The Right Climate in So Many Ways: Arizona Chapter of Golden Seeds

Arizona is hot these days — and we’re not just talking about the temperature.

The Grand Canyon State is recognized as one of the fastest growing states in the nation. That makes it a perfect fit for Golden Seeds, which has been identifying and funding women-led companies throughout the U.S. for the past 15 years.

A number of reasons make Arizona attractive for women entrepreneurs and angel investors. For starters, it’s one of the top 5 states for population growth, job growth and income growth. It also has the third largest labor pool in the West.

“I have been encouraging Golden Seeds to launch a chapter in Arizona and am thrilled to see this new partnership with our dynamic, women-led businesses,” said Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego. “Phoenix is America’s fastest growing city and home to so many strong entrepreneurs, so we are a great place for Golden Seeds to invest.”

Arizona has created the right climate for scalable business, and that’s paying off. “Investors clearly see the potential,” said Sandra Watson, president and CEO of the Arizona Commerce Authority, the state’s leading economic development organization.

We at Golden Seeds are excited to become a part of the state’s success story.

Arizona is being recognized for its innovation

There’s an obvious reason for the expansion: Arizona’s economic climate is renowned for being robust and business friendly. The state offers aggressive tax credits and incentives, programs designed to increase capital and a minimalist regulatory approach.

In fact, Arizona is ranked among the top 10 most tax-friendly states in the nation, according to a recent State-by-State Guide to Taxes released by Kiplinger.

That’s attracting business. “So far this year, Phoenix has raised $661 million in VC funding — more than double its 2015 total of $290 million,” Watson said, citing statistics from data and research company Pitchbook.

A strong focus on innovation is a major factor. In 2018, Arizona was the first state to implement a regulatory fintech sandbox — a legal framework that allows startups to test their products for up to two years before they have to apply for a formal license. The state launched a second initiative, PropTech Sandbox, earlier this year.

Arizona State University (ASU) and Mayo Clinic have partnered to develop an $80 million Health Futures Center, which will house startup companies in ASU’s MedTech Accelerator.

A relentless pursuit of innovation and technology

Companies are committed to enabling success by connecting the region’s legacy businesses with emerging disruptors. Greater Phoenix is supporting innovation through applied research centers such as WearTech Center, which launched in 2019, with the mission to develop wearable technology solutions that improve quality of life and human performance.

Recently, business and community leaders broke ground on the Sahuarita Advanced Manufacturing and Technology Center, which will support small business innovation and technology development in Southern Arizona.

The Arizona Commerce Authority is investing in the state as part of its mission to grow and strengthen Arizona’s economy. Among other things, it sponsors the Arizona Innovation Challenge, a technology commercialization competition that awards $150,000 in grants to up to 10 companies, twice a year, for a total of $3 million annually.

Further, AZBio has teamed up with two foundations to raise a $200 million endowment to support the commercialization of healthcare innovations developed by area researchers and entrepreneurs.

Then there’s Coplex, which brings together industry experts, entrepreneurs and corporate innovators to solve big industry problems using technology. Coplex has helped launch more than 300 startups, and since 2017, it has assisted more than 50 startups with its $150,000 nine-month venture builder program.

The talent pipeline is strong

A strong talent pipeline is critical to the success of all these ventures, and the state’s educational institutions are equipped to fill that need.

Arizona has one of the largest concentrations of science and technology students and graduates in the nation (ASU, University of Arizona, Northern Arizona University). In fact, ASU was named the “№1 most innovative school” in the nation for the fifth year in a row by U.S. News & World Report.

The ecosystem is strong

Golden Seeds looks forward to collaborating with Arizona’s robust investor ecosystem to fund early stage companies headed by women. Local Arizona-focused angel groups include Arizona Technology Investors (ATI), Desert Angels, Canyon Angels, Arizona Founders Fund and InvestU.

The launch of the Arizona Chapter of Golden Seeds will support the local angel investor market and provide added focus on women entrepreneurs in the area. Starting in November 2019, the chapter began its monthly Office Hours program at the Center for Entrepreneurial Innovation (CEI), with the goal of mentoring up-and-coming female entrepreneurs and providing a pathway to the national Golden Seeds investor network (300+ members).

