Springboard Enterprises Featured in Enterprising Women Magazine
Wednesday, April 2, 2014
Enterprises: Big Businesses Starting
BY SHARON HADARY, PhD
Did you get
your flu shot at a MinuteClinic this year?
Or announce a new service to your clients via ConstantContact? Perhaps your living room was vacuumed by the robotic
vacuum cleaner Roomba. On your last
business trip you might have rented a Zipcar to get to a client located in the
suburbs. Do you know someone who would
benefit from knowing there is a new treatment for the autism disorder?
What do all
these products and services have in common?
They were all conceived of and launched by women who raised venture
capital and built their companies thanks to Springboard Enterprises.
2000, Springboard Enterprises has worked with 537 women-led companies introducing
them to equity investors. Collectively these companies have raised over $6.2
billion. Springboard companies are
transforming the way we live, the way we do business, and how critical health
issues are diagnosed and treated.
The late 90's
were the hey-day for venture capital investment -- investments exceeded $100
billion dollars. At the same time, women
were starting businesses at twice the rate of men and generating substantial
revenues and employment. "Money was
pouring over the transom," says Kay Koplovitz, founder of USA Networks and
now chair of Springboard Enterprises, "however in 2000, less than 2
percent of venture capital was going to women-led businesses." Kay knew the importance of growth
capital. She had launched USA Networks
with an initial capitalization of $600,000 and it ended up being sold for $4.5
In 1998, President
Clinton appointed Kay to chair the National Women's Business Council (NWBC). "I am very much a big picture person who
likes to look out to the horizon," she says. "I wanted to do something in my
three-year term as chair that we could measure and say we actually moved the
needle for women-led businesses." She
found the opportunity she was seeking in accelerating women-led businesses' access
to venture capital.
At the NWBC
Kay had the perfect partner for launching something no one had done before, Executive
Director Amy Millman, now president of Springboard Enterprises. Before being appointed by the Clinton
administration to lead the NWBC, Amy had been a Washington DC lobbyist for major
industry and trade groups, including Philip Morris Inc. and the trucking
two dynamic women brought to the table were connections. Kay knew the business leaders and venture
capitalists; Amy knew the players in the women's community and understood the politics.
Taking Action: Launching Springboard 2000
Kay and Amy went
the Mecca for venture capital, Silicon Valley.
There they met with a small group of pioneering women leaders who already
had started working on access to venture capital for women-owned and -led businesses.
(See Sidebar) The original plan was to
host a national conference to raise awareness of the issues of women's access
to venture capital. They quickly concluded
it was time to stop talking and take action that would have measurable results
for women entrepreneurs.
(Side-bar: Springboard Enterprises founders: The
co-founders include Kay Koplovitz, Amy Millman, Denise Brosseau, Cate Muther,
Jim Robbins, Andrea Silbert, Debra Filtzer, Penny Pickett, Ginger Lew, Mary
MacPherson, Hedy Ratner, Patty Abramson, Wendy Kanarek, Rob Stein and Karen
born Springboard 2000, the first-ever venture forum exclusively for women-led
companies. "Our plan," Millman
says, "was to present women-led firms in technology and life-sciences to a
crowd of venture capitalists with the goal of securing millions of dollars in funding
for each company." Thanks to Kay's contacts, Springboard would have an
auspicious launch -- Larry Ellison, founder and CEO of Oracle, agreed to host
Springboard 2000 at his company's headquarters.
The team sent
out the call for applications, crossing their fingers they would get 100
applicants. They received 350!
companies were chosen to present. Amy
had attended a number of venture capital forums to identify best practices and
quickly realized that the most critical success factor for presenters was
preparation. Kay and Amy were determined
leave nothing to chance. Each presenter
was surrounded with a team of coaches -- lawyers, bankers, VC's, and a
professional presentation coach. The
coaches met with the companies, reviewing their business plans and helping them
polish their investor presentations.
Flanagan was in this first Springboard class.
She had successfully launched and run several software companies but had
never raised capital for them. When her latest company, WebWare, began to gain
traction and needed cash to fuel growth, she decided it was time to raise
pioneered software that provided a platform for companies to implement and
manage brand assets across the enterprise anytime, anywhere and in any
format. When Lauren was chosen for
Springboard, the company was already four years old and had big customers --
including Boeing, Amgen, Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, and The Jim Henson
"But,"says Lauren, "I did not
know the language of talking to investors. One of my coaches, a very savvy
woman banker from Silicon Valley Bank, said after listening to me pitch, '
Lauren, I can tell you are really smart and very passionate, but I have to be
honest. I don't have any idea what you
are doing and what you just said.' "
was a real eye-opener," continues Lauren.
"I worked with my coaches to develop a story the investors would
understand." It worked and she
received multiple offers, eventually raising over $20 million.
of the companies in the first venture forum were funded, two companies merged,
one company sold, and only one was not funded.
Even before the success of the first
Springboard forum, Amy had spread the word and additional venture forums were
planned in the Washington DC area hosted by AOL, followed by forums in Boston
at Harvard, and then New York, Texas, North Carolina, and Chicago. As of 2013, there have been 25 venture forums.
