INTERVIEW: Jackie Waring, CEO, Investing Women
‘The more women-owned businesses we back the happier we will be’
For years Jackie Waring believed there was something missing from the business growth market. An itch that needed scratching.
Research had told her that women entrepreneurs, just like men, struggled to raise finance, except they received on average only a third of their male counterparts.
She also knew there were plenty of successful wealthy women who were looking for ways to invest their fortunes. If only she could bring the two groups together she could be on to something.
Her instinct was confirmed when in 2013 she flew out to San Francisco to attend the Angel Capital Association Summit. It got her thinking even more about pulling together an angel syndicate, one that would be made up of women with the aim of helping other women grow their businesses.
Two years on from launching Investing Women she now has a 20-strong group of all-female investors ready to back promising entrepreneurial talent. They completed their first investment last week, providing £680,o00 towards a £1.18 million package of support for TC Biopharm, a biotechnology company involved in cancer treatments. The Scottish Investment Bank and WH Partnership provide a the remaining finance.
It was a surprise to some that the group’s first investment was in what is regarded as a risky sector and that it did not fit with the initial pledge to back women-owned businesses.
“The more women-owned businesses we see the happier we will be,” says Waring, “but the market in Scotland is too small to limit investor opportunities.”
In any case, she argues that TC Biopharm is co-founded by a woman. “That means there is a heavy female influence in the company!” she says.
“We are also well aware of the risks of biotech, but TC Biopharm is close to market and some of our people invested some serious money in it.”
Investing Women is not a unique concept, although there are only a couple of others in England and she says she is now being “inundated” with calls from high net worth females south of the border who are keen to get involved.
Inevitably, questions are asked about what makes women different as investors. Her stock response to claims that they are more risk averse is that in fact they are more risk aware. In other words, they are more cautious and take more time, but not risk averse.
Likewise, women entrepreneurs have a different view of risk management. “The reason many of them get less money is often simply down to not asking,” she says.
Waring has been influenced by Susan Preston, a leading light in the angel movement in the US and who has just been recognised by the US government for having the greatest impact on the angel community. Waring managed to meet Preston while in San Francisco and persuaded her to come to Scotland to help launch her group. They have become friends and Preston will be making a return visit.
In the two years since Investing Women was launched a lot of work has been done spreading the word and recruiting syndicate members. Five of the group’s angels have been running coaching sessions for entrepreneurs, getting them “investor ready” .
Waring is chief executive and her core team, who assess investment opportunities, includes a woman who built a global engineering business, a London-based restaurateur and a former international finance director.
The syndicate continues to grow and she would like to see it at least double. They are assessing two other opportunities for investment, while a third is significantly bigger and may require collaborating with another syndicate group.
She says that the group would not accept a man into the syndicate “because it would dilute its purpose”, by which she means it would change the culture.
But surely if an all-male syndicate refused to accept women there would be an outcry?
“It’s a fair point. But we are addressing market failure. It is about getting more women involved, correcting the imbalance. Several of the women involved with us say that being all-female is a major attraction for them.
“In any case, if we invited men to join us we would have to change our name!”
Educated: Aberdeen and Robert Gordon universities. Degree in English; Postgraduate diploma in management studies and a Masters in corporate leadership.
First job: Graduate entrant to Department of Health and Social Security in Inverness.
Career highlights: CEO Gordon Enterprise Trust; Owner Blue Horizons, a development and leadership consultancy; adviser on female entrepreneurs to the Department for Trade and Industry.
Describe your management style
Very open and collaborative. Getting the culture right give a company a better chance of success.
What was the best training advice you received?
Take what you do serious but never take yourself too seriously.
What motivates you?
Doing something that makes a difference.
What do you look for in other people?
Enthusiasm, passion, drive.
What makes you angry?
Lack of openness. People letting me down.
Photo: Jackie Waring by Terry Murden