000 ventures and launching a panel study of high-growth ventures to assemble a database of

4 48 Women in Business: Access and Success women-funded deals adequate for comparing the experiences of women s businesses with those of men-led companies. Potential Barriers In additional to illustrating the structure of the venture financing process, the theoretical model also illustrates three potential reasons for explaining the funding gap: (1) women choose not to seek equity capital; (2) women lack the knowledge and capabilities to obtain equity capital; or (3) women encounter structural barriers that preclude their access to equity funding. Data from a survey conducted in 2000 by the National Foundation of Women Business Owners and from Springboard 2000 Venture were used to test these assumptions. Strategic choice: Grow or not? Growth is a strategic choice that entrepreneurs may or may not elect. Growth is a function of the entrepreneur s aspirations, product/market strategy, and context. One of the most critical strategic choices entrepreneurs make concerns the entry strategy for their business choosing which economic sector or geographic location is optimal. Because women-owned businesses tend to be smaller than those owned by men and are concentrated in service and retail sectors, women often are seen as choosing to start and grow businesses in economic sectors or geographic locations that appear mismatched with the industry preferences of venture capitalists. Statistics from 1999 show that venture capital dollars were largely invested in computer software, hardware and services; medical, health, and biotechnology; communications; and consumer goods (Thompson Financial Securities Data, 1999). However, growth opportunities exist in all economic sectors. The majority of all businesses are small, and like many men, many women aspire to build a highgrowth business that benefits from outside equity funding. Recent research by the National Foundation for Women Business Owners (2001:1) notes that Fast growth does not equal high tech. Furthermore, not all high-tech firms are fast growing. It found that of the businesses experiencing 30 percent or more growth in revenue or employees over the past three years, less than 20 percent of both women-owned and men-owned businesses are in high technology areas of biomedical or life sciences, information technology, the Internet, or telecommunications. Instead, over 80 percent of all fast-growth businesses those likely to require equity financing are found in other industries, such as manufacturing, construction, retail trade or services. Consequently, economic sector as an explanation for gender difference in securing equity financing appears inadequate. Human and social capital If sector does not sufficiently explain the funding gap, do deficiencies in human and social capital account for the disparity? Industry pundits and researchers alike have pointed to human capital as the single most important factor for venture capital investment. Do women business owners lack adequate knowledge and capabilities, such as business experience, appropriate training or education the background preferred by outside investors? If not, are their firms seen as less attractive targets for capital investments? Analyzing data collected by the National Foundation of Women Business Owners (NFWBO) in 2000, we found that women owners who have

5 Financing High-Growth Enterprise: Is Gender an Issue? 49 higher levels of financial knowledge, prior experience in starting new ventures, senior management experience and graduate education are more likely to receive equity funding. Women with these experiences have a higher probability of funding success. An alternative source of human capital is that provided through the entrepreneur s social network. Pundits have speculated that it s not so much what you know, as who you know. The question is whether women are part of the right social networks those that allow them to gain access to opportunities and resources, save time, and tap into advice and moral support offered by venture capital firms. Aldrich (1989, p. 112) agues that venture capitalists are probably as important for their broker role as for the funds they provide to struggling entrepreneurs. They bring together technical experts, management consultants, and financial planners to supplement an entrepreneur s limited knowledge and experience. Do women have the advantage of this social capital? Further analysis of the NFWBO (2000) data reveals that the more varied the group of business advisors a women business owner consults, especially professional advisors like financial or general business consultants, the more likely she is to succeed in securing equity financing. Similarly, having a mentor who also is a business owner yields a similar benefit. Those that rely principally on foundational business advisors like attorneys, bankers, or accountants derived no appreciable advantage in raising equity funding, once the effects of other advisors were controlled. Data from the planned panel study will allow direct comparisons of the social networks of men business owners with those of women to further explore the usefulness of social capital as a substitute or complement to the entrepreneur s human capital. Structural barriers An alternative explanation for the equity-funding gap is that structural barriers preclude women s access to equity markets. This explanation questions not whether women use the experiences and knowledge of individuals in their social network to augment their own human capital, but whether they are locked out of the networks all together. Bygrave (1992) describes the venture capital industry as a closed network, geographically concentrated and tightly interconnected. Social network theory suggests that people tend to interact with people like themselves. This preference leads to segregated networks (Brass, 1985). If the venture capital industry is male-dominated, the likelihood that the networks of women entrepreneurs will overlap with women equity-investors who can assist them in securing financing is remote. To examine this supposition, we mapped the gender composition of the venture capital industry using Pratt s Guide to Venture Capital Sources for 1995 and Across the five-year time period, the number of women in the industry has risen, but the percentage of women in the industry has remained the same. In 1995, 3,647 people were employed, but only 340 were women. By 2000, the industry had grown more than 65 percent to 6,086 people, but only 563 were women. For both years, women constituted less than 9 percent of the people employed and less than 4 percent of those who typically make the investment decision (e.g., partners, managing directors, principals). The sheer number of women gaining employment in the VC industry has increased substantially. The number of female associates increased 44 percent over the five-year period, whereas the number of female managing directors increased by 215 percent. Much of the latter increase is probably due to increases in the number of women-focused funds, typically directed by women. Despite the impressive percentage increase in their representation, the number of women in the VC industry remains small and their

