AWE Ventures—Powered by Ben Franklin aims to raise capital for women-led businesses
In 1995, a small group of Philadelphia-region women entrepreneurs got together for mutual support and access to capital.
Now, 20 years later, the group — renamed the Alliance of Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) — is the Mid-Atlantic’s largest organization dedicated to fostering high-growth businesses founded or led by women.
Still, according to Executive Director Victoria Burkhart, “there is a sense…that now is the time to ‘move the needle’ on women and entrepreneurship, and for AWE to take a more active role in connecting women to capital. AWE approached Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania (BFTP/SEP), a longtime partner, to brainstorm strategies for aligning efforts in support of funding for entrepreneurial enterprises founded by women.”
The resulting AWE Ventures—Powered by Ben Franklin is a crowdfunded, donation-driven initiative to raise $250,000 — to be matched dollar-for-dollar by BFTP/SEP — for seed-stage investments in women-led enterprises in the Philadelphia region. The new program will also provide hands-on support for entrepreneurs from both partners’ shared networks of capital, counsel and connections, and events, workshops and published content to empower entrepreneurs and celebrate successes.
“As much as it is our goal to help support the growth of female entrepreneurs, AWE Ventures will also provide an opportunity to mentor future women investors,” explains Burkhart. “Programming offered by both AWE and Ben Franklin will be as much about ‘how to invest’ as it will be about entrepreneurship. Fostering increased participation of women in early-stage or angel investment is equally important to increasing the diversity of our technology ecosystem here in the Greater Philadelphia region; really, in the nation at large.”
“AWE and Ben Franklin will identify potential entrepreneurs for investment, with full management of the due diligence and investment processes to be handled by Ben Franklin,” explains RoseAnn B. Rosenthal, BFTP/SEP’s president and CEO. “Like all other Ben Franklin investments, companies will commit to being located in Philadelphia, Bucks, Montgomery, Delaware or Chester counties for at least five years, or until repayment/exit. The number of companies to be funded remains flexible and will depend upon the amount of funds raised.”
“AWE does a great job in creating events and programs to connect and advance women entrepreneurs, providing opportunities to share experiences, insights, best practices and lessons learned,” she adds. “Ben Franklin does as well, actively working to bring insights from its investors, portfolio companies and regional partners into the mix. There’s really no end date or fixed total hours for what AWE Ventures—Powered by Ben Franklin can provide. That’s what so great about our two organizations working together on this initiative.”