Women Angels Investing in Emerging Economies


On August 25, 2016, we held our sixth Hera Fund Wingpact Conversation. Our guest this month was Christine Emilie Lim, in a discussion about “Investing in Emerging Economies.”

Silvia Mah, along with Christine, led this information-packed session. Christine Lim is a Founding Partner of Wingpact, and wrote a section in Impact With Wings about this topic. Silvia Mah is the founder and CEO of Hera Labs and Hera Angels, and has a personal interest in supporting women entrepreneurs globally. Silvia is from Venezuela, Christine is from the Philippines, and other Wingpact partners are from Hong Kong, India, and Argentina, so this is a very globally focused group of women.

Christine started by talking about how angel investing is nascent in emerging economies. One opportunity that is taking off is diaspora investing, where people living around the globe invest in companies in their home country.

Diaspora investing is a great way to invest with positive social impact. Many of the entrepreneurs on the ground in developing countries are solving community issues in areas like education, food, sustainability, and health care. Silvia pointed out that it is great to support people on the ground who are creating their own solutions, rather than implement solutions from afar, which does not always work. On the other hand, Christine brought up some examples of US-originated solutions which have been adapted by entrepreneurs in other countries, such as on-demand car apps adapted to on-demand motor bikes. Another dynamic is that many foreign-educated ex-patriots are returning to their home countries to address their community’s challenges through entrepreneurship.

These social-impact solutions can have a high rate of return in addition to strengthening communities. For example, the peer-to-peer payments market in Africa can really scale widely. On-demand doctors and medical services is another big need that market-based solutions are addressing.

The government role in entrepreneurship varies widely in the set of countries that Christine and Silvia know about. Aside from growing government resources, global partners are also stepping in to fund and support activities for these emerging innovation ecosystems.

Many countries have angel groups, and there is a great need for education about startup practices and how equity investing works. There are more and more opportunities for us to mentor across borders, through conferences and other programs. Geeks on a Plane from 500 Startups brings global investors to international startup scenes to explore cross-border opportunities.

Angel investors need to work to find deal flow in the areas they are passionate about. Toniic is a great resource for finding good social impact deal flow in emerging markets. If you are investing from a distance, it’s considered best practice to find local partners to help you conduct due diligence. Many entrepreneurs and local partners come from a traditional business background and are not used to thinking about high growth. Investors from more developed ecosystems can help encourage entrepreneurs and local partners to think bigger.

We have a special interest in the many women around the globe starting businesses to support their families and meet needs in their communities – we want to encourage these women to think about larger scale. We can also help by bringing these emerging businesses exposure to international markets. When entrepreneurs start to understand their international scaling opportunity, this makes them more attractive to savvy global investors.

Silvia and Christine discussed how there is a need for more resources to connect angel investors with entrepreneurs globally. There are social impact funds and some training and mentoring opportunities for business owners in developing economies. Pitch competitions in the US are starting to feature international businesses. We are seeing more and more investor trips, for example Ingressive’s Tour of Tech through which Wingpact’s Suzanne Andrews learned about the exploding entrepreneurship scene in Nigeria. However, these resources are just the tip of the iceberg in what could be done to connect investors and entrepreneurs globally.

Some resources:

Watch for upcoming new fund announcements from Rising Tide, which is looking at providing a variety of learn-by-doing opportunities for global investing.

Barefoot In Business is raising global awareness and funding for Ugandan women entrepreneurs. Watch for Wingpact participation in the November 18 release in New York during Global Entrepreneurship Week.

The #WEMENA thread on Twitter is a resource for women entrepreneurs in the MENA region and Silvia follows this as an interested global investor.

A final question Christine emphasized is how to insure that the investor mix in emerging innovation ecosystems is diverse in terms of gender from the very beginning. Nascent angel communities tend to be predominantly male. We want to avoid the problem we have in Silicon Valley, where the ecosystem is quite mature, and now we need to retrofit our structures to include women. How to build a gender-equal system from the ground up is a big open question at this time.

Silvia closed by reminding us that as women, we invest in what we are passionate about, and we want to lift up the women doing great work all around the world.

You can view the entire 1-hour conversation on Hera Lab’s YouTube channel.


Wingpact has written the first book about angel investing for women, Impact With Wings: Stories to Inspire and Mobilize Women Investors and Entrepreneurs. Follow Wingpact on our website or on Twitter at @Wingpact.

Hera Fund is the creator of the Hera Venture Summit, which this year on September 17 was an inspiring gathering of women angel investors from all over the country and around the world.

This post simultaneously published on Wingpact’s blog, Soar Higher.

Posted in Best Practices, Global Network of Women, Hera Fund Wingpact Conversations, Impact With Wings, Inspiring Women, Resources | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Pros and Cons of Angel Groups for Women Angels

Amy Chang

On July 21, 2016, we held another in our series of Hera Fund Wingpact Conversations with Angel Investors, featuring angel investor Amy Chang. Amy is a great example of the many new women angel investors we now have in the ecosystem who are actively bringing their passion, vision, and financial clout to building the future. This conversation was hosted by Silvia Mah, Founding Partner of Hera Fund, and Suzanne Andrews, Founding Partner of Wingpact.

Amy shared her experience working with angel groups and why she sees angel networks as a crucial resource.

When considering whether to join angel groups or work as a solo angel, it is important to think about deal flow, or the number of investment opportunities that you are exposed to on a regular basis. Angels typically need to look at 30 to 40 companies before finding one to invest in. One of the biggest advantages of angel groups is that they go a long way toward bringing you this level of deal flow, since groups attract a lot of companies and have systems to manage the volume and share the good deals with their members.

Amy has found that her involvement in angel groups also increases her deal flow informally. Often, companies come to Amy’s attention through the personal contacts she makes in groups, outside the formalized angel group process. Angel investors like to introduce companies to each other.

Another reason angel networks increase your deal flow is that they tend to use deal-tracking technologies like Gust, which give you access to investible companies all around the country.

Another great advantage of angel groups, besides deal flow, is the positive impact on the due diligence process, when angels investigate a promising company deeply in order to make a fully informed investment decision. Groups have a built-in pool of people to share the due diligence work with. Also, angel groups have access to due diligence reports done by other angel groups. This sharing of information makes the process more efficient for investors, and for entrepreneurs as well. Plus, you can draw on the skill sets of all the group members for evaluating the many aspects of companies. If you are a new investor, your access to the expertise of experienced angels is invaluable.

