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updated 2:54 PM UTC, Jul 28, 2018

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Organization focuses on teaching women philanthropists to become angel investors

Pipeline Fellowship, a national "bootcamp" to teach women philanthropists how to become angel investors as part of a strategy to boost funding opportunities for female entrepreneurs who are starting for-profit social ventures, is being launched later this month in Seattle.
Natalia Oberti Noguera


The program, created in New York in 2007 and already in place in several cities around the country, is being put together in the Seattle area under the guidance of Susan Preston, a Seattle attorney long-prominent in helping entrepreneurs and a founder in the late '90s of the local women's angel organization called Seraph Capital Forum.


The Seattle launch of the Fellowship is likely to get a visibility boost because of a national award that Preston will be receiving as Small Business Person of the Year, selected by the Small Business Council of America. She will receive the award in Washington, D.C. in early May.


sue preston
Sue Preston

Preston returned recently to Seattle from the Bay Area where she had served as general partner of the California Clean Energy Fund (CalCEF) since its formation six years ago.


Pipeline Fellowship founder and CEO Natalia Oberti Noguera explained in a telephone interview that women who want to participate in the bootcamp must be "qualified investors," pay $4,500 to join the six-month program and commit two full days a month to learning about and getting comfortable with the process of angel investing.


She said the bootcamp includes presentations from various female entrepreneurs seeking start-up capital and at the end of the program, participants will each commit to invest. Each Pipeline Fellow commits to invest $5,000 in the same woman-led for-profit social venture at the end of the program.


The coming of the Pipeline Foundation program to Seattle will represent a reunion of Preston and Oberti Noguera because it was at a seminar Preston was conducting for the Angel Resource Group where Oberti Noguera was a student first learning about angel investing.


Preston, who has written a couple of books including Angel Investing for Entrepreneurs, apparently was a good instructor because it was soon thereafter that Oberti Noguera, at the age of 27, founded the Pipeline organization. Its impact and her successes have led to her being named last year as one of the "30 most important women in tech under 30" by Business Insider and being featured in the New York Times, Fast Company and onLatina.com's "25 Latinas Who Shine in Tech."


Oberti Noguera said women with the means to be investors "need to get much more comfortable with investing, not just donating," a reference to the practice of many such women to be philanthropists.


The requirement that the women be "qualified investor" means each must meet the requirement of the Securities and Exchange Commission of having a net worth of $1 million, excluding primary residence value, and have annual income of $200,000 a year, or $300,000 in couple income.


Women entrepreneurs need to pay a $40 application-processing fee for the chance to secure funding at one of the organization's "Pitch Summits."


Oberti Noguera explained that companies eligible to apply to be part of a Pipeline Fellowship Pitch Summit must be co-owned or founded by a woman, have a for-profit legal structure, have a social or environmental mission and be a U.S. company.

She says the outcome of the Pipeline Foundation efforts has been to "activate more local women angels in the cities where the foundation is operating and to create more capital for women social entrepreneurs."


Seattle is one four cities where the Pipeline Fellowship will launch in the coming months, with Los Angeles, Austin and Miami, along with Seattle, joining Boston, the Bay Area, Chicago and Washington, D.C., as locations that will help women of wealth begin to focus on how to invest in women entrepreneurs.


.Both Oberti Noguera and Preston described the launching of pipeline-Fellowship investing in Seattle as an important milestone, noting that alumnae of the program have gone on to join later-stage angel groups, and have shared their conviction that the angel-investing bootcamp gave them the confidence to take that bigger step.


"Seattle was ranked as the third best city for women entrepreneurs by one national organization and our presence will create additional funding for women led, for-profit social ventures," said Oberti Noguera.


The decision to launch in Seattle came after an event here last June to discuss such a step in a session at which Seattle attorney Barbara Prowant, who is president of Seraph Capital and has been a leader in efforts to increase diversity in the V.C. and angel communities, keynoted.


Oberti Noguero, who says that while she is a connection rather than being an angel investor, joked during our phone conversation that as a woman who is half Italian and half Columbian, she believes in "the hybrid business model."


With respect to Preston's forthcoming award, it is to honor an American businessman or woman for outstanding accomplishments in promoting a favorable environment for the small businesses of America.


"I am particularly pleased to have the Council recognize the value that is provided by angel and other early-stage investors, whose, high-risk capital is essential to build a strong start-up business environment," said Preston.

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