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Denver Startup Week focusing on women-owned businesses and gap in investor funding

Single-serve wine company leading way
Posted: 7:21 PM, Sep 17, 2019
Updated: 2019-09-17 21:21:05-04
6th annual Denver Startup Week kicks off Monday; hundreds of events planned

DENVER -- It's Denver Startup Week, a celebration of entrepreneurs in the Mile High City and around the world.

This year, there’s a big focus on women startups. That's because there's a huge gap in funding for women-owned businesses versus those owned and founded by men.

According to the venture capital research firm Pitchbook Platform, companies founded solely by women only receive 2.3% of the total money invested in startups by venture capitalists.

"We're seeing that there are a lot of women entrepreneurs out there who need money to grow their companies, and do something really cool,” said Finity Jernigan, attorney with Polsinelli in Denver. “Yet they're not finding the capital."

Despite that, women-owned businesses have grown 114% since 2000.

“We need to work together to find out what can we do to close that gap," Jernigan said.

Polsinelli is working to link more investors with women-owned companies like WANDER + IVY single-serving wines.

“We have been successful in raising two rounds of seed capital to date,” said Dana Spaulding, owner of WANDER + IVY. “But, I definitely feel like it’s a male-dominated culture overall in the investment community.”

WANDER + IVY launched in 2017. While canned single-serve wines have been around for some time, Spaulding’s product is uniquely packaged in glass bottles with twist-off caps.

“I think the target demographic is certainly younger females,” Spaulding said. “The bottle’s incredibly unique. It’s something different than anything you see in the wine space.”

Spaulding says relating her story to investors can be difficult.

“You try to make your story resonate with a group of investors that may not be your target demographic. So, that’s really challenging at times.”

At Mayfair Liquors, general manager Matthew Amerson says WANDER + IVY has certainly found a sweet spot.

"When we do the tastings - it flies out of here,” Amerson said. “I think the wine is very good quality. If you want a white with your first course, a red with your second course - it's a good option. You're not opening two bottles of wine that are going to go bad over time."

WANDER + IVY just secured its second round of funding for a second round of production.

"Very stressful,” Spaulding said. “But, I'm very proud. We've had a lot of exciting milestones. I definitely feel like it's a male-dominated culture overall in the investment community."

Polsinelli is working to mentor more women and teach them how to connect with investors.

“That’s what we do,” Jernigan said. “We work to get deals done between entrepreneurs and investors. We don’t know all the reason why women-led businesses aren’t getting the funding. Maybe there are latent biases and we tend to connect with people who are very similar to us. We can change that.”