Summit emcees Dr. Silvia Mah, founder of Stella Labs; Elaine Swann, founder of Swann School; and Raven O’Neal, executive director at Stella Labs

Summit emcees Dr. Silvia Mah, founder of Stella Labs; Elaine Swann, founder of Swann School; and Raven O’Neal, executive director at Stella Labs

Funding is what’s on the table this week at the eighth-annual Women’s Venture Summit, created to help fuel and support female-led startups.  

The Sept. 17-18 Summit will familiarize female founders with the entire entrepreneurial ecosystem. Since debuting eight years ago, the event has helped funnel more than $18 million into women-owned businesses, according to organizers.

During the Summit’s popular fast-pitch competition, eight national finalists vie for a $10,000 top prize – and an additional $35,000 in business support services.

A massaging bra for breastfeeding mothers is one of the pitches expected to be delivered during this year’s contest.

Expert Advice

The Sept. 17-18 Summit offers expert advice on startup challenges like identifying funding opportunities, spotting and neutralizing bias, and identifying investor trends mid-pandemic. One breakout session is titled “Grow Your Money, Change the World.”
 
The event also includes panel discussions and Q&A’s with VC vets. The fast-pitch competition happens from 10-11 a.m. Saturday.

The Summit had been held at the University of San Diego until COVID-19 forced organizers to go virtual in 2020.  The virtual format has allowed organizers to pivot and open up the fast-pitch competition to participants from around the country.  

This year’s pitches will come from female entrepreneurs in Alaska, New York, Miami, Michigan, Texas and Arizona.

Scottsdale resident Melissa Kiguwa will be promoting her company, Obanj, which offers a subscription platform for borrowing high-end designer jewelry.

Local entrepreneur Pree Walia, the creator of Nailbot, an intelligent at-home manicure system, will represent San Diego in the competition. Her company is called Preemadonna.

All of the contestants will have up to five minutes to make their plea for funding. To earn their spots, each had to win a regional competition.  

Overlooked Markets

Co-hosts of the Summit, Stella Labs, Stella Angels and Ad Astra Ventures, said organizers intentionally sought pitch contest participants in overlooked markets like the Midwest, which Crunchbase reported received the lowest amount of VC funding in 2020.

“To provide women founders with equal footing, we must meet them where they are and that means looking beyond traditional startup hotbeds and tech to include other industries like consumer goods and services,” said executive director of Stella Labs Raven O’Neal.  

“Innovation is everywhere and we are stretching our net of inclusion to give people a stage to tell their stories, solve problems and design the future,” O’Neal added.

Women's Venture Summit
FOUNDED: 2013
HOSTS: Stella Labs, Stella Angels and Ad Astra Ventures
MISSION: Supporting and connecting female-led startups with early-stage investors
ECONOMIC IMPACT: $18 million in investments to female entrepreneurs
WEBSITE: 
www.womensventuresummit.org
NOTABLE: 2021 theme: “We Rise by Raising Others”