NAYA| The Angel Fund: Urging diversity in Startups

The Angel Fund program envisions a brighter Lebanon; a country where equality and diversity are spread across its different sectors.
by Maysaa Ajjan and Nassab Helal

21 October 2019 | 14:46

Source: by Annahar

Photo shows Corine Kiame from LWAF

BEIRUT: Lebanon is facing a noticeable gender gap when it comes to business investments. Less than 4 percent of investors in Lebanon are women and only 20 percent of women-led startups get funded, according IM Capital.

This status quo was the main driving force behind the launch of the Lebanese Women Angel Fund (LWAF) back in 2016. This fund was established by the Lebanese League for Women in Business (LLWB) in partnership with IM Capital.

“We took a look at the Lebanese ecosystem and we saw a gap concerning women investors and women-led startups,” Investment Manager at IM Capital and one the founders of LWAF Corine Kiame, told Annahar. “Women were not getting funded as much as men and the majority of the investors in Lebanon are male. This intimated most women preventing them from becoming entrepreneurs.”

The Angel Fund program envisions a brighter Lebanon; a country where equality and diversity are spread across its different sectors. 

“The main challenge we faced was trying to figure out the reason behind this existing gap; do women fail to understand investment? Are they capable of making business decisions? Are they intimidated by men? Or do they simply dislike the concept of entrepreneurship?”

In 2017, Kiame teamed up with the president of LLWB Asmahan Zein, an old friend and investor in former projects, and contacted over 200 potential women investors.

Only 23 replied back and agreed to participate in the Lebanese Women Angel fund (LWAF).

These women were taught what startups are, how to structure a deal and how to become investors. Following their training, they were asked to invest an amount of $10,000 but were guaranteed 50 percent of it as early-stage businesses are very risky and prone to failure.

“A hefty amount of $230,000 was collected from these women and invested in three early stage businesses: Jaleesa, Geek Express and Yakshof,” said Kiame. In parallel, the World Bank agreed to match the Angel Fund. “For every dollar we managed to raise, we got another in return. So we were able to cover our fund and invest $460,000 in 3 women-led businesses.”

Women proved themselves to be as smart and capable of making shrewd investment decisions as much as men.

“We had two funds running in parallel: LWAF and a similar fund with male investors. Kiame commented. “The two groups opted to invest in the same startup. What does this show you? That men and women can take the same investment decisions. People are just under the impression that women and entrepreneurship are not a great match.”

Often people consider LWAF to be a feminist initiative but in reality, their focus is diversity. They are empowering women in the investment sector to encourage diversity between men and women across Lebanon. This initiative is also pumping capital into companies ultimately creating job opportunities and nourishing the Lebanese ecosystem.

“Everyone thinks we are feminists but we aren’t. We proved that the Angel Fund is all about introducing diversity into the workplace,” Kiame told Annahar. “I always get asked the same question: If I get 2 exact same pitches-one from a man and another from a woman- which one would I choose to invest in? Feminists would say I would go for the woman, an average worldwide investor would say I would go for the man, but you know what LWAF would say? LWAF would say I will invest in both and let the best person win. We do not prefer one gender over the other because, it is about diversity not feminism.”

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Welcome to “NAYA”, the newest addition to Annahar’s coverage. This section aims at fortifying Lebanese women’s voices by highlighting their talents, challenges, innovations, and women’s empowerment. We will also be reporting on the world of work, family, style, health, and culture. NAYA is devoted to women of all generations-NAYA Editor, Sally Farhat: Sally.farhat@annahar.com.lb

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