The CEI opened its business incubator focused on science and tech startups in 2013. To help prepare Arizona’s workforce for careers in biotech and life science, CEI recently announced it will open a $1.9 million CEI LabForce facility in downtown Phoenix in 2020. The organization recently received the Science and Technology Entrepreneurship Center of the Year Award from the International Business Innovation Association, a global nonprofit with more than 2,200 members.

Arizona is clearly on the rise, and Golden Seeds is proud to be a part of its continuing success story. We look forward to working together to foster an even brighter future.

If you are an investor or entrepreneur who would like to learn more about our Arizona chapter, contact us at

How did she do it? A Q&A with Christina Lomasney, Co-founder, President, and CEO of Modumetal

Christina Lomasney, Co-founder, President and CEO of Modumetal

A lean organization with fewer than 50 employees, Modumetal has big goals: they’re working to redefine materials and processes in the centuries-old construction industry as well as in the oil and gas, automotive, aerospace and infrastructure industries. Of course, with lofty goals come serious challenges. Leading Modumetal through these challenges is Christina Lomasney, who describes herself as the “Co-founder, President, CEO, and sometimes janitor” of the Seattle-based company.

In this discussion with Gwen Edwards, Managing Director of Golden Seeds, Christina discusses the details of what Modumetal does, the wide-ranging challenges the company has faced, how it has risen to meet them, and what advice she has for other entrepreneurs.

CL: We started the company a little over 10 years ago to address the challenges associated with using building materials for construction that are over 100 years old. Interestingly, though, we were founded as a result of a product we developed to address the challenges in up-armoring Humvees in the lead up to the Iraq war in the 2005 timeframe.

Conventional steel, which is the material of choice due to cost and performance balance, were limited in their ability to deliver a ballistic performance that’s acceptable for that type of vehicle. So we started developing tech to address that problem. We came up with manufacturing technology and a class of materials that address that particular challenge, but also many of the problems plaguing the construction and transportation industries, such as being able to produce cars that are lighter, and infrastructure and buildings that last longer. We aim to deliver materials that can last much longer than those developed at the turn of the century.

The class of materials we use are known as nano laminated alloys. So they’re layered materials and layered metals, where the layers are on the scale of nanometers — they’re very thin plies stacked up to produce bulk materials or coatings that protect things from the environment and provide structural reinforcement, and do it in a much more efficient way than a conventional homogeneous steel, for example. That’s the first part of the breakthrough.

The second part of the breakthrough was a manufacturing process — which is actually very important when dealing with industrial markets — that was cost competitive with conventional pyro, or heat-based, processes.

We developed a manufacturing process based on electricity. We can produce metals near room temperature, and do it with direct input of electricity into the process. Basically, it’s an electro-chemical process — electricity and chemistry are combined to produce this unique class of materials. So, we make these nano layers at a cost that’s competitive with conventional metals.

This is really a major breakthrough. When you think about it, the materials of construction define not only economic innovation, but also social innovations: We reflect on periods in human evolution by their materials of construction — the Stone Age, the Bronze Age, the Iron Age, the Steel Age… and now the Logic Metal Age is afoot.

CL: The market need is really unique to each user of our product, and that’s one of the biggest challenges we faced early on. The tech can apply anywhere metals are used, and some places where they aren’t, so there are a lot of challenges we can solve — from light weighting vehicles, to producing engines that can run hotter, to being able to produce steel that can last longer in aggressive environments.

We recognize as an early stage company that it is not enough to say we have this tech that can apply everywhere, so we had to develop it for specific market needs.

We decided to focus on the corrosion of metals because it is very costly and affects a lot of major industrial users. In fact, it’s estimated to cost 4.1% of the gross domestic product of the U.S.! This is hundreds of billions of dollars in indirect costs every year addressing metals, and it is a multi-trillon-dollar problem globally.

We also focus specifically on the energy sector because corrosion directly correlates to economic performance.

We have a galvanizing technology, which is the most prevalent anti-corrosion system used in the world. It protects steel from the effects of corrosion, so we developed a nano-laminated galvanization, that we call NanoGal, that’s capable of out-performing traditional galvanization on the order of 30 times, at a cost that’s competitive with conventional galvanization. In oil and gas its used in nuts and bolts, and other types of connections, because those connections are both safety critical and single points of failure. So, it’s a cost issue as well as a safety issue created by corrosion.

