Smart, savvy and very possibly soon-to-be-rich women from across the county will descend on Madison at the end of September in a reality show you won’t see on television.
Springboard Enterprises, an organization that pairs women-led technology companies with investors, will hold a two day seminar and venture capital forum on September 30 and Oct 1 at the Fluno Center and the Monona Terrace. Madison is just one stop in an eight city tour that also includes New York City; Boston; San Francisco/Silicon Valley; Austin/Dallas; and Kansas City.
The event begins with a half-day educational session called, Equity Matters: The Route to NASDAQ, which is a practical seminar focusing on business financing. The audience is expected to include between 75 to 100 women owners and managers of technology businesses and aspiring entrepreneurs.
However, the “meat” of the Springboard event occurs on the second day with a venture capital forum, AllThingsLifeScience, in which 20 women-led, investment-ready companies will present their business opportunities to over 100 of the region’s investors, lawyers and financiers. About half of the companies are from the Midwest, including four from Wisconsin (EraGen BioSciences, Eso-Technologies, Quintessence Biosciences, and Stemina BioMarker Discovery). Stemina and Eragen also will go on to present at Springboard forums at Stanford University and at the New York Stock Exchange.
Governor Doyle is also on the schedule to speak.
Who participates in Springboard forums?
Companies invited to participate in the Springboard Forums are survivors of a careful vetting process by a committee of over 200 life science business executives, investors and industry experts. The selected women business leaders then participate in a two-day “boot camp” in Washington, DC, after which they are paired with a team of sector experts who work with each entrepreneur to hone her pitch to investors.
Laura Strong, President and Chief Operating Officer at Quintessence Biosciences, is one of the women entrepreneurs selected to present at the venture forum in Madison. Her opinion of the boot camp was that it “…was really interesting…they put you in front of video cameras, really preparing you for how to give a pitch (to investors)…how to work on your style of presentation as well as content.”
Strong’s advisory team consists of what she characterized as “some heavy hitting industry experts” who provided her with “fantastic feedback.” She is looking to raise up to $20 million to support Phase II clinical trials of Quintessence’s leading anti-cancer drug.
Who is behind this event?
Springboard Enterprises is a non-profit organization that fosters venture capital investments in women-led high growth companies. Since 2000, Springboard has sponsored 18 of these venture forums, along with 30 workshops and seminars involving thousands of investors, lawyers, bankers and business development professionals. Since 2000, 380 companies have participated in the forums and have raised over $4.5 billion in grants, venture and corporate investments. Seven of the companies have gone on to list on the NASDAQ.
Co-hosting the forum in Madison is the Phenomenelle Angels Fund, a Madison-based early stage investment group that supports women and minority owned or managed businesses in the Midwest. Co-Founder and Managing Director of Phenomenelle is Lauren Flanagan, who also happens to be on the Board of Directors of Springboard and who will serve as the Mistress of Ceremony for the Springboard event in Madison. Flanagan, who raised $20 Million for her company at the very first Springboard forum, allows that “..it’s all kind of a circle—you come in and need money and help and then you end up being able to give back, and it’s very rewarding.”
But, why is Madison in the mix with life science investment hubs like Boston, New York City and San Francisco? Flanagan believes that Madison is an important locus for a “great Midwest market” for life science businesses, but acknowledged that, “…the Midwest, in general, is underserved in terms of venture capital and access to venture forums. So, it’s (the Springboard forum) a great opportunity to do this in the Midwest.”
She also opined that the women selected to present in the Springboard forums are “…a very elite group of women.”
In another connection to Wisconsin, the Chairwoman and co-founder of Springboard Enterprises is Kay Koplovitz, a Wisconsin native and graduate of UW-Madison. She also is the Chairwoman of Liz Claiborne, Inc, the founder of USA Networks and the first woman television network president in history.
From all of this, it would appear that if there is an entrepreneur gene, it will not be found on the Y chromosome.