IT’S EARLY FEBRUARY 2014 in Paddington, Sydney at a tucked away, charismatic oasis in Underwood Street. Hidden to most people except investment seekers, entrepreneurs and philanthropists, the event is the launch of the Springboard Australia accelerator program for female entrepreneurs. The host is wealthy investor Mark Carnegie, although he doesn’t show. He has asked Rebekah Horne, one of the high tech entrepreneurs he has backed, to talk. She gives an honest and grounded account of her experiences raising funds and ultimately exiting the business. It’s tough, fun and worthwhile. She welcomes back three women from last years’ Springboard Australia class, who will later impart the wisdom they gained from the program, and stresses the importance of female entrepreneurship to Australia, the potential to go global and the impact women are already making on the local innovation and tech start-up culture.
It is clear Rebekah Horne is shrewd, smart and seasoned. Undoubtedly, she needs to be. MH Carnegie & Co is looking for home runs that will see its private funds multiply ten times on exit. This means, in general, that an investment of between $1 to $5 million will be expected to return up to $50 million; such is the nature of venture capital. It is even more cut throat in Sydney where such Series A and B capital, the funding phase beyond seed or angel capital that entrepreneurs call the valley of death, is notoriously hard to come by; there’s a dearth of this type of capital. It’s not such a surprise that so few women in Australia have reached this level and so few have given it a go. But now there’s a shift, and it’s happened remarkably quickly over the past months as some of the barriers to capital are breaking down and female entrepreneurs are starting up.
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