Candida Brush is a full professor and holder of the Franklin W. Olin Chair in Entrepreneurship, and serves as Division Chair for Entrepreneurship at Babson College. She is also the Faculty Research Director of the Arthur M. Blank Center for Entrepreneurship. Known for her research in women’s entrepreneurship, Brush is also the founder of the Diana Project, created to investigate the disconnect of funding for women-owned businesses.
The Diana Project released a report this week, which analyzed venture capital investments in women entrepreneurs — the first report of its kind in 15 years. Here are her thoughts on some of the findings:
Q: When you first launched the Diana Project what were you attempting to prove? And were there any surprises?
Our question then was no one had looked at growth capital funding for women entrepreneurs. It was in the middle of a time with all of this money flowing and due diligence taking six weeks. We heard a statistic of only 4 percent of women were getting venture capital. We wrote a grant and acquired a data set of all venture capital investments in U.S. businesses from 1950 to 1999. We analyzed the data set and coded every single record. What we ended up finding was no single year for which investments in businesses led by women received less than 5 percent of the total venture capital invested. That was pretty amazing. There were groups and forums and lots of presence of women entrepreneurs. If you have this huge population of women running businesses then why is there this tiny percentage.
Springboard Enterprises had an applicant pool of mostly high-tech entrepreneurs. We analyzed their data and surveyed their applicant pool, about 1,000 women. It had to do with they didn’t want to grow big, they didn’t want to give up control of the business and they didn’t have the right capabilities. We were surprised. It didn’t seem right. You think you get to a time, the heyday of venture capital, and funds are everywhere and people are throwing money at companies. So why weren’t women participating in the phenomenon. We were puzzled.