Angel groups that Amy is involved in in the San Diego area include Keiretsu Forum, Tech Coast Angels, and the Wharton Alumni Angel Network (which you do not have to be a Wharton graduate to join). Silvia is also connected with a variety of angel groups, including Hera Fund (which she founded), Golden Seeds, Pasadena Angels, and the Los Angeles Venture Association (LAVA). When you are a member of one angel group, you benefit from many groups, since they share deals with each other. For example, if Kieretsu is funding a company, and there is room in the round for more investors, they may pull in Tech Coast Angels, or Golden Seeds, or any other group they have connections to. Investors want their companies to be able to raise the entire round of funding they need to be successful, so angel groups are motivated to bring in other groups when more funds are needed.

With all of these great benefits, are there any disadvantages to joining angel groups? One consideration is that the groups are not inexpensive – it could cost thousands of dollars per year to join, depending on the group. Amy points out that this expenditure is worthwhile, especially considering how much money angel investors put to work, and the resources groups provide to help their members make better investment decisions.

Do angel groups promote a kind of groupthink, or herd mentality? It’s possible, but it’s also a positive to be in a group of like-minded individuals who are passionate about supporting innovation. You will definitely want to do your own thinking, while also benefitting from the expertise and camaraderie of others.

Some groups have recommended annual investment minimums. However, no group wants to push investors into deals they are not comfortable with.

In closing, Amy encouraged all women who have the necessary capital to explore angel investing. Even if you feel a lack of confidence, at least explore some of the many ways to learn. As angel investors, we all want to keep growing. Some of the ways Amy continually learns more are webinars and educational content from the Angel Capital Association (ACA), joining due diligence calls, and asking specific questions of friends. Amy and Silvia meet regularly for coffee to share ideas and knowledge, and to support each other.

You can watch the full discussion on angel groups with Amy Chang on Hera Labs’ YouTube channel.

If you found this article interesting, you will want to join us at the Hera Venture Summit, for women angels and entrepreneurs, Saturday September 17, at UC San Diego. We will listen to each other, learn from each other, and of course, network. As Sylvia says, “You never know who you will be sitting next to!”

Some pre-summit events to note are:

We hope to see you at some of these events – join the conversation to advance the women’s startup ecosystem and connect women angels and women entrepreneurs!

Also posted on Wingpact’s blog, Soar Higher.

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Latina Women Make Great Angel Investors

GH_cover image-facebook_Valentina-2016-06-20

On June 23, 2016, we had the delight of hosting Valentina Vitols for our Hera Fund Wingpact Conversation. Monthly Hera Fund Wingpact Conversations are convened by Silvia Mah, Founder of Hera Fund and Hera Labs, and Suzanne Andrews, Founding Partner of Wingpact.

Valentina Vitols is a Latina angel investor, a Pipeline Angels member, co-founder of the Seattle Women’s Impact Fund, and active in her Seattle innovation ecosystem. She actively seeks out Latina women to bring into her community of angel investors.

Valentina shared with us about two topics that she is passionate about – activating Latina angel investors, and developing deal flow – both areas that rely heavily on relationship-building.

Both Silvia and Valentina are from Venezuela, are angel investors who support women entrepreneurs, and are passionate about finding more Latinas to become part of this movement.

Latina Women Make Great Angel Investors

These observations from Valentina’s and Silvia’s personal experiences as active members of their communities explain this major takeaway from our discussion, that Latina women in general are especially well-suited to be angel investors.

First, Latinas tend to enjoy building relationships, and they are good at it! Networking, meeting new people, and talking with them about their interests comes naturally. Women actively share deals, and the process of making of meaningful connections between entrepreneurs and other investors is very satisfying.

Secondly, Latinas are currently becoming more active and interested in investment decision-making. Latinas tend to make safe, structured investments, and at the same time, they are fearless. With education about the process and the community benefits, many would enjoy the enriching experience of a new kind of investing.

Latinas are also very generous as shown by their commitment to philanthropy.  Supporting other women is near and dear to their hearts. Angel investing involves a more personal relationship than other kinds of investing. We have the opportunity to develop warm, personal relationships with entrepreneurs and activate our nurturing sides. Valentina finds she is always learning, having fun, and being enriched by the entrepreneurs she meets.

Valentina observes a paradigm shift in how women are investing, in ways that express our values and lifestyle needs. We are supporting companies that are creating new structures that meet the needs of how women need to work. For example, many of our startups provide freelance jobs, which work well for moms juggling multiple responsibilities.

How to get more Latina women involved in angel investing

In general, Latinas are especially relationship-focused so networking and word-of-mouth is a great way to bring women in. Latina communities are scattered – we need to find and educate them about the opportunities and benefits of angel investing. Latina women qualified to be angel investors are out there. A particular group of Latinas ripe for angel investing is women ready to come back to the work force, and looking for meaningful, high-impact work. When women understand the positive social impact of angel investing, they will be interested. Silvia says, “If you are supporting your community with philanthropy already, why not find a Latina entrepreneur to invest in?” Connecting potential Latina investors with Latina entrepreneurs is another way to inspire women to get involved in angel investing.

Reaching out to the media is effective, observed Valentina. There is a lot of information available for women about becoming entrepreneurs but not much for women who might be interested in investing. (Check out Wingpact’s new book, Impact With Wings, which was written to show women readers why angel investing could be empowering and satisfying for them.)

Valentina expressed her dream that there could be a class of new angel investors who are all Latina, like the recent Pipeline Angels cohort in Atlanta that was all African-American.

Deal Flow Comes Naturally to Latinas

Valentina said finding potential companies to invest in is one of her favorite parts of angel investing. She gets to network, talk to a lot of people, see their excitement, and talk with them a lot about what they care about.

Silvia and Valentina advise entrepreneurs who are looking to become part of investors’ deal flow to take advantage of opportunities to go meet angel investors.  Both Hera Fund and Valentina offer regular open hours for any entrepreneur who wants to come and connect.

Next Steps

Valentina closed our conversation by encouraging women to think about angel investing, no matter what your background is. There is a need for your expertise, and some entrepreneur will definitely benefit from what you bring. Valentina offered to make herself available to any Latina women who would like to connect with her about angel investing.

