Natalia Oberti Noguera is Changing the Face of Angel Investing
May 03, 2019 | Filed in: Woman of the Week
Natalia Oberti Noguera isn’t afraid to speak truth to power. In fact, she thrives on it. After attending Yale and earning a Master’s degree from Bocconi School of Management in Milan, she moved to New York. The women and femmes in her network didn’t lack for ideas, intelligence, or drive, but they consistently struggled to secure funding from the (mostly) male investors they approached. So Natalia launched Pipeline Angels to shift this dynamic and shake up the financial status quo. Her belief: Creating and empowering more female and femme angel investors will change the way capital shapes and moves through our society. [Note: “femme” refers to non-binary people who identify with womanhood.] Below, Natalia shares her thoughts on inclusion, the power of labels, and calling out unconscious bias.
RECENTLY, I CAME ACROSS DOMINIQUE DERBIGNY’S TWEET, “If you’re talking about race and gender equity without talking about white supremacy and patriarchy…what are you really doing?” If we want to achieve economic justice, we need to recognize how patriarchy and white supremacy influence who has access to capital. At Pipeline Angels, we’re committed to not perpetuating systems that we’re aiming to disrupt and this is why we hold an unconscious bias session during orientation.
OUR SOCIETY HAS A GENDERED CONCEPTION OF HOW WE CHANGE THE WORLD. When a woman or femme says they’re going to change the world, the assumption is that they’re launching a non-profit. When a guy says he’s going to change the world, people don’t assume he’s launching a non-profit. In 2008, when I created a network for women and femme social entrepreneurs, I kept hearing the same thing from them: that people were interested in donating to their non-profit efforts but not their for-profit social ventures. There was such a disconnect.
I WAS INVITED TO A MEETING FOR ANGEL INVESTORS IN 2012, and of the 20 people in the room, 17 of them were white men. We were discussing whether or not to invest in a specific startup, and the guys kept mentioning, “Well, my girlfriend and her friends think this…” or “My wife thinks that…” The social capital of these women was present, but the women themselves weren’t! It was frustrating but also validating: I was working on the idea for Pipeline Angels at the time, and I knew I was on the right track. To borrow a concept from “Shark Tank,” I often say I’m in the business of creating more women and femme sharks. There are enough white-guy sharks investing in other white guys.
I BELIEVE THAT IF YOU WANT TO BE INCLUSIVE, YOU HAVE TO BE EXPLICIT. I introduce myself by saying: I’m cis, I’m queer, I’m Latinx, and my pronouns are “she/her.” The language we use is very important, and it helps create inclusive spaces by signaling to others that they belong. At Pipeline Angels, we work with anyone who identifies with womanhood: cis, trans, non-binary. We have non-binary members and portfolio company founders who told us that had we not explicitly used that language, they wouldn’t have known they were welcome to apply. When it comes to investing, it’s so important to intentionally invite diverse people to the table.
HOW DO WE HELP WOMEN AND FEMMES BECOME ANGEL INVESTORS? We have an investment boot camp with educational and practical components. We provide workshops on due diligence, portfolio strategies, measuring impact, evaluation, and exit strategies. And then we connect members with a mentor who is a seasoned angel investor. The idea is to share both best practices and best mistakes. We also hold pitch summits in various cities so that we can activate capital and build connections between local entrepreneurs and investors. It’s important to remember that entrepreneurship and investing can happen anywhere—not just Silicon Valley.
I OFTEN EMPHASIZE: GENIUS DOESN’T ONLY COME IN EXTROVERT SIZE. Not all entrepreneurs are extroverts, and that’s part of the conversation around diversity and inclusion. At our pitch summits, we facilitate one-on-one meetings between entrepreneurs and investors, so that the burden is not always on the individual to “lean in.” Sometimes it’s the system that should be leaning in. So, during lunch at our summits, we have these five-minute sessions where individuals connect, but it’s facilitated by the system, so you don’t have to be super-outgoing to take advantage of it.
BEING A GOOD INVESTOR MEANS LOOKING BEYOND THE NUMBERS. We’re not just teaching Angel Investing 101; we’re also helping our members understand their unconscious biases and the inherent inequity of the status quo. #wiselatina Nicole Sanchez spoke at one of our conferences a while back and shared how the tech media glamorizes the concept of bootstrapping and how for some of our communities, bootstrapping simply means living. I also underscore there are entrepreneurs who may not have the friends and family for the friends and family round. Our members serve as the friends and family round for entrepreneurs and can help fill that hole by injecting capital that gets these companies off the ground.
THERE’S A BEAUTIFUL POEM CALLED “BRAVE SPACE” by Micky ScottBey Jones. It discusses how the concept of a “safe space” is a fallacy. You can’t prevent hurt from happening. But what we need is a “brave space” where we can face uncomfortable truths and have brave conversations. Why is the majority of capital still flowing between white men in 2019? Let’s talk about this. Let’s name it explicitly—patriarchy, white supremacy—and then let’s work together to fix it.