As with many stories in history, Springboard was started by a few people who were pissed off with the way things were. Kay Koplovitz and Amy Millman wanted to know why VCs weren’t backing more women. The answer they got? They just weren’t seeing many pitches from women to begin with. That, they decided, was a problem they could solve.
The result was Springboard, an accelerator program for growth stage companies run by women. Since 2000, it has backed over 400 women led companies, which have raised more than $5 billion in equity financing, with their successful alumnae including Robin Chase of Zipcar, Helen Greiner of iRobot, and Gail Goodman of Constant Contact. ”We look for great investment opportunities, great entrepreneurs, and great companies, and they all just happen to be women led,” says program director Joshua Henderson.
This week Springboard announced 11 new seed and growth stage deals for their 2012 class as well as a a new 40 person advisory council. They include companies focused on ecommerce, B2B, cloud, digital media, entertainment and financial services, and council members such as Gilt Groupe founder Alexis Maybank, former CEO of Reader’s Digest Mary Berner, co-founder of TRUSTe and Match.com Fran Maier, former CEO of Huffington Post Betsy Morgan, and investors like Sonja Hoel Perkins, Sharon Weinbar, Patricia Nakache, Cindy Padnos, and Heidi Roizen. The full list of companies is below.
The class chosen for this year is full of promising companies. One of the companies called Consensus Point in particular is doing something a bit different than years before. Based out of Tennessee, this B2B company just closed a round of funding, which means they are not in dire need of cash to get their company off the ground. They are taking advantage of this accelerator not necessarily to close a round of funding but to accelerate growth by making strategic connections with potential customers, potential partners, and leveraging the Springboard network in a different way. Consensus Point really “speaks to to the value of the network effect” says Henderson. Because Springboard crafts a handpicked team around each company based on their stage and their specific needs, companies can get a lot of value out of this process that is more than money can buy.
The original Springboard, which was located in the basement of the Garage.com building, had over 300 paper applications stacked to the ceiling that first year. Since that point its been a decade long process of building an incredible network of high powered, well connected, experienced entrepreneurs, investors to create a community of industry experts that can support in building and scaling high growth companies.
Springboard is very strategic in analyzing where the gaps are in a given company and then building a coaching team around five to seven individuals, who all bring a different perspective from legal, accounting, marketing, entrepreneurship, and investing.
As they have been growing this “women only” incubator, the problem is never finding the best talent, “the problem is women showing it off” notes Henderson. Part of the process that each entrepreneur goes through is to give a two minute elevator pitch, not about their companies but about themselves. During one of these pitches there was “a woman speaking about her new open source healthcare project, [who] didn’t mention that she was the former CTO of RedHat,” Henderson exclaimed. “How did she not lead with that!”
Years ago when Joshua Henderson had just started at Springboard, he was drawn to the “immense potential for building an incredibly vast, rich network of women entrepreneurs.” Today that potential is realized with this new batch of companies:
- BYNDL: Enterprise-class mobile marketing and payments platform for unattended retail and vending
- Commerce Drivers: Mobile commerce platform streamlining the online purchasing process
- Consensus Point: Enterprise prediction market software revolutionizing market research
- Ditto: Eyewear ecommerce site with groundbreaking virtual try-on technology
- Finomial: Transforms and automates manual hedge fund subscription process
- MeeGenius: Cross-platform virtual store for enhanced children’s books
- NopSec: Smart cloud security company with Vulnerability Risk Management (VRM) SaaS platform
- Of A Kind: Fashion ecommerce platform for discovering and marketing emerging design talent
- Pretty In My Pocket: Mobile shopping assistant changing the way people discover and purchase beauty products
- SoLoMo: Trust management platform for brands to better interact with their customers
- SoMoLend: Debt-based, commercial-focused crowdfunding platform
[Image Credit: Springboard Enterprises]