This was a very rich conversation, with only the briefest highlights reported here.  Watch the full session on YouTube.

Attend the Hera Venture Summit to learn more about angel investing and connect with women angels. There will be a number of Latina women angels attending, many from Tijuana. Sept 17, 8:30am-7pm, at the University of San Diego. Register here.

Come meet the authors at the Impact With Wings San Diego launch.  This historic book is the first for women about angel investing. August 17.

Watch for the Fast Pitch in preparation for the Hera Venture Summit.

Join our next Hera Fund Wingpact Conversation with Amy ChangThe Pros and Cons of Joining Angel Networks, on Thursday July 21, 4-5pm on Google Hangout.

Let’s keep on investing and building bridges!

Also published on Wingpact’s Blog, Soar Higher.

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Circles of Nurturing Women Entrepreneurs and Angel Investors

Partner_GH_cover image-facebook_2people_Raising

I have noticed that women love mentoring. We love seeing the best in someone and we are good at drawing that potential out. We desire to share our hard-learned lessons so that others can skip over our mistakes and progress further than we ever did. The look on another woman’s face when she has a realization she would not have gotten on her own is priceless to us.

On May 26, 2016, our Hera Fund Wingpact Founder Funder Conversation was all about this. We had a unique opportunity to discuss “Raising the Next Generation of Women Entrepreneurs and Angel Investors” with Jagruti Bhikha and Priya Bhikha. Jagruti and Priya are one of the very few mother-daughter angel investor pairs we know, and they also are engaged together in advancing the ecosystem for women entrepreneurs around the globe.

When we spoke with Jagruti and Priya, they were calling in from Hong Kong, where they were about to attend the RISE Tech Conference together. They had been traveling throughout Malaysia, Abu Dhabi, and Dubai, learning about the developing innovation ecosystems in those places.

We heard from Priya and Jagruti about creating role models and bridging generations. As the conversation progressed, multiple interwoven and related threads emerged.

Jagruti has had a long-standing passion and commitment to supporting and mentoring women entrepreneurs around the world. Through her involvement and leadership in projects such as Grace Hopper Celebration India, Women Entrepreneur Quest, Jagriti Yatra, and the first women-only hackathon in India, Jagruti Bhikha has mentored thousands of women worldwide.

Priya shared how her mother originally helped her get involved with angel investing. And, even as part of the “younger generation,” Priya is a global mentor in her own right. On this trip, Priya also visited Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, and Tokyo. In each locale, she has been connecting with women business owners and entrepreneurs and sharing ideas with them about how they might grow their businesses and have a bigger impact on their families and communities.

During the course of this conversation, we discovered we were each involved in concentric circles of mentoring: in our families, communities, and the world.

Silvia Armitano Mah, Founder of Hera Labs and Hera Fund, has life experience that mirrors the circles of influence that the Bhikha family demonstrates. Every day, through Hera Labs, Silvia supports women entrepreneurs in her community of San Diego to help them step up and bring their businesses to the next level. At the same time, Silvia carries a global perspective. She had two guests from Russia on the call with us who are part of a growing connection and exchange that Silvia is building with the St. Petersburg innovation community. Meanwhile, Silvia is raising three children and teaches them about things like what makes a company investible.

I can relate to the experiences of Silvia, Jagruti, and Priya. I am also a mom, I have been a mentor for many women in my community, and I share the passion for building bridges between women across continents and cultures to advance opportunity for women.

What we discovered is that for us, the “pipeline” for women entrepreneurs is not a linear thing, as it is usually described. We as women have multiple concentric interwoven connections with others through which we mentor and support other women. We connect in our families, our communities, and around the globe. These are not separate activities for us, they are all integrated into the fabric of our lives. And our roles are fluid and overlapping, as demonstrated by Priya learning from her mother at the same time she mentors women entrepreneurs throughout Southeast Asia.

How do we find the time and energy to have this level of influence in so many spheres? Our answer is work-life integration. We don’t have separate times and spaces for our different relationship and responsibilities – we integrate it all together. For example, Silvia talks around the dinner table about some of the due diligence she is doing on investment opportunities, and sometimes even brings her kids into the process to evaluate kid-facing products. Jagruti uses her travel time with her daughter(s) to attend tech and innovation events with them.

These characteristics and habits of integration, mentoring, interweaving, and support are powerful practices that come naturally to women.

Women are also globally-oriented, and naturally connect with other women in different places and cultures. As Jagruti says, “Every culture has a different set of challenges, but the common thread is that the support of other women is important to us all.” Using our habits of thinking multi-dimensionally and addressing multiple goals at the same time, we women can simultaneously address global, community, and family challenges in very context-sensitive and effective ways.

Our conversation was a hope-inspiring revelation of these feminine passions and methodologies. It’s important to identify, own, and celebrate these powerful integrated and connected ways of working, so we can leverage them to maximum benefit. If we can do this, we will certainly be able to move faster toward global solutions and opportunity for all.

You can view this entire conversation on YouTube, and hear more about specific practices the participants use in their mentoring.

Our next Hera Fund Wingpact Founder Funder Conversation will be held on Thursday, June 23, 4-5pm PST, and will feature Valentina Vitols, Pipeline angel from Seattle. Join the conversation – follow Hera Fund on Facebook and watch for the link to the hangout.

For more about nurturing the pipeline of women angel investors, check out Wingpact’s new book, Impact With Wings, the first book for women about angel investing.

Finally, for more conversations like this one and much more, don’t miss the Hera Venture Summit in San Diego on September 17, with sessions for women entrepreneurs, women angel investors, and building bridges between them.

Also published on Wingpact’s blog, Soar Higher.

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Concrete Steps for Advancing Diversity in the Women’s Startup Ecosystem

Jackie & Lili

On April 28, 2016, we held a Hera Fund Wingpact Founder Funder Conversation, with the topic of, “Diversity in Women’s Entrepreneurship and Investing.” We were led by special guests Jackie Gutierrez, Founder and CEO of Cloud & Clover, and Lilibeth Gangas, Co-Founder of Somos ChangeMakers and Startup Digest Curator at TechStars.

Our conversation was rich, open, multi-dimensional, and inspiring. This article highlights the most concrete takeaways contributed by the very wise women gathered. View the entire conversation to experience the full depth of the session.

