Episode 32: Leveling The Playing Field For Female Entrepreneurs

Welcome back to Tech Forward, listeners! This week, for the first time, I’m interviewing two guests: Gerri Kahnweiler and Cayla Weisberg, co-founders of Chicago-based InvestHER Ventures. InvestHER is an early stage investment firm that partners with and invests in female entrepreneurs. As a strong leader in philanthropy and civic engagement, Geri has a track record for empowering women and girls to reach their full potential. Her mission is to create funding opportunities for women who are focused on technology-enabled business services and data driven solutions for large markets. With her background in sales and a focus on people over products, Cayla offers hands-on thought leadership on startup scaling, pivoting, and operation excellence for InvestHER’s portfolio companies. We’ll be digging into the catalyst behind launching InvestHER, and how they’re working to level the playing field for female entrepreneurs across the country.

Cayla and Gerri joined forces to launch InvestHER Ventures in 2016, a year when female founders received only 2.19% of venture funding. Considering one third of Chicago’s entrepreneurs are women, those numbers clearly aren’t the result of a pipeline problem. Recognizing this massive opportunity, Gerri and Cayla decided to focus on supporting female founders in the post-product, pre-revenue phase. They also assist these companies with customer acquisition, building a scalable sales funnel, and account management. “We have the easy job, really. The entrepreneurs have the hard job, and we’re there to support them. We admire each and every woman we connect with and evaluate.”

When it comes to working closely with a co-founder, Cayla and Gerri stress the importance of communication, clear division of duties, and presenting a united front. With their very different backgrounds — Gerri in philanthropy, and Cayla in sales and entrepreneurship — they make an effective and efficient team. “All our decisions are made together. I would not make an investment in a company unless Cayla was on board.” They strongly encourage other female founders to “find the yin to your yang,” a partner whose strengths and opportunities complement their own.

Both Gerri and Cayla have advice to share for women looking to get into investment. For anyone who already has funds to invest, Gerri recommends finding a local angel group, and working to understand the entire process from pitch to investment. Having witnessed this process play out many times, Cayla wants would-be female investors to know “there is no traditional path to investing anymore. A lot of funds are looking to hire people who have taken non-traditional capital risks in one way or another. Just because you didn’t go to business school doesn’t mean you can’t get into investing.”

Cayla and Gerri, thank you so much for joining me on the show today to share the exciting work you’re doing with InvestHER Ventures. Thank you also to all of you out there listening, sharing the show, and reviewing. See you next week!

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