According to the 2020 Crunchbase Diversity Spotlight Report, global venture funding for female-founded companies fell in 2020, with only 2.3% of investment going to companies led by women founders, down from 2.8% in 2019. The Capital Angel Network and Invest Ottawa are looking to change these statistics by hosting events like the Women Angel Investor Breakfast, which supports current and aspiring women angel investors.
As part of International Women's Week, Copperleaf® CEO, Judi Hess, was invited to be the keynote speaker for this event, which gives angel investors the opportunity to learn from the very best and helps accelerate the growth and success of more women founders. Other guest speakers included Michelle Scarborough, Managing Partner, Women in Technology Venture Fund; Natalie Raffoul, Co-Founder of Fortress.Legal; Sarah Sedgman, Founder and CEO of LearnExperts; Terri Storey, Founder and CEO of iHealthOX; and Victoria Xu, social and tech entrepreneur.
Judi spoke to Manjula Selvarajah, journalist and tech columnist for CBC, about Copperleaf's journey from startup to IPO, what investors should look for in a good company, and why women need to support other women.
What should investors look for before investing in a company?
"If you're investing in technology, it's important to understand that it's a human endeavor and a team sport. When deciding where to invest, look for companies that have a culture that emphasizes teamwork and brings its people to their full potential. It's critical to look at culture to understand a company and what it values."
Why do you deliver Copperleaf's culture sessions personally rather than outsourcing it?
"I lead the culture sessions at Copperleaf and make sure that every single new employee participates in my 3-hour course because I think the impact is different when it comes from a company's CEO. I teach what the culture is at Copperleaf and how it was co-created. Every person has input on the culture, we write it down, and you have to learn it, practice it, and understand how culture is tied directly to our company's success."
What role have women investors played in your business?
"When I first joined Copperleaf, we had to capitalize the company and raise money. This was in 2009, right after the 2008 stock market crash, and it was a difficult time to find investors. Maria Pacella, who at the time was with GrowthWorks and is now with PenderFund Capital Management, was the one who led the investment in Copperleaf. I think as a woman investor, she took a broader perspective when looking at the company, and really got to know our team before deciding to invest."
How do we get more women to support other women?
"I really admire and respect James Baldwin who said, 'we are formed by what we see'. When we constantly see men in leadership roles, we assume that men should be in charge. I believe that women have to take that conscious step of supporting other women so that we have more visible role models."
What advice would you give young women professionals who aspire to hold a position of leadership?
"Just do it! Say 'yes' every time you are offered an advancement, even if you think you're not ready. Women have to take some risks and be determined. You're going to make mistakes but it's about how you pick yourself up and go forward after a mistake that matters. I think you should put yourself out there and really go for it—and you should do it in your own way. You don't have to act like a man to be a leader. Showing vulnerability and admitting you don't have all the answers is okay."
What's next for Copperleaf?
"Our vision is transforming how the world sees value. We want to make a difference in the world through better decision making. That means getting the DNA of ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) into decision making for large corporations. A lot of our clients are affected by the energy transition and racing towards net zero, and we are helping them get there through decision analytics. We're now over $1 billion in market capitalization and our next big goal is to be over $1 billion in revenue."
Watch Judi's interview, which originally aired during the Women Angel Investor Breakfast on March 11:
The full session, can be viewed here.
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