Network Network Network

Latina entrepreneurs often have limited access to the networks they need to build businesses and get funding. Jackie Gutierrez has focused intensely on building a network for herself. She was one of the first cohorts of entrepreneurs at the Manos Accelerator, a startup accelerator in Silicon Valley that focuses on supporting Latin American entrepreneurs. For Jackie, “the world opened up” through Manos.

Women’s professional groups are great places to network and connect with women who are professional, accomplished, and may be angel investors. In Phoenix, where Jackie is based, she participates in Ellevate Network. Jackie encourages entrepreneurs to build relationships with and find mentors who are angel investors, because this has helped her understand the investor view on business, which further helps build relationships that will eventually lead to funding opportunities.

It is often difficult for women with limited access to networks to find technical co-founders. Jackie shared a solution she developed – attending hackathons and coding meetups to establish relationships with technical people. As a bonus, through these events, she has herself gained understanding of technology needed to support her business. Silvia Mah of Hera Fund suggests organizations like Geek Girl and Girl Develop It to find female technical talent.

Accelerator Access

Remy Meraz, Founder and CEO of Me Tyme Network, told us, “Hera Labs was life-changing in one day!” Remy has deep experience and connections in the Latina business community. She emphasizes that the “struggle is real,” and there is a knowledge and language gap. People know there are resources to support them in building their businesses, but they need encouragement to apply to programs and they need scholarships. Also, knowledge around scalable business is limited – businesswomen often have high-potential scalable businesses without knowing it, and they keep their businesses small and local. Getting to an accelerator program could transform these women entrepreneurs and build the local and global economy.

Startup accelerators are often inaccessible to moms, because of the requirement that participants be away from their families for weeks or months at a time. We need more “virtual” accelerators for women.

Raise Awareness

Even while women’s entrepreneurship is exploding, only 10% of VC-funded startups have a woman as one of their founders. When we look at how many of these founders are women of color, it accounts for less than 1% of VC-backed companies. Most of these <1% are black women, so the number of Latinas getting VC funding is so small that it is statistically immeasurable. Lilibeth Gangas emphasized that even with all the current talk about diversity, there is still a great need to raise awareness of the realities. Please look to the end of this article for an extensive and fascinating list of articles and resources that Lilibeth gathered to help raise awareness.

Build Diversity throughout the Investing Pipeline

One solution for funding underrepresented entrepreneurs is to activate more angel investors. That is exactly what Tatyana Gray is doing with AngelInvestingPodcast.com. For angels looking to enter the venture capital world by raising a fund, Tatyana suggest an intermediate step of leading a syndicate.

Diversity from Day One

Startup founders need to integrate diversity into all aspects of their business from the very beginning. Too often, entrepreneurs are in survival mode and think they will address the diversity issue “later.” However, by the time a company has some stability, the business culture is established, and usually broken from a diversity perspective. Think from the very first day about how to integrate diverse groups into your business model, customers, the problems you are solving, how you reach out to stakeholders, hiring, and mentorship.

Skin In the Game

Often, investors assess how committed an entrepreneur is to her own company by looking at how much money she has invested. But for entrepreneurs of color, there needs to be a different kind of assessment of the founder’s risk. If an entrepreneur is raising children, or is supporting distant family, her risk is higher than someone with fewer responsibilities for others. Overall personal risk should be considered by investors, beyond absolute dollar amount contributed.

Executive Summary/Takeaways:

Here is a summary of the actions suggested in this roundtable. These are things we can all do, individually and collectively, to open opportunity to all entrepreneurs.

  • Underrepresented entrepreneurs need more access to accelerators. Kudos to Hera Labs and Manos Accelerator – you are making a huge difference in the lives of your entrepreneurs!
  • Entrepreneurs can do a lot of networking to access resources, including professional women’s organizations and tech meet-ups.
  • Build bridges between accelerator programs and business communities, including scholarships.
  • Continue to raise awareness of realities for underrepresented entrepreneurs.
  • Activate more investors.
  • Build diversity into companies from the beginning.
  • Investors must assess founders’ risk and commitment holistically.

Hard to believe we came up with all of that in only one hour! Let’s keep working on the micro level, helping each other and the girls we know, as well as the macro level, holding events and discussions like these.

Next Steps

View the entire conversation to experience the full depth of the session.

Review the articles and resources listed at the end of this post.

Watch the Hera Fund Facebook page for details about our next Hera Fund Wingpact Founder Funder Conversation on the 4th Thursday of May, May 26th at 4:00pm PT.

Check out Wingpact’s book, just released May 5, Impact With Wings: Stories to Inspire and Mobilize Women Angel Investors and Entrepreneurs. Watch Wingpact’s Facebook page for launch events, including a panel discussion of Women and Capital Changing the World on May 17, which includes two rock-star Latina investors!

Please attend for the next annual Hera Fund Venture Summit on September 17, 2016 at the University of San Diego, where all of these important conversations will continue.

Resources to Build Awareness
(courtesy Lilibeth Gangas, Co-Founder of Somos ChangeMakers)

NVCA  & Crunchbase reports

National Venture Capital Associate Diversity Efforts – http://nvca.org/ecosystem/diversity/

Latina/o organizations for entrepreneurs

Latinos $1.4 T opportunity for startups

Kapor’s led with the most female funded VC & have a $40M commitment to diversity https://medium.com/tech-diversity-files/our-40-million-pledge-to-fix-the-leaky-tech-pipeline-f0d3463761d7#.ekxsmckg4

VC firm Andreessen Horowitz “has been quiet about its push to reach out to tech’s black community. Yet its star-studded but under-the-radar networking events have generated goodwill among the entrepreneurs, engineers and business leaders who’ve attended. The firm’s co-founder, Ben Horowitz, has said they don’t do it to be nice—they think it will lead to better returns. “https://www.theinformation.com/a16zs-low-key-diversity-outreach

Veteran tech executive Sukhinder Singh Cassidy began a project called Choose Possibility to collect data on women founders –getting their perspectives on the challenges and opportunities facing women in the startup arena. #ChoosePossiblity campaign

McKinsey Women Matters has great data and articles with a global perspective http://www.mckinsey.com/global-themes/women-matter

Forbes and Accenture partnered to provide content for female executives http://fortune.com/gettheworldsmostpowerfulwomennewsletter/

TechStars Women Entrepreneurship Digest and TechStars foundation to help more women of color get access to capital https://www.startupdigest.com/digests/women

Digital Undivided Report http://www.digitalundivided.com/

DigitalUndivided’s mission is to foster economic growth in minority communities by finding, supporting, and growing women of color entrepreneurs. A hybrid organization, DID accomplishes this by providing high potential Black and Latina women entrepreneurs with the network, coaching, and funding to build and scale their companies. Like no one else, DID excels at 1) finding Black and Latina women entrepreneurs with high growth companies and game changing ideas, 2) connecting them to an unmatched network of investors, mentors, and influencers, 3) developing their start-up toolkit and leadership skills, and 4) supporting their entrepreneurship journey from the build phase to exit with the goal of helping create companies that have a strong positive impact on the economic health of their local communities.

