The two non-profits “Ann Arbor SPARK” and “Shine and Rise” teamed up this fall to put on the sold-out “Women in Tech”, an a2Tech360 event, “Empowering Women in Tech and Beyond: Building Strong Networks.”
This is traditionally one of the most overwhelmingly popular technology events of the year but traditionally gets little to no press. However, there are important takeaways for participants and all others even after the conference is over, such as building relationships between colleagues within the industry and becoming financially aware.
We followed up from the SPARK Women in Tech event and interviewed Natalie Levy, the Founder and Managing Director of She’s Independent Investments and Brittni Abilou, Founder and Managing Director of VentureHue.
Levy is a 2006 University of Michigan engineering graduate who worked on Wall Street. However, most of her career has been in and around tech, spanning technology sales to technology investing roles.
Abiolu has 18 years of experience in capital readiness and technology, specifically marketing technology such as search engine optimization and consulting for startups.
Levy served as the moderator for the panel discussion at this year’s “Women in Tech” event which focused on community and belonging. The outcomes from the conference apply to almost all industries and aspects of life.
“Alignment and a supportive community are so critical to showing up as your authentic self and performing at your best,” Levy said. “If you’re not in a business or community where you are supported and celebrated, the opportunity for personal growth is likely lacking and you likely won’t achieve the same performance results.”
While support may be offered by others in the workplace, it may not necessarily be as impactful.
“Similarly, sponsorship and mentorship are key to developing less seasoned talent and pathing for a powerful career trajectory — especially for women and diverse folks,” Levy said. “Many companies don’t do a great job of offering these types of resources, so external community and resources can be a critical piece to finding success and professional fulfillment.”
Abiolu focused on financial elements by leading a discussion on the “Difference Between Angel Investing and Venture Capital,” to help women understand how to become an angel investor or venture capitalist.
“A key point I wanted to convey is when founders should raise from an angel investor versus when they should raise from a venture capitalist,” said Abiolu. “Angel investors typically invest during the ‘family and friends’ round or during the pre-seed stage when there is little to no revenue and venture capitalists usually invest when you have established product-market fit (i.e. a customer base) and generate at least $100K+ in annual recurring revenue (i.e. the pre-seed or seed stage). This is important to know so you approach the right investors at the right time.”
Levy also pointed out an important issue raised by another participant.
“Separately, one of the session attendees for our panel raised a concern around her current position and lack of support and alignment within the culture of the startup she was working at,” Levy said. “She additionally noted being the only woman on their small team. We discussed the need to assess the situation and environment to understand if they were really listening to her feedback and whether they could change, and if not, that her talent and energy would be best served elsewhere. It’s important to understand what you need and make it happen or move on.”
Going forward Abiolu and Levy emphasized the need for more women to be involved in Angel and Venture investing.
“We need more women in capital allocation roles, period,” Levy shared that “by getting more women into investing and capital flows, we’ll see more women on boards and in positions of influence. When this happens more women will get funded. More tech, AI, and products will be built with women in mind, and gaps that exist across wealth and wages will also be impacted for the positive.”
Levy and Abiolu added that business, financial astuteness, and support are important to everyone.
“Investing may sound out of reach to you but it’s not,” Levy said. “Whether you have capital today or not, all you need is an interest. You can start writing checks as soon as you’re ready and/or map a path to investing in the future. Every dollar counts. When we put our wealth together we have real influence and power collectively.”
Donna Marie Iadipaolo is a writer, journalist, and State of Michigan certified teacher, since 1990. She has written for national publications like The Village Voice, Ear Magazine of New Music, Insurance & Technology, and TheStreet.
She is now writing locally for many publications, including Current Magazine, Ann Arbor Family, and the Ann Arbor Independent. Her undergraduate degree is from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where she graduated with an honors bachelor’s degree and three teacher certificate majors: mathematics, social sciences, English. She also earned three graduate degrees in Master of Science, Master of Arts, and Education Specialist Degree.