In 2009, when Amy Norman and Stella Ma started pitching investors on their San Francisco-based startup, Little Passports, both had young children and Norman was pregnant. The overwhelming majority of the investors they met with were men who wanted to know “if we were running this as a ‘lifestyle company,’” Ma recalls. Investors passed and word got around Silicon Valley that “there’s no way women like this could grow a company fast enough” to satisfy venture capitalists, Norman says.
Yet grow it did, to $5 million in revenue five years later. Norman and Ma eventually raised nearly $2 million for their education business, which sells monthly subscription packages to help kids learn about geography. Much of the funding came from a female investor group that saw in the idea potential that eluded many men.
With ‘brogrammer’ culture spreading through the male-dominated world of tech, Little Passports’ experience reflects a contrasting trend: Women are running an increasing number of America’s startups, and they make up a growing share of the angel investors funding them. Today women make up about 20 percent of both the entrepreneurs and investors involved in angel deals, up from single-digits a decade ago, according to the University of New Hampshire’s Center for Venture Research(PDF).
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