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Women Ante Up – Impact With Wings Excerpt

3D front cover

Entrepreneurs create the future. And women entrepreneurs are underfunded. This is also true of entrepreneurs of color. So who is creating the future? Certain demographics of people have more than their fair share of influence, and the results speak for themselves.

Women have the power to fix this situation. In this excerpt from Impact With Wings:  Stories to Inspire and Mobilize Women Investors and Entrepreneurs, I write that women have a source of power they are not taking full advantage of – their money. When an angel investor funds a company, she determines which products and services have a chance to make it to the marketplace. Not only that, but she is also influencing which world problems get solved, and which business cultures and practices are carried forward. New companies are creating the future in many ways. Angel investors choose which startup companies go to the next level. Now that’s impact!

Watch for the launch of Impact With Wings on May 1.  And if you believe in our vision, support our crowdfunding campaign.


Excerpt from Impact With Wings, Chapter Two, “Setting the Stage and Unpacking the Trends,” by Suzanne Andrews.

Women Ante Up

Historically, women have held less social and economic power than men. We see men all around us building large corporations and reaping the profits. We see male venture capitalists, investment bankers, stockbrokers, fund managers, and even prominent male philanthropists. It seems that men control all the money.

But is this really true? In fact, the amount of wealth that women control, as well as the rate at which their wealth is increasing, is reaching extraordinary levels.[1] According to Oppenheimer’s 2006 study “Women and Investing,” more than half of the investment assets in the United States were already controlled by women by that time.[2] Ninety-five percent of women are directly involved in their household’s financial decision making and twenty-five percent are the primary decision-makers.[3] Note that sixty percent of high net-worth women have earned their own fortunes.[4] In addition to developing their own successful careers, women tend to outlive men, and inherit their husband’s and family’s fortunes. These facts lead many experts in the financial planning industry to predict that women will control two-thirds of the wealth in the United States by 2030[5]. While the percentages are smaller globally, women were estimated to control twenty-seven percent of the world’s wealth in 2009,[6] which is enough to create significant influence in their communities and around the world.

Yet, women don’t wield their wealth in the same way men do. We keep quiet about our money, not wanting others to feel uncomfortable. Often, when we make large philanthropic gifts, we do so anonymously. Perhaps our psychology leads us to save our money and take fewer risks with it. I spoke about this with Jackie Gutierrez, Founder and CEO of Cloud & Clover, an online fashion retailer committed to using business for positive social change. She recalled that the businesswomen in her family would use the money they earned to support their families, often more reliably than the men. Perhaps there is a psychology of motherhood, even for those of us who are not mothers. We need to save our money to make sure that our families will be safe. Maybe we feel comfortable taking risks only after the children are cared for.

There are good reasons why women handle their money differently than men do. Pressuring women to behave financially more like men is not a solution. We measure the tradeoffs of risk differently. Our families and our communities benefit tremendously from our responsible and thrifty management of resources. Yet, it may also be true that we are not taking hold of the power that financial resources afford us.

What would happen if women began using our significant financial resources more effectively to create the kind of world where all people share the opportunity to pursue dreams and the potential to succeed? Women can engage in thoughtful and curious conversations and learn from each other about our ingrained belief systems, which drive our behaviors relating to money and risk. Together, we can look deeply at our financial practices and discern which are positive and which are habits that need to be challenged.

There is some evidence that we are already doing this. As women step up to offer their financial resources, they are doing so by funding projects that are important to them. In the realm of philanthropy, women are joining together in groups to evaluate charitable organizations and decide together how to best leverage their donations. The Women Donor’s Network is an example of a large national group that has member-led giving circles as well as numerous strategic initiatives to support women in maximizing the impact of their collective giving. In addition, there is the Women’s Funding Network, the largest philanthropic network in the world devoted to women and girls with more than 120 women’s funds and foundations engaged.

As angel investors, too, we can put our money where our values are, as well as make a financial return. The number of women-focused angel groups is growing, reflecting the increasing number of women interested in leveraging their resources this way. The first all-women angel group in the United States, Seraph Capital Forum, was founded in Seattle in 1998 by Susan Preston, one of the contributors to this book. Golden Seeds, one of the best-known women-focused early-stage investor organizations, started in 2005. We now have groups such as Astia Angels, 37 Angels, and Broadway Angels, to name just a few.

Broadway Angels is an interesting case. As an invitation-only angel group made up of world-class women investors and business executives, their investment thesis does not specify what gender entrepreneurs they invest in. They follow the best opportunities they can find in their massive deal flow. However, a quick scan of their website shows that half of their entrepreneurs are women. This example, and many others, suggests that when women bring their money to the table, opportunities for women entrepreneurs (and perhaps for entrepreneurs from other underrepresented groups) increase.

As Geri Stengel said to me in an email, “Women need to ante up.”


[1] Ettinger, Heather R and O’Connor, Eileen M., Women of Wealth Survey (2011) Family Wealth Advisors Council. available at: http://hemingtonwm.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/FWAC_WomenOfWealth.pdf

[2] Quist-Newins, Mary, “Untapped Market: Women May Be Gaining Economic Power, but …” (March 1, 2010), available at http://www.financial- planning.com/fp_issues/2010_3/untapped-market-2665922-1.html.