6 50 Women in Business: Access and Success growth in numbers has only maintained pace with overall growth in the industry itself. The question posed in the Diana Project is financing entrepreneurship gender related? appears to be answered. Our research suggests yes. Women own over 35 percent of U.S. businesses and are receiving only 5 percent of venture capital funding. Social networks so critical to gaining access to both financial resources, advice, coaching, and technical expertise are dominated by men. To the extent that people prefer to interact with people like themselves, women will be locked out. Less than 10 percent of those in the VC industry are women, and less than 5 percent of the decision-makers are women. Implications What are the implications of disparity between men and women owned ventures having access to equity funding? Wealth creation: Lack of investment in women-led ventures diminishes the opportunity for women to grow their businesses and create wealth. U.S. economy: Lack of equity may limit growth and diffusion of innovations, job creation and economic contributions of women-led ventures to the U.S. economy. Investment opportunities: The venture community may be missing out on the chance to fund and receive returns from good investments. Public Policy Suggestions To encourage and facilitate equity investment in all entrepreneurial ventures, not just those led and founded by men, the following steps should be taken: Track investments and performance of investments by gender in all venturefunded companies. Encourage investors to seek out and consider investment in women-led ventures. Encourage programs to educate and prepare women to lead fast growth businesses whether high-tech or not. Sponsor forums, like Springboard 2000, to link women with potential investors. Encourage and educate women to participate in the investment process (angels, corporate venture funds, and venture capital firms). Future Research The findings of the Diana Project add insight in a number of ways, but they raise many additional questions. The next stage of the research will put greater attention on the performance of women-led business and on the decision process of the investors. Namely, we will consider: (1) whether women-led venture capital-funded business perform as well as men-led businesses; (2) whether venture capitalists perceive women-led ventures to be more risky investments; and (3) whether a bias exists against women of child-bearing age when they seek equity capital?

7 Financing High-Growth Enterprise: Is Gender an Issue? 51 References Aldrich, H Networking among women entrepreneurs. In Women-owned businesses, edited by O. Hagan, C. Rivchun, and D. Sexton, New York: Praeger. Ando, Faith & Associates Women owned business: The new economic force. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office. Brass, D. J Men s and women s networks. A study of interaction patterns and influence in an organization. Academy of Management Journal 28: Bygrave, W. D Venture capital returns in the 1980 s. In The state of the art of entrepreneurship, edited by D. L. Sexton and J. Kasarda, Boston: PWS Kent. National Foundation for Women Business Owners and Catalyst Paths to entrepreneurship: New directions for women in business. Silver Spring, MD: National Foundation for Women Business Owners. National Foundation for Women Business Owners, Capital, credit and financing: An update. Silver Spring, MD. National Foundation for Women Business Owners, 2001 (February). Entrepreneurial vision in action: Exploring growth among women- and men-owned firms. Silver Spring, MD. Pratt's guide to venture capital sources, 1995; 2000 edition. New York: Securities Data Publishing. Stout. Wall Street Journal, November 28, U.S. Small Business Administration Women in business. Office of Advocacy, APEC Women Entrepreneurs Report: United States/First Draft: December 28, Washington, D.C.

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