What is ArcAngels and why does it exist?

New Zealand’s first and only angel network investing in female-led startups.

Women are still viewed as outsiders in a male-dominated industry

Growing up, I’ve been thrilled to see women thriving and excelling in more and more areas on the global stage — from Angela Merkel’s legendary run as Chancellor of Germany, to Christine Lagarde rising to the position of President of the European Central Bank, to the ground breaking rise of Kamala Harris as the most recent Vice President of the United States of America. These incredible women and countless others have been breaking boundaries and excelling in their respective fields across the globe. I‘ll always be inspired by our very own female Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern, leading New Zealand with such integrity.

However, while there have been many break out stars, the institutional barriers and prejudices that women face breaking into Venture Capital specifically, have left them woefully underrepresented. In our own way, ArcAngels has been established to fill that gap as New Zealand’s first and only women-focused angel network.

Raising capital isn’t easy as every entrepreneur encounters tough challenges. For female founders, the challenge is worse as the odds are against them. Women are held to higher standards than men and receive less funding compared to male-led ventures. ArcAngels addresses these funding issues and recognises female-led startups are an under-invested sector with enormous potential. I’m grateful and humbled to lead ArcAngels as the network manager.

An angel network that exclusively invests in female founders

What first drew my attention to ArcAngels was the fact that it’s the only angel network in New Zealand that solely invests in women-led ventures. Founded by Bridget Coates in 2013, with a visionary advisory board and Chair, Cecilia Tarrant, the network has grown to 40 members who support female leaders. ArcAngels sits underneath the wider Icehouse Ventures group who back early-stage global startups from New Zealand, having invested over $147m into 204 startups to date.

My first thought on ArcAngels is that it’s phenomenal. I wasn’t aware of any other angel group that focuses its sole time and energy into female founders. As an ArcAngels investor, you are supporting early-stage startups led by talented women. As a female founder, you are able to share your ideas and raise capital from people who believe in you.

Image for post
Cecilia Tarrant, Chair of ArcAngels

The problem ArcAngels is trying to solve

If you read my previous blog post on My first 5 months working in VC, you will be familiar with some of the points I’m about to highlight. Female founded ventures find it extremely difficult to raise capital compared to male founded ventures. This is a globally pervasive issue and problematic to solve. While I absolutely love what I do, I’m constantly frustrated at the startup ecosystem lacking female presence — both here and abroad.

  • In the US, only 3% of VC funding went to female-led companies last year
  • In New Zealand, 18% of angel investment went to female ventures in 2018 (AANZ Survey, 2018)
  • There is a bias against female founders where a Columbia & Harvard study reported 66% of female entrepreneurs are asked prevention questions vs promotion questions when asking for funding
  • Despite all of the above, studies show women are 35% more capital efficient

I’ve painted a clear picture. There’s a lack of representation of females in the startup industry and the opportunities for capital are limited. Evidence shows women do more with less! ArcAngels plays a necessary role in addressing these issues and helping female leaders with the best support possible.

New Zealand’s first female fund

The ArcAngels Fund is the first of its kind in New Zealand to invest specifically in female entrepreneurs. It sits beautifully alongside the network allowing people to invest in the same mission in a different way. The $2.8m fund enables those to invest in over 20 female-led companies. This is a great investment strategy for diversification of one’s portfolio by spreading wide across multiple female-led startups. So far the ArcAngels Fund has invested in Beany, Chnnl, Rebecca Page, Pyper Vision and many more.

Image for post
Presenting the ArcAngels Fund at an investor event (August 2020)

Final words…

So how do I fit in? My role is largely diverse and keeps me well occupied! A typical week would be hearing pitches from founders, meeting with a prospective investor and organising next month’s ArcAngels’ investment evening. In addition to that, I’m assisting my team with screening wider deal flow and raising our other funds. After a jam-packed week of VC work, I love to let off some steam through DJing where I play at New Zealand clubs and festivals. I’m one of very few female DJs in the local music scene. This is another male-dominated industry, albeit it’s slowly improving.

The passion I have for ArcAngels comes naturally. I don’t go home and stop thinking about the ongoing issues females face. I must work hard and create change for our women leaders. If we continue persevering in this challenging landscape, the results will unravel sooner than we think. To all the female entrepreneurs and leaders in New Zealand, we are supporting you!

Lauren Fong

ArcAngels Manager at Icehouse Ventures

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store