Modumetal is unique because we deliver both increased performance and a tech that is competitive on cost.

The other unique thing is that we actually bring the tech to market through licenses, in addition to manufacturing it ourselves. We recognized that we’re competing against tech that has been around for a long time, that has a robust supply chain — especially in the energy sector. We recognize the likelihood of introducing tech to market that would easily displace that supply chain is unlikely, so we license it into the existing supply chain.

CL: The challenge is intrinsic in what we are trying to do: displace materials that have been in the market for almost a century. So, the challenges are associated with changing the status quo in industries that are very well developed, and for good reason. We’re selling into markets that are specification driven, markets that are commoditized, and markets that define what can be purchased and how it has to be made.

In the case of metal, the specificity applies to the composition of the metal and the exact manufacturing process. The reason for that is two fold: the industry is very mature, but also these are safety critical applications, so there is a strong need to constrain the market in its ability to purchase off brand products that don’t perform the same.

There’s little tolerance for innovation, and few processes that facilitate innovation, so the process to change a specification in an industrial market takes a long time. We actually benchmarked the industry and found that it takes on average 18 years to change a metal specification.

That is the biggest challenge we face: the length of time to get from recognizing that the product works to the point where we’re specified and customers can actually buy the product.

CL: We have been tracking our progress against achieving specification, and now that we have that, the next milestone is getting enough production capacity online. I’m happy to report that as of the fourth quarter last year, NanoGalv has been trademark specified by most major oil and gas companies.

We also recently announced a partnership with the trading arm of Toyota Tsusho’s U.S. Metals group — which is an $80 billion company — to build a facility to manufacture product for these energy sector applications, and beyond into construction and automotive.

CL: We’re still a work in progress, ourselves, of course, but I have learned that this — building a company, getting funding, and everything in between — is at times a very lonely process.

We’ve been through a whole slew of challenges, and there were times when external forces weren’t pointing toward success, but I always believed in our team and our tech. The challenges we have now are not the same from years ago, which is a sign we have continued to grow and succeed.

If you truly believe in what you’re doing, don’t ever give up. Some of the greatest successes in history have been achieved for no other reason than perseverance.

CL: Golden Seeds has been with us almost since the beginning; we have a long trajectory and relationship. Through Golden Seeds, we attracted a member for my board of directors, and we have close collaboration with investors through Golden Seeds.

We’ve had networks that have come and gone in the company, and we’ve been lucky that as we needed insight and input, the right people have rotated through our arc. Whether it’s been legal advice, R&D, or market advice, I’ve found more of those networks through Golden Seeds than any single group of people.

Learn about the work of Golden Seeds.

Gender diversity = Good business

Founders just starting a new company, or even those looking to keep more established companies successful, have a lot to consider: improving their products, hiring and keeping the best management team, how they’ll take their products to market, and hundreds of other concerns. At Golden Seeds, we believe very strongly that one of the things on the list — high on the list, in fact — has to be gender diversity. It’s certainly high on ours.

More than that, gender diversity is baked into our investment thesis; we believe it’s absolutely crucial for any company to have success. And it’s never too early to start thinking about it. After all, if you start putting a gender diversity plan into action during the earliest stages of your company, it’ll be easier to make it part of your corporate culture: You can make it an integral part of what you are building, and whom you hope to attract.

Research has proven, again and again, that gender-diverse management teams and boards of directors link directly to more success. But how? In this blog we’ll investigate a few areas where gender diversity can help your company thrive, and give you the data to back it up.

Diversity = better talent

When Gender Diversity Makes Firms More Productive, a research article by Harvard Business Review shows it clearly: diverse workplaces attract top talent.

Glassdoor study cited in the report shows that 61% of female job candidates — and a full two-thirds of overall candidates — consider the gender diversity of an organization’s leadership team when making a job decision.

The takeaway? The best of the best prefer a diverse workplace. It follows, then, that if you want the most talented candidates to consider your company, make sure you’re actively creating a gender-diverse workplace.

Diversity = innovation

If gender diversity can help you attract and retain the best people, it only makes sense that those companies that value and curate diversity will become more innovative and create better products.