[3] Prudential Research Study, “Financial Experience and Behaviors Among Women” (2010-2011), available at http://www.prudential.com/media/managed/Womens_Study_Final.pdf

[4] Stengel, Geri, “11 Reasons 2014 Will Be A Breakout Year For Women Entrepreneurs,” Forbes (Jan. 8, 2014) available at http://www.forbes.com/sites/geristengel/2014/01/08/11-reasons-2014-will-be-a-break-out-year-for-women-entrepreneurs/

[5] Ettinger, Heather R and O’Connor, Eileen M., Ibid.

[6] Damisch, Peter et al, “Leveling the Playing Field” (July 2010) The Boston Consulting Group, available at: http://www.bcg.com/documents/file56704.pdf


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Turning Women Investors’ Risk Tolerance to Advantage


On Thursday, March 24, 2016, we held our second monthly Hera Fund Wingpact Founder Funder Conversation. We featured Silvia Armitano Mah on the topic of “Busting the Myth of Risk Tolerance in the Female Investor.” Women angel investors are often accused of being “risk-averse” because of their perceived tendency to take longer to make an investment decision and write smaller checks. We wanted to bring this concern out into the open and have a constructive discussion for the benefit of the women’s ecosystem.

As you know, Silvia Mah is an active angel investor as well as Founder of Hera Labs and Hera Fund. In those roles she often advises women entrepreneurs on addressing potential investors’ perceived risks. She explains that entrepreneurs need to put themselves in the shoes of investors to understand how things look to them.

We know from financial industry research that women generally prefer to have a more complete understanding of investment opportunities before making a decision. The same research also shows that because of this, women investors reap better returns.

Silvia spoke about the plethora of new angel training options designed for women, including Pipeline Angels, 37 Angels, Female Funders, and the Rising Tide Fund. These learning opportunities will increase the comfort level of beginning women angel investors.

Silvia also commented on the many ways women are collaborating in early stage equity investing, and she believes these practices also increase the comfort level and effectiveness of women investors.

J.D. Davids, long-time entrepreneur and startup advisor, shared information about how to manage the risk of an investment after the check is already written. Insisting on regular reports covering milestones, financing plans, and current challenges not only benefits the company but gives the investor some impact on the long-term viability of her investment. Silvia agreed with this and noted that women investors need to feel comfortable asking for what they want and need from their CEOs. Silvia herself insists on being kept abreast of all happenings in her portfolio companies.

J.D. shared an idea that could help the women’s ecosystem fold in new investors effectively. Currently, a lot of angels invest through syndicates. In a syndicate, there is a lead investor who is a subject matter expert in the investee’s business. Other investors follow the lead, contributing their capital but are less involved in the company. While the lead takes the board seat, he or she does not necessarily have to bring as much personal money since he/she is bringing a number of investors. J.D. pointed out that there are plenty of successful women entrepreneurs who could be tapped to lead syndicates in their areas of expertise. This would give new women angels syndicate leaders, role models, learning opportunities, and would also get more women on boards. Here, a theme repeats that came up in our previous Hera Wingpact Conversation – perhaps we are moving in a direction of involving more women each with smaller individual investments.

The topic of transparency was a recurring theme in our conversation. Katya Grishina, a Hera Labs entrepreneur, spoke about the value of transparency on all sides of the table, and how the resulting trust in the relationship positively affects the company’s outcome. J.D.’s opinion is that that transparency seems to be easier to to achieve with female founders, in his experience. Mary Stovall of Google for Business expressed appreciation that the women’s ecosystem seems to support transparency, something that is personally very important to her. Silvia added that as an angel she embraces the value of transparency, letting entrepreneurs know up front when their industry is outside her expertise. We agreed that women angels’ (and probably all angels’) concern about risk understandably decreases as perceived transparency from the founder and team increases.

As a wrap-up, Audrey Kalman noted the importance of connection, to other women, as well as within the startup ecosystem. Everyone needs to round out their knowledge by collaborating with others with different expertise.

In summary, this short conversation raised a lot of constructive ideas for addressing the risk tolerance level of women investors. Ideas include:
– Entrepreneurs putting themselves in investors’ shoes
– Training and education geared toward women
– Women’s natural tendency toward collaboration
– Recruit rock-star entrepreneurial women to lead syndicates
– Encourage investors to ask for the information they need
– Practice transparency

For all the criticism women receive about their risk tolerance, at the end of the day we know that women’s desire for information and time for careful decision-making make them more successful investors. Their portfolio companies benefit, and so do their returns. Let’s be careful of criticizing women for their differences from men, especially when those differences are advantageous.

I believe the answer is not in trying to make women behave more like men. Rather, let’s innovate on existing business practices to take advantage of the qualities that women bring to early stage investing. Constructive conversations like these can address women’s unique values and concerns, and the entire ecosystem benefits.

Thank you to this session’s participants for authentically and transparently bringing their creative thinking to building an ecosystem that supports everyone’s success and satisfaction:

Silvia Armitano Mah, Founder Hera Labs and Hera Fund
J.D. Davids, Entrepreneur and Advisor
Katya Grishina, Entrepreneur
Audrey Kalman, Author, Editor, Marketing Consultant, and Doula
Mary Stovall, Google for Business
Suzanne Andrews, Founding Partner, Wingpact

Takeaway Actions:

Look for our next Hera Fund Wingpact Founder Funder Conversation on the 4th Thursday of April, April 28th at 4:00pm PT. The link to the conversation will be on the Hera Fund Facebook Events page. Next month’s topic is diversity in the women’s ecosystem – how to support all women entrepreneurs and investors in gaining access to the resources they need to be successful. We will be led by special guests Jackie Gutierrez, Founder and CEO of Cloud & Clover, and Lilibeth Gangas, Co-Founder of Somos ChangeMakers and Startup Digest Curator at TechStars.

If you would like to be on our email list to receive personal invitations to future Hera Fund Wingpact events, please send us a note through the Wingpact or Hera Fund websites.

Please consider supporting Wingpact’s crowdfunding campaign, to activate women investors and build the ecosystem.

Also watch for the next annual Hera Fund Venture Summit on September 17, 2016 at University of San Diego, with a keynote from Alicia Robb and Trish Costello.

Also posted on the Wingpact blog, Soar Higher.

