Seven Chattanooga businesswomen looked around and saw men all around them-male leaders, male entrepreneurs, male investors.
Countless studies have shown that diversity is important to business success, so they wondered where all the women were.
In an attempt to find that out, spur female-led business success in the Southeast and-of course-make money, the women created The JumpFund, which now has at least $2 million of capital to be invested in high-growth, women-led companies.
“We are all women investors, investing in women,” Managing Partner Kristina Montague said. “Nobody else that we’ve found is actually creating a fund that is all women investors investing only in women.”
General partners Cory Allison, Betsy Blunt Brown, Shelley Prevost, Leonora Williamson, Stefanie Crowe, Tiffanie Robinson and Montague-along with their 43 limited partners-have created the angel fund to invest in 10 to 12 early-stage companies.
“The two main things about those companies is that they will be women-led and they will have high-growth potential,” Williamson said. “They have to have their eye on $20 million of revenue or more.”
For The JumpFund leaders, “women-led” means that there is a woman in one of the “C-suite” positions-CEO, CFO or CTO, for example. Those letters stand for chief executive officer, chief financial officer and chief technology officer, respectively.
“We would welcome teams that have men on them, as well,” Williamson said. “There are many studies, including a recent one by Forbes, that show many successful companies have mixed-gender leadership teams.”
The JumpFund isn’t an incubator or a nonprofit, as some people have mistaken it for.
The leaders want “quickly scalable growth that can bring your company and investors quick returns.”
They want to get their money out of this.
They are aiming to invest between $50,000 and $250,000 in the 10-12 companies, and they are looking for equity stakes-no debt.
The JumpFund is also a corporate affiliate of Golden Seeds, which is an early-stage investment firm out of New York that also has a focus on female leaders.
Golden Seeds has about 300 members, about 15 percent of which are men. Members have invested about $60 million in 60 different companies.
As an affiliate, The JumpFund leaders get access to their deal flow and their education about angel investing.
“They are very interested in looking at deals in the Southeast, so our intention is to bring more deals to the Southeast that are women-led,” Montague said.
Example of potential investment
CEO of Your Talent Bridge Sara Buchanan recently pitched to The JumpFund partners.
Nearly five years ago, the Atlanta resident started Your Talent Bridge. She’s now in the process of automating that strategy into a tech platform, called My Job Connector.
My Job Connector is an ”employer-talent matching algorithm and talent engagement platform.” The website and app aim to deliver qualified and engaged recruits that match an employer’s needs, company and corporate culture.
“Think of it as eHarmony for recruiting,” she said.
Incorporating social media elements, My Job Connector will help connect students looking for co-ops, internships and entry-level positions.
Buchanan is raising capital now to take the company beyond the beta stage and is aiming to launch the app in June.
“We have been on college campuses across the Southeast, getting students interested in downloading the app and trying it,” she said. “Our interest rate from students is 85 percent.”
Buchanan said she wouldn’t be where she is now without four investors, who are all female. Her goal is to have a multibillion dollar exit, either through acquisition or IPO.
And if she gets to that point or a point where she is able to, she would jump at the chance to be a part of this angel fund, she said.
“The JumpFund will be a force to be reckoned with,” she said. “[Don’t] underestimate what that fund is capable of accomplishing.”
One of Williamson’s favorite talking points is about how much money The JumpFund has raised in just a few months.
She said that Charlie Brock-CEO of Launch Tennessee who helped lead Chattanooga’s The Company Lab before that-recently said that there is a total of $28 million angel funding in Tennessee, and $15 million of that is in Nashville.
Of the remaining $13 million, Chattanooga has $11 million. The remaining $2 million is divided between Memphis, Knoxville, Oak Ridge and the rest of the state.
“Of that $11 million in Chattanooga, $2 million is raised by The JumpFund,” Williamson said. “So the punch line is that The JumpFund has raised more [angel funding] capital for women in Chattanooga than is available for entrepreneurs in the rest of the state, excluding Nashville. That is amazing.”
Strategic education component
Part of The JumpFund’s mission is to educate others about angel investing, Brown said.
They will focus on their investors and bring speakers from across the country to the area. For example, this month, Managing Partner of Golden Seeds Loretta McCarthy will come here and speak about her experiences.
And although the education component will likely have philanthropic effects, that’s not really the goal for The JumpFund leaders.
It’s about creating more female investors who are educated.
“It’s actually strategic,” Robinson said. “[It helps] to meet our ultimate goal, which is developing more and more angel investors.”
Updated @ 9:19 p.m. on 5/5/14 for clarity and to correct a typographical error.