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Saturday, 15 July, 2000, 08:13 GMT 09:13 UK
Women spring to venture capital
Schmoozing at a venture capital meeting
Women want to break into the male world of VC
By Washington correspondent Rob Watson

When it comes to raising money for their hi-tech business ideas, women in the United States have not been getting a fair share.

That at least is the view of the Washington-based National Women's Business Council.

To reverse the trend it has set up an event called Springboard 2000, a women-only opportunity to sell ideas to potential investors.

Practicing her pitch

Tenley Carp is up against the clock - she has just eight minutes to sell her business idea to a roomful of time is money investors.

With a few dollars you can form an empire, a large company, because of IT and the internet

John May
"Jury Sign-Up will be profitable after Year One," she tells them.

She finishes well under the eight-minute time limit.

"Wow. 42 seconds left - I guess I can slow down," she says.

She can breathe again. This is only a rehearsal.

Model capitalist

Tenley Carp is a businesswoman and model of the modern American entrepreneurial spirit.

Her idea is simplicity itself, a method of screening potential jurors online.

It could save America's justice system a fortune, and make her a very rich woman, though she says that is not the motive.

"Why do I want to do this? This is just me. I mean this is what I do. This is what I want to do," she said.

Offers roll in

In the past, women have found it difficult to raise capital.

We had investors coming at and almost $8m of offers on the spot

Lisa Henderson
Springboard gives them a chance do just, giving them training and an opportunity to pitch their products directly to venture capitalists.

Lisa Henderson, who had her chance at the first Springboard event in California earlier this year, says she had barely stopped talking before the offers flooded in.

"Before I was able to get backstage and down the hallway, we had investors coming at us, and almost $8 million of offers on the spot," she said.

"In a 48 hour period after Springboard, we had over 80 phone calls from investors," she added.

Growing a company

Although the so-called dotcom industry has taken something of a beating on Wall Street in recent months, investment guru John May is still positive.

He says a good idea can be turned into a good business cheaply thanks to modern technology.

"I think what it is, is about the democratisation of capital. We have here an idea that with a few dollars you can form an empire, a large company, because of the information technology and the internet," he said.

As well as Ms Tenleys' presentation, the investors in the audience hear a range of ideas from getting into college online to helping the FBI with Internet security.

Investor Jim Kabbani liked what he heard. There were several companies that caught his attention. But it also helped separate the wheat from the chaff, he added.

"I think this Springboard-type concept is useful in pre-screening a lot of those not-so-good ideas out there," he said.

Nervous excitement

As for Tenley Carp, it was likely a successful first date.

"There is interest. Two for real," she said, but she is nervous about whether they follow up.

"It is like when you were young, maybe in college, and the guy said he would call, and he never called. It's sort of like that," she said.

For Tenley boy-meets-girl, or rather investor-meets-businesswoman, was a success, with at least 3 audience members following up on her presentation.

It is just one person's story, but one which illustrates how America is a country where new ideas and the people behind them are taken seriously.

An approach to business that has made the US the world's mightiest economy and which looks set to ensure that dominance in the years ahead.

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See also:

01 May 00 | Business Basics
What do venture capitalists do?
29 Oct 99 | Business Basics
Venture Capital - a tonic for entrepreneurs
30 Jan 00 | Business
The internet money game
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