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Investing in Women-Owned Startups, a Better ROI

JPMorgan Chase recently announced a strategic partnership with Tampa Bay Wave and Embarc Collective to invest in women-owned tech startups. The partnership, called TechWomenFL, will receive $500,000 of investment from JPMorgan Chase over the course of two years to focus exclusively on women-owned tech startups in the Tampa Bay region.

Selected businesses will go through a 90-day accelerator program. Embarc Collective’s role will include putting together a “glaring gap summit,” for this upcoming November. Lakshmi Shenoy, CEO of Embarc Collective describes her vision for the summit as, “a solution oriented summit that’s convening national thought leaders here in Tampa Bay to really think about the best practices that we can pull from other regions on growing the number entrepreneurs in a community and ensuring that we are delivering on the specific needs that women entrepreneurs have to grow their ventures.”

Tampa Bay Wave is a 501c3 nonprofit with a nationally recognized accelerator program that offers mentorship, connections and networking opportunities to founders. Unlike many other accelerator programs, they take no equity in the companies in exchange for their assistance. Embarc Collective, which recently had its ribbon cutting at its new facility in downtown Tampa, provides individualized support to startups through strategy sessions and a facility to work alongside other founders, to secure a higher likelihood of success for their business.

The significance of the JPMorgan Chase partnership comes from the lack of investment in female-owned tech startups. Forbes recently reported that, “The next Steve Jobs will be a woman,” but that she will have an especially hard time because, “VCs have invested 98% of their capital in startups led by men.”

Florida has immense talent and resources, and yet it gets less than 2% of the venture capital in the US each year. If that’s the number going to startups in general, you can imagine what a small chunk of that goes to female-led businesses.

On the bright side, some investors are finally being more intentional about putting their money towards women-led ventures, with some firms making sure that at least half of their capital goes to them. Investing in women is not just an ethical choice so that a company’s diversity index goes up – it’s a smarter investment. Studies show that women-led private tech startups have a significantly higher ROI and do better over time than those led by men.

Diversity and innovation correlate. No one knows this better than women themselves, and that’s perhaps why they lead the majority of new businesses. The current environment is ripe for women to break barriers and lead new ventures. Old habits die hard, but as more investment goes toward women-led ventures, it is becoming normalized. 

Of the new partnership with JPMorgan Chase, Linda Olson, CEO of Tampa Bay Wave says, “I always get excited when there’s an opportunity to support the underrepresented entrepreneur.”

Her excitement also flows from her having a soft spot for the children in her community. She also mentioned that she looks forward to the day where there will be role models for kids of any gender or ethnicity, right in their own back yards, as more investment pours into the new business ventures and founders in her community. Innovators find value in what others haven’t seen yet.

Wouldn’t it be the code of a smart investor to seek out the value in those who have been overlooked?