How can women-founded startups in Pittsburgh attract more funding? An investment firm came to the city this spring to find out.
New York-based investment firm Chloe Capital announced the recipients of its Invest in Women x Pittsburgh this week after holding the final showcase for the program at the end of April. The program involved an accelerator-style event series for five women-led companies and was supported by incubator Ascender and the Richard King Mellon Foundation. The goal of Invest in Women x Pittsburgh is to connect local founders with people beyond the region to draw in new investments and other forms of support, Ascender Executive Director Nadyli Nuñez told Technical.ly when the program was first announced.
The impetus, of course, was the lag in venture capital activity for businesses led solely by women. The program notes that despite cultural progress in accepting women as capable and successful founders, only 2.2% of venture capital in the United States went to women-owned businesses in 2021, despite the record-breaking deal volumes in VC across the globe.
“We’re elated to have been a part of this event and to contribute to the growing startup culture in Pittsburgh alongside Chloe Capital and the Richard King Mellon Foundation,” Nuñez said in a statement. “Every city should have an #InvestInWomen program. Such immense benefit directly to founders in an efficient and effective way. This program is a game-changer for our local entrepreneurs.”
The program culminated in an in-person event at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater last month after each of the five startups received a series of trainings in growing a business, from recruiting a diverse team to writing a funding application. Invest in Women x Pittsburgh also gave participants a chance to connect with new potential investors and other industry leaders for feedback, in addition to receiving mentorship and advice from both Nuñez and Chloe Capital Managing Partner Elisa Miller-Out.
The five startups — and the women who founded them — who participated in the program were Alison Alvarez of BlastPoint, Holly Adams of GoWell Benefits, JJ Xu of TalkMeUp, Lauren Golembiewski of Voxable and Nehal Bhojak of Lumis. Of that group, Chloe Capital invested a total of $300,000 in BlastPoint, GoWell Benefits and TalkMeUp. The investment firm did not indicate how much of that total each startup was awarded.
To be sure, the funding is not at the level required to resolve the funding gaps that partially motivated Chloe Capital to launch this program. But it will give those three companies the runway they need to increase marketing or ease the cost of operations — and even those that didn’t receive funding have new exposure to a fast-growing local investment ecosystem.
“We are excited to support these founders and help them accelerate their ventures through this partnership with Ascender and Chloe Capital,” said Sam Reiman, director of the Richard King Mellon Foundation, in a statement. “From using AI in customer intelligence and workforce training to disrupting the insurance tech industry, we’re optimistic about the entrepreneurial future for women in our region.”
Sophie Burkholder is a 2021-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Heinz Endowments. -30-