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Organization seeks to offer “Shark Tank”-like boost to women-led businesses

December 7, 2023

View original article and news video posted on Yahoo! News

COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – Accelerating Angels is a local group trying to speed up the development of female-owned start-up businesses.

About four million new businesses open in America each year, and there are investors ready to help them get off the ground. Last year, venture capitalists invested $330 billion in new businesses, but $323 billion of that – 98% — went to businesses owned by men.

Now, Accelerating Angels is trying to bridge that giant gender gap, encouraging female entrepreneurs to raise their voices.

“Accelerating Angels was formed a year ago and we started raising a $3 million fund,” Accelerating Angels Cindi Englefield said. “We’re just about to the million-dollar mark and ready to start cutting checks to worthy businesses.”

Worthy businesses owned by women. Englefield believes smart women with good ideas are too often ignored by banks and investors.

Women like Rehgan Avon, who was studying engineering at Ohio State University a decade ago when she became obsessed with the future of artificial intelligence. Now, she guides companies through adapting AI.

“So we’ve helped anywhere from large automotive organizations and supply chain use cases,” Avon said.

On this day, she is one of three hopeful entrepreneurs who will pitch their companies, hoping to win a $100,000 investment from a room full of venture capitalists, similar to the television show “Shark Tank.”

“You know, I’ve handpicked great advisors to help us that have great connections in the community, the banks, the universities, the insurance companies,” Englefield said.

Avon said it’s tough for women to launch new businesses and entice investors who often don’t relate to female founders.

“So, you’re investing in a founder and sometimes, most of the time, those deploying capital are men or white men, and so they see themselves in those founders and it’s easier for them to trust those founders that they’re going to do, you know, some huge visionary idea,” she said.

Accelerating Angels wants to change that one investment at a time and capitalize on central Ohio’s growing reputation for business success.