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Women’s Ecosystem: Birthing and Transformation

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On Feb 25, 2016, we held our first Hera Fund Wingpact Founder Funder Conversation. Hera Fund and Wingpact are collaborating to produce monthly conversations for women entrepreneurs, investors, and everyone connected to our ecosystem. Through these gatherings we will build bridges and advance innovation in women’s business culture.

For this conversation, we had a rich mix of participants, including new angel investors, an entrepreneur, an accelerator founder, a marketing consultant, and a strategy consultant. This made for insightful conversation from a variety of perspectives.

The major theme that surfaced from our discussion was that there are challenges inherent in working within an emerging ecosystem. For example, Jackie Gutierrez noted her experience that women angels tend to write smaller checks than the male angels she has built relationships with. Another challenge is that accelerators for women and other underrepresented groups usually don’t provide the companies with as much (if any) startup capital compared to the larger, mainline, male-dominated accelerator programs. These problems are exacerbated by a more limited access to friends and family startup capital, particularly for women from less economically advantaged families, which often correlates with families from underrepresented groups.

We discussed the issue of women writing smaller angel investment checks. One factor may be that many women angels are new and learning the ropes. The percentage of angels who are women has increased dramatically – from 6% to 25% in just a few years. Women who could make bigger investments may not be comfortable doing so while they are in the early learning phase. We know from studies that women generally like to have a higher level of confidence and knowledge when participating in any kind of investing. Once they are well-informed, they make great decisions and statistically have better returns than men.

This is understandably frustrating to entrepreneurs seeking women angels who may be more likely than others to “get” their business. The women angels now joining the ranks bring tons of valuable experience to the table, and they need time to assess their own comfort level, risk tolerance, and investment thesis.

There have been recent innovations to support new women angels in growing their comfort levels. The Rising Tide Fund is a learn-by-doing fund managed by Portfolia and Next Wave Ventures. It allows women to invest a relatively small amount of money ($10,000) into a fund that will give them a portfolio of 6-10 companies. New investors have the opportunity to learn alongside hand-selected nationally-recognized women angels.

This model considerably lessens the risk compared to typical angel investing and supports our developing ecosystem by providing top-notch training, mentoring, and hand-on experience. The popularity and success of the Rising Tide Fund indicates women enjoy investing and learning in groups with other women, and this is a model we may want to expand and develop to create more opportunities for women investors and entrepreneurs. Audrey Kalman expressed the opinion that she, and perhaps many women, would like to get involved in supporting women entrepreneurs at an even smaller level, closer to $1,000. 250 women at $1K each could make a $250,000 investment. Would this be a way to get more women involved and creatively support our women entrepreneurs?

We also discussed new models for accelerators relating to startup capital for companies. Silvia Mah shared that Hera Labs is transitioning to become a non-profit organization. In addition to high-growth funding-ready companies, Silvia wants to be able to support companies that need some time before they will be ready for angel investors as well as women entrepreneurs whose business model is medium-sized or slower growth. While not yet completely resolving the problem of her companies’ needs for startup capital, she is pursuing a model that can serve a greater segment of women entrepreneurs.

Both of these topics show that we are in an ecosystem-building phase and there is a lot of room for creative thinking and innovative models. Perhaps when the women’s entrepreneurial ecosystem is more mature, it won’t look exactly like the current mainline primarily male startup ecosystem we have now. Maybe very large numbers of women will participate, with each investing smaller amounts on average into a wider array of companies. We don’t yet know where all this is going, but we do know that women have the creativity and determination to make it all work. We will continue to build all of the puzzle pieces and bridge them together.

There were some points that came up in this February conversation that we did not have time to discuss very deeply. These topics are:

  • How do we connect the emerging ecosystems of all of the underrepresented groups and effectively address the needs of women entrepreneurs of color?
  • Women entrepreneurs tend to ask for less money than their male counterparts when fundraising.
  • It would be interesting to have a broader conversation with women angels about the how they think about their check sizes.

We will address these topics in upcoming conversations – stay tuned!

I enjoyed this Hera Fund Wingpact Founder Funder Conversation and I look forward to the upcoming ones. I know they will all unearth innovation through women’s wisdom, as this one has. For each conversation, I will write an article like this one, sharing the insights that emerged, so our conversation can be global.

We will hold these conversations every month, on the fourth Thursday, at 4pm PT. They will all lead up to the Hera Fund Venture Summit on September 17, 2016, in San Diego. We will bring the themes developed in this year of conversations to the Summit and continue building bridges for women’s business innovation there. Follow Hera Fund on Facebook to stay updated.

Please also check out Wingpact’s new book, Impact With Wings: Stories to Inspire and Mobilize Women Angel Investors and Entrepreneurs. It is the first book about angel investing targeted to women.

Many thanks to the participants for generously contributing their insights for the benefit of all:
Montse Armitano, Angel Investor
Lilibeth Gangas, Innovation Strategist
Jackie Gutierrez, CEO and Creative Director, Cloud & Clover
Audrey Kalman, Author, Editor, Marketing Consultant, and Doula
Silvia Armitano Mah, Founder and Executive Director, Hera Labs
Katherine Wichmann Zacharias, Vice President, Five Rings Financial

Facilitated by Suzanne Andrews, Founding Partner, Wingpact

This article was also published on Wingpact’s blog, Soar Higher, on March 4, 2016.


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Women’s Ecosystem: Fish or Mammals?

Version 2

It is important for women to gather and take a high-level look at the world we are building together. Last Thursday, we convened the first Wingpact Luncheon[i] for this purpose. Our discussion topic was, “The Women’s Ecosystem: Where We Are and Where We Are Going.”

In recent years, women have increasingly been stepping into all the roles surrounding entrepreneurs, including investors, mentors, accelerator founders, fund managers, corporate attorneys, service providers, and technologists. We have an opportunity to build our own women-friendly business practices and culture, from the ground up. For example, we already have new models of education customized for women investors, and new financial vehicles creating “collaborative investing” opportunities.

For the Wingpact Luncheon we gathered fourteen smart, high-impact women, each working hard on her own piece of the ecosystem. Our group included Wingpact Founding Partners, startup founders, experienced investors, Wingpact community members, new angel investors, and people involved in the ecosystem for many years. We took some time to move to a higher view, see how our pieces fit together, and where there are gaps, overlaps, or tensions.