Gallup’s The Business Benefits of Gender Diversity report follows the logic to get us there. To start, it’s pretty obvious that simply ignoring half of your potential workforce across the globe is bad business (to say the least). As more and more companies recognize this, they tend to consider and hire more women at all levels, leading diversity to build on itself.

As this diversity builds, along with a greater number of leaders with diverse backgrounds and different experiences, it will lead to work environments where new and creative ideas are given true consideration, from a wider range of people.

As the report says, “Men and women have different viewpoints, ideas and market insights, which enables better problem solving, ultimately leading to superior performance at the business unit level.”

Diversity = investor value

So, gender diversity helps you hire and keep the best people, those employees who will innovate and create better products. It follows that better, more innovative products, will be good for your investors.

It seems that investors have caught onto this idea. According to HBR, they are more likely to value diverse companies highly, and the numbers back it up. Research shows that a 10% increase in gender diversity — measured by Blau’s gender diversity index, which measures the ratio of men and women at a firm — delivers about a 7% increase in a company’s market value.

The bottom line

All this is great news for those who hire gender-diverse workforces and management teams. But, high on the list of what we all really care about is the bottom line: How our company performs financially. It has to be, or else we have no business. This is where gender diversity shows its value. Simply stated, according to McKinsey’s delivering through diversity research study, companies with diverse leadership — including gender, cultural, and ethnic criteria — do better financially. They are more profitable. They are more likely to outperform their margins.

The McKinsey study’s numbers are striking. Worldwide, companies in the top quartile based on executive-level gender diversity were:

● 21% more likely to out-perform their fourth-quartile industry peers based on EBIT margin

● 27% more likely to outperform those fourth-quartile peers in longer-term value creation

We’ve recognized the value of and practiced gender diversity at Golden Seeds since Day 1 in 2005, and research continues to support this belief. As the McKinsey study says, “We found that having gender diversity on executive teams, specifically, to be consistently, positively correlated with higher profitability across geographies in our dataset.”

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

Learn more about Golden Seeds companies and how women entrepreneurs are achieving success with Golden Seeds.

The business climate in New Jersey is ripe for Golden Seeds

L to R: Kathleen Coviello, New Jersey Economic Development Authority; Loretta McCarthy, Managing Partner, Golden Seeds; Jo Ann Corkran, Managing Partner, Golden Seeds; Tammy Snyder Murphy, First Lady of New Jersey; Peggy Wallace, Managing Partner, Golden Seeds

New Jersey is home to thriving entrepreneurial ecosystems, which are creating top-notch investment opportunities for angel and venture capital investors. Golden Seeds wants to be part of it!

Seeing the opportunity to bolster exciting new growth in the Garden State, we recently launched a New Jersey chapter of Golden Seeds in conjunction with the Office of the First Lady and the New Jersey Economic Development Authority (NJEDA). This powerful partnership will support our two primary goals: identifying high-potential, women-led companies and attracting angel investors to participate in this work. In addition, Golden Seeds is pleased to welcome the NJEDA as a member of the Golden Seeds angel network.

“We are working toward building a robust New Jersey innovation economy that reflects and supports our state’s diverse workforce,” said First Lady Tammy Snyder Murphy. “The partnership we have created with Golden Seeds will drive economic growth throughout the Garden State by helping women entrepreneurs connect with mentors and access funding.”

“We are committed to cultivating a thriving innovation economy that embraces and celebrates diversity,” said Tim Sullivan, Chief Executive Officer of the NJEDA. “Establishing a New Jersey chapter of Golden Seeds advances both of these priorities by providing access to capital and mentoring for women-led businesses that play a key role in our innovation ecosystem.”

We have high confidence in our New Jersey chapter because:

New Jersey is a center of big business

The life sciences and tech sectors are particularly strong. Approximately 50% of FDA approvals come from companies with a New Jersey footprint, and the state has more than 2,700 open and active clinical trials. In 2018, 59 institutions in the state won NIH grants totaling more than $250 million and, while 2019 is not yet complete, so far this year 66 institutions have received 646 NIH grants totaling more than $300 million. This has helped rank New Jersey as number 4 in the leading life sciences markets in the U.S., according to CBRE.

