Women, people of color will be focus of new Doyenne Group investment fund

By Erik Lorenzsonn, The Capital Times

Doyenne2_webThe Doyenne Group, a nonprofit devoted to helping women entrepreneurs, has unveiled a new $1.2 million fund for investing in startups operated by women and people of color.

Amy Gannon and Heather Wentler, the two co-founders of the group, were joined by Alderman Mark Clear at the downtown branch of the Madison Public Library on Wednesday before the start of a Forward Festival event to announce the launch of the “Doyenne Group Evergreen Fund.” The fund, they said, will be a major step toward addressing a lack of diversity in the world of entrepreneurship and tech in Madison.

The pool of money that the nonprofit will manage is unique in its structure — in a sense, it’s a fund within a fund. Half of the $1.2 million is public money coming from the City of Madison’s Entrepreneurship & Small Business Development Resource Fund — a program authorized by the city in 2014 as part of its municipal budget. The city voted this May to award Doyenne the authority to manage the fund, which effectively transfers the money to the nonprofit’s coffers.

Ald. Mark Clear — who himself is a longtime entrepreneur, currently serving as the chief operations officer at the startup talent agency GigBlender — was one of the alders responsible for proposing the public fund in 2014, along with then-alderman Scott Resnick.

“Resnick and I were talking about entrepreneurship, and particularly the gender gap in terms of entrepreneurship,” Clear told a crowd gathered in the conference room. “And what governments do when they see a problem, is throw money at it.”

The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, the Wisconsin Women’s Business Initiative Corporation and A Fund for Women are also building on that $600,000 foundation with about $420,000 in contributions of their own. A further $200,000 will come from Doyenne’s own fundraising. Read more …

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