Early on in our lively discussion an interesting metaphor emerged: a comparison between fish and mammals[ii]. When fish propagate, they spray out millions of eggs into the ocean, knowing only a few will survive. Mammals, on the other hand, have few offspring, and carefully nurture each to adulthood.

One way this metaphor plays out is how we nurture our companies. We talked about the importance of angel investors holding capital back for follow-on rounds for our investees. There is a concept in the wider startup community of “spray and pray” – investing in a lot of companies, with no particular attachment to any of them, knowing a few will succeed. A more effective approach for investors may be to choose our companies carefully, and plan to be there for the long term to nurture them. We even made a biological comparison – with “spray and pray” being a male biological model, and nurturing a few being a more feminine tendency. Of course, these are gross generalizations. Still, it does give us a framework to discuss how we want to do business. There is an opportunity to bring more of the feminine attention to long-term nurturing into the ecosystem, with perhaps a benefit to all.

Another discussion point was our sense that there is still a need to encourage women to become entrepreneurs. Anecdotally, we see younger women more hesitant to start companies than men, even with equal or greater qualifications. We also have data showing that women are currently starting companies at a faster rate than men, and at a later point in our careers. This raises questions about how our ideal ecosystem would look. Do we want women to jump into the startup game faster and more often, and in a pattern more like men? Or is it advantageous for us to gain more corporate experience first, as our instinct often leads us to? Also, if we are more like mammals and want to nurture fewer companies for the longer term, how would we support a greater number of young women entrepreneurs? How wide do we want to make the funnel for companies, and how quickly do we want to narrow it? What is the best way to create an environment where every woman has opportunity to pursue her dreams?

We discussed the currently exciting but sometimes overwhelming number of organizations and projects springing up to support women entrepreneurs and investors. Perhaps we are in a fish-like spawning stage right now in regards to resources for women. What can we do to leverage each other’s work, to make sure we are not duplicating efforts, and that we are collaborating, with each of our puzzle pieces fitting together to create a smooth and coherent scene? How can we all best use our limited time and resources to support the core values that these proliferating groups represent?

Predictably, our discussion identified more questions than answers. We will hold these important questions in mind as we move forward with our work, and we can use them as a framework when building collaborations.

I have been invited by Hera Fund to lead a follow-on discussion this Thursday November 18 at 4:00PST. It will be a Google hangout, so anyone can join – we would love to have your participation.

Another way to participate is to leave comments on this post. Also, let me know through the comments if you would like me to facilitate a discussion with your group. These discussions need to be plentiful, ongoing, and global.

Please share this post to any audience who may have insights to add to our early conversations about creating business culture by and for women.

We are honored to have so many amazing women (and men) as part of the Wingpact community. We know you are committed to creating a better world, one that furthers the Wingpact vision of all people having full access to the opportunity to pursue their dreams.


[i] We are very grateful to First Republic Bank, our sponsor for this event.
[ii] Thanks to Una Ryan, Founder of ULUX LLC, for the fish and mammals metaphor.

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It’s Time for a New African Narrative

At the She Leads Africa SheHive, in Lagos, Nigeria Sept 25, 2015

I’ve been back from Nigeria for a week now and have had some time to reflect. As you may know, I recently joined the Tour of Tech 2015, led by Ingressive in partnership with TasteMakers Africa. The purpose of the trip was to bring investors and global influencers to Lagos, Nigeria, to meet the people who are building African economies and solving persistent community problems.

A regular message under all of the activities that made up Tour of Tech 2015 was about “the narrative.” Westerners have a skewed story of what Africa is like due to our popular culture, media, and our minimal experience. For myself, when I think of Africa, I know many of the images lodged in my mind are of safari animals, people in rural villages living in grass huts, and crowded slums of tin-roofed buildings. The message of Tour of Tech is that this is a very limited view, and it is not helping Africans or the rest of the world to benefit from the plentiful riches Africa has to offer.

There is a growing movement in Africa to put the forces of entrepreneurship to work as a more effective alternative to foreign aid. It’s the people building this ecosystem that I went to Africa to meet.

During the short time I was there, there were two major events that brought the best entrepreneurs from all over Africa to share their pitches, network, and meet investors: DEMO Africa and She Leads Africa. These events attracted investors from all over the globe, as well as ecosystem leaders running accelerators and providing a myriad of resources for startups.

As a result, a fascinating mix of people came together during my week-long immersion experience. I met many diaspora millennial Nigerians, largely educated overseas, who are returning to start businesses in their homeland. These young entrepreneurs are very savvy – many of them hold MBAs from prominent business schools, and have built careers in major consulting and financial firms. They are also unerringly optimistic. They see a Nigeria that has opportunities everywhere you look. Where others see high unemployment, they see a workforce ready to staff their new businesses. They are excited by the huge untapped markets for mobile and educational technologies in Africa. They envision successful businesses that streamline and improve infrastructure. They see that the businesses they dream of building will have a positive social impact on their homeland, while simultaneously generating income for many.

There were similarities between all of the people I met in that everyone had contagious optimism about opportunities in Africa. But each person brought her own experience to the ecosystem. Some Nigerian entrepreneurs had lived their whole lives in the US or Europe, until their recent return. Some had never left Nigeria, and many had left only for education. Some had parents and family in Nigeria, some had families who couldn’t understand why they wanted to return. Some spoke English with an American accent very familiar to me, some I had to concentrate hard to understand, and many were somewhere in between. Some are living abroad, and starting Africa-facing companies. And among Nigerians, there are variations around family heritage, religion, tribe identity, and geographical home, which I only learned a tiny bit about in my short time there.

I thoroughly enjoyed the rich tapestry of perspectives which all the people I met brought to my experience of the week. In addition to learning about business and social impact opportunities, I had a chance to explore the art and culture scene in Lagos. We attended events at art galleries, mingled with artists, performers, and designers, dined at fabulous restaurants, and were exposed to the famous Nigerian nightlife.

I am so grateful for and enriched by this opportunity to begin to learn and share a more accurate, more progressive, and more beneficial narrative about Africa and Nigeria. Now, I know first-hand that it is a continent with abundant resources, cutting-edge technology, insightful people, and stimulating culture – a place poised to be the most modern continent on the planet within my lifetime, while retaining the vibrant cultures and outlooks that make it authentically Africa.

photo credit:  Jenny Parham

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