Episode 21: Inspiring the Next Wave of Female Tech Leaders and Angel Investors

Welcome back to another great episode of Tech Forward, listeners! This week, I’m excited to share my conversation with educator and entrepreneur, Angela Lee. Angela is both Chief Innovation Officer and Associate Dean at Columbia Business School, and the founder of angel investment network, 37 Angels. With her commitment to education, it’s no surprise that she is a sought-after expert for many news networks, and has been invited to advise decision-makers at the highest levels, including Prime Minister Trudeau. We discussed her work fostering teaching excellence at Columbia Business School, how she launched 37 Angels, and her mission to activate female investors.

At Columbia Business School, curricula have evolved to reflect a shift in graduate employment. Whereas graduates once primarily pursued careers in finance or consulting, many of them now go into technology or entrepreneurship. As Chief Innovation Officer, Angela has a threefold mission: faculty excellence beginning with orientation, curriculum strategy, and technology innovation for both in-class an online learning. Though women comprise 35-40% of students in the classroom, participation is still 80% male. Angela has worked extensively to overcome that disparity, from working within clubs to help women be more vocal, to training faculty in leading a diverse classroom. Through tools like SeatGen, which measures student participation and identifies possible bias in the instructor, they have data-driven ways to overcome biases and encourage diversity in participation.

From the day she accidentally began angel investing a decade ago, Angela has had what she calls a “shadow career” of investing in startups. “I have a very high personal bar of what it means to understand something,” Angela notes, and her desires for a network of like-minded people to invest alongside as well as a “soup to nuts” educational platform for investing were the seeds of 37 Angels. In this investment bootcamp, participants learn the fundamentals of angel investing, from financial and governance terms, to venture math, portfolio strategy, and the real world application of said skills. Though she built 37 Angels from a personal need, there was clearly a need for this bootcamp in the market: some long-term angel investors have even asked to take the bootcamp in secret!

The membership network at 37 Angels consists of 80 investors who have invested in 49 companies over the last 5 years. As the only angel network that guarantees a response to founders within 4 weeks of application, 75% of the founder testimonials are from founders that 37 Angels ultimately chose not to fund. Their transparency and efficiency have been heralded as “a breath of fresh air” in the venture community. Though their primary focus is on female investors, the portfolio ultimately matches the pipeline: by activating these investors, they will organically invest in more women than the average angel network.

Angela, thank you so much for coming onto the show this week and sharing all the work you do. Thank you as well to all of you out there listening. See you next week!

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