Sidebar: Springboard Statistics as of 2013
· 537 companies
· 83% raised funding
· $6.2 billion raised
· 10 IPOs
· 81% of the companies
still in business either as independent entity or as part of an acquired entity
soon became clear that Springboard would be viable as an independent
enterprise. Although launched under the
auspices of the NWBC, its funding had come entirely from the private
sector. So, with the support of the Kansas-city
based Kauffman Foundation, it separated from its government ties and became an
independent nonprofit with the name Springboard 2000 Enterprises Inc. Amy Millman became president, and, after completing
her term as NWBC Chair, Kay Koplovitz joined the Board of Directors as chair.
negotiated an agreement with The George Washington University to house
Springboard Enterprises at its Mt. Vernon campus, a campus dedicated to educating
women leaders. Having Springboard
Enterprises resident at the GWU/Mt. Vernon campus expands the horizon for the
women students, especially those aspiring to entrepreneurship. The students and Springboard both benefit from
Transformation: From Program Focus to
Springboard was program oriented, focusing on the venture forums. Today, the focus is on creating a customized network
of coaches and connections for every company.
"Success is based on relationships," says Amy.
of a few meetings with advisors for the sole purpose of preparing for a venture
capital forum, there is an ongoing relationship between the entrepreneur and
her team of advisors. The coaching teams
include Springboard alumnae as well as bankers, lawyers, accountants, and corporate
executives. The team also may include
potential strategic partners, investors, and customers. In addition to providing subject matter
expertise, the coaches make valuable connections for the women. Coaches often are invited to join the
company's advisory board or board of directors.
Today, Springboard can draw on a pool of over 5,000 volunteer coaches.
now conducts an annual accelerator program.
Selected companies go through the program in cohorts. Each cohort starts with the "Bootcamp,"
which is both an orientation and an opportunity to assess each company's
do a SWOT analysis for every company," says Amy, "and select the
coaches based on the needs of the entrepreneur and her company." Often the team leader is a Springboard alumna
because they are the most knowledgeable about the business building and money
most women, the network is as important as the help in raising capital. Luan Cox, Springboard class of 2013, is founder
and CEO of Crowdnetic, a leading provider of funding portal platform technology
and market data solutions to the private equity and crowd funded securities
industry. "For the first time, we
are bringing together investors and the very important group of small and
medium-sized enterprises who are dying for capital. Our goal is to create more capital, more jobs,
and improve the economy," says Luan.
she has led several startups, Luan finds tremendous value in the Springboard
networks and coaching. "Springboard
is as much about the support, camaraderie, brutal honesty, and being with women
who have accomplished so much -- and who have your back -- as it is about helping us get investments."
funding is the beginning of the journey, not the end. "We stay with our companies and our
entrepreneurs forever," says Kay Koplovitz. "They come back as their
companies go through different growth stages or when they are getting ready to
sell or go IPO. And then, we have a lot
of serial entrepreneurs -- so they come back when they start a new business --
and often go through the whole program all over."
"Springboard Enterprises is like Hotel
California," says Lauren Flanagan. "You can check out anytime you
want… but you can never leave!"
The Funding Model is Changing
the funding strategy differs by industry, companies are divided into media/technology
and life sciences (biotech, devices, diagnostics and health IT). Advances in technology have drastically
reduced the amount of money the media tech companies need as well the turnaround
time to realize the benefit of the investment.
In contrast, the biotech companies must raise much larger sums of money –
upwards to $100 million – to take them through the regulatory process and to
market which could be as much as ten to twelve years.
are matched with potential strategic partners and investors in one-on-one
settings. "This is a more effective strategy and yields a higher success
rate for our companies." says Amy.
% of Total
Biotechnology/Healthcare Svcs/Medical Dvcs
Media and Entertainment
Business Products and Services
Consumer Products and Services
Silicon Valley, New York, and Boston are still the centers of venture capital,
new investment models such as crowd finance from accredited investors are
emerging. "These changes will lead
to the democratization of capital, and I think this is a good thing for women
because it opens up the marketplace to many more potential investors who
wouldn’t ordinarily know about the opportunities presented by our Springboard
companies," Koplovitz says.
of the value of the coaching network is that coaches and fellow entrepreneurs
often have connections that lead to funding sources.
Joan Fallon, Springboard class of 2009, is the founder and CEO of
Curemark. She founded Curemark to
develop a treatment for children with autism based on a proprietary
technology. "We are bringing hope
to children where there hasn't been any," says Joan. "We've been able to look at autism in a
unique way and to look at early drug development in a different way." In addition, Curemark is one of the first
virtual biotech companies. "So we
are creating a new paradigm in multiple areas."
credits Springboard with helping her raise money. "There is no venture capital in drug
development for autism," she says.
A significant portion of the money she raised came through connections
from other Springboard companies and Springboard advisors, some investing
themselves in her company; others providing introductions to potential
investors. However, it is not just the access
to funding that is valuable. "When
you have someone looking at your company who has been there and done it before,
it makes a big difference."
drug for autism has a Fast Track designation from the Federal Drug
Administration (FDA), and pre-submission of the rolling New Drug Application (allowing
completed sections of the NDA to be submitted as completed) has commenced under
that program. "We are at a point
now where we have many options about where we take this company," says Joan,
"including being acquired, vertically integrating, or going to the
Preparation is Still Critical
matter the funding source, it is still critical to learn how to pitch the
company using the language investors understand. Says Millman, "One of the
most important things we do is help our women ‘speak investor.'" Today, instead
preparing for one big shot presentation, the entrepreneur prepares for perhaps
hundreds of pitches – two minute, five minute, ten minute and hour long -- presentations they will give over the lifespan
of their business.
is not just about getting in the door to meet with an investor," says
Luan. "If you don't have the right message
and presentation skills to nail it when you get in there, you might as well not
even bother." She echoes what other
Springboard alumnae say, "I can honestly say that my funding would not
have come through if I hadn't had the Springboard training."
Women Investing in
the core, the Springboard model is about women investing in women. Springboard alumnae are recognizing that they
have an expertise to share with other women and are giving back by
participating on the coaching teams and sharing their connections.
they are investing money in other women's companies. It is not totally
altruistic -- they are realizing a return on their investment while making a
difference for other women.
her earliest days at the NWBC, Amy urged women to invest in each other. "Springboard today is a fulfillment of
that dream," she says.
Lauren Flanagan sold her company, Amy asked her to coach some of the new
entrepreneurs. As she worked with these
women, Lauren started investing in their companies and now she is invested in
35 companies. But she wanted to do
something broader, so she founded BELLE Capital USA along with two other
partners—one of whom is a Springboard alumna, to provide early stage funding to
partners in BELLE include successful corporate executives who are acting as
coaches and several Springboard alumnae who have had positive liquidity events
and have money to invest or who have made a choice to diversify some of their
holdings into other women entrepreneurs.
In addition to the financial investment, BELLE Capital and its investors
bring their human capital, helping their entrepreneurs raise additional
capital, acting as advisors, and, if there is a fit, joining the company as a
board director, board observer or advisor.
as women come into Springboard, we are pitching them on investing in each
other. So when the time comes that they
have the money to invest, they already are primed to invest in other
women," says Lauren.
Springboard is having a global impact. Springboard
programs have been held in Israel and Australia. The percentage of Springboard
companies headquartered outside the U.S. is growing steadily. Clearly the model works across national
boundaries; expansion depends on developing in-country partners and local infrastructure
to lead the programs. Meanwhile, those non-US based companies that intend to
enter the US market are encouraged to apply to the U.S. program.
Extending the Outreach
there has been rapid growth in entrepreneurial incubators and early stage
accelerators. Just as Springboard saw
that women were not getting access to venture capital, they now see that the
entrepreneurial pipeline coming through the incubators is predominantly
male. Springboard is partnering with
many of them to increase women's participation. While the incubator companies are earlier
stage than Springboard companies, they have the potential to be feeders into
the Springboard process.
also is expanding the benefits of the network model to other groups. The Dolphin Tank™ is named intentionally to
contrast with the Shark Tank. Because dolphins
swim along with you to help you be a success, a metaphor for the Springboard
model. The program is a stand-alone “helpful
feedback-driven” pitch session designed to provide entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs
-- both women and men -- with actionable insights and connections from
knowledgeable people in the audience. Dolphin
Tanks™ are held at universities, during business conferences, and are a popular
session at Springboard events.
its companies, Springboard is looking to its future.
has shown that women are able to scale a business and put together an 'A'
team," says Kay. "We will
continue to grow the ecosystem that will move the next generation of companies
is about the power of relationships and connections," adds Amy. "As long as there are women
entrepreneurs who want to grow a business matched with women who have done it
and who realize that by giving back, they themselves are benefitting,
Springboard will be strong and continue to expand."
next generation stands ready to take a leadership role.
think we are at a pivotal moment in the opportunities for women-led
companies," says Luan Cox.
"The 20, 30 and 40-year-olds need to step up and take the
baton. The call to action for women like
me to get arm in arm with leaders like Kay and Amy and say 'Let's plan the next
information on Springboard and successfully preparing your company to pursue
investment capital, visit www.springboardenterprises.com
information about the early days of Springboard Enterprises read Kay’s e-book Bold
Women, Big Ideas by Kay Koplovitz with Peter Israel.
HADARY, Ph.D, is the co-author with Laura Henderson of How Women Lead: The 8 Essential
Strategies Successful Women Know. Sharon, former and founding executive
director of the Center for Women's Leadership, adjunct professor in the Doctor
of Management Program at the University of Maryland University College, and a
Small Business Expert for the Wall Street Journal's Small Business Forum, is a
recognized thought-leader on women's entrepreneurship and leadership. She is a
member of the Enterprising Women Advisory Board and has been inducted into the
Enterprising Women Hall of Fame. Contact
Sharon at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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