In addition to leading the nation in life science, New Jersey is also the number 2 fintech hub in the U.S., with more than 10,000 technology companies. Plus, 25% of Forbes’ most innovative fintech companies are in the N.J. region.

The state is building a pipeline of top talent

The state has more than 150 higher-education institutions in the region, including Princeton University, the #1 university in the country, according to the recent ranking by U.S. News and World Report. More than 23% of the state’s graduates are in STEM disciplines, which helps explain New Jersey’s more than 200,000 scientists and engineers. In fact, New Jersey has the highest concentration of scientists and engineers per square mile in the world.

New Jersey is creating opportunities for angel investments and supporting women entrepreneurs

Additionally, it is of great interest to us that supporting women-led businesses is a critical component of Murphy’s plan to build a stronger, fairer New Jersey economy. Because of these efforts, New Jersey is rapidly growing one of the most robust women’s entrepreneurship ecosystems in the country.

Programs like NJEDA’s new Small Business Services unit make New Jersey of real interest to Golden Seeds and to angel investors in the state. We look forward to joining forces with groups focused specifically on women businesses, including Women Warriors in Business Program, which helps women veteran entrepreneurs; the Latin American Economic Development Association (LAEDA), which has a Women’s Business Academy to empower South Jersey women entrepreneurs; and the Women’s Center for Entrepreneurship Corporation (WCEC).

There are great things happening in the Garden State and we’re thrilled that Golden Seeds is now a part of it.

If you are an investor or entrepreneur who would like to learn more about our New Jersey chapter, contact us at

How did she do it? A Q&A with Judith Erwin, CEO of Grasshopper Bank

Judith Erwin, CEO of Grasshopper Bank

Judith Erwin has experienced several firsts as the female CEO of Grasshopper Bank, a startup commercial bank for entrepreneurs and the VC firms that fund them. Grasshopper was the first bank chartered by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency in the Northeast in over ten years, the ninth bank to receive a charter since the 2008 financial crisis, and the first commercial bank that plans to fully utilize digital banking in the commercial banking space. Barbara Yastine, Golden Seeds investor and former Chair & CEO of Ally Bank, sat down with this trailblazer to find out more about her path and what entrepreneurs can look forward to from this exciting women-led financial institution.

BY: Tell us about the origins of your company.

The name Grasshopper comes from Adm. Grace Hopper, a Naval computer programmer in the 60s and 70s who was part of the team that developed the very first computer language on which banking was built. In addition, grasshoppers can’t jump backward or sideways, only forward. We saw that as a metaphor for our company moving forward an industry that has been stagnant for years.

BY: What market need are you solving, and how is your approach different from how others have addressed this need?

Additionally, our business model allows us to underwrite a loan for less money than the big banks, so we are able to provide loans to companies that may not have a chance at being granted them otherwise.

BY: Grasshopper describes itself as serving the Innovation Economy. How do you define Innovation Economy, and what types and stages of companies are you targeting to do business with?

BY: What challenges have you encountered along the way? How have you overcome them?

As a startup, it’s a challenge to find great team members consistently. I’ve learned that there are people with a skill set for specific parts of your journey. I’ve had to learn how to know when to let them go and find new people based on the company’s next stage.

Finally, the licensing and approval process was also a long, expensive journey for us. I was the first bank to apply for a charter in 12 years at the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency in the Northeast so no one there knew how to do it, and they had never approved a digital venture bank before. We applied for the license in October 2017 and were finally approved in April 2019.

BY: What advantages does Grasshopper offer early stage companies?

We can also introduce them to potential investors like Golden Seeds because we have strong relationships with the investor world. We can help them choose a commercial real estate broker or an insurance broker. There are many ways that we can deploy our whole ecosystem for them.

BY: What products (both on the deposit/cash management side and the loan side) are you offering now and plan to offer? Should potential clients think of Grasshopper as a full-service bank?

BY: You’ve spoken about how Grasshopper tests new features with groups of customers every two to four weeks and get their feedback — “minimum loveable product.” Can you talk more about this? Can you share one of the most recent features you tested that was a success?

One example of this is when we introduced online account opening, which is very unusual for a business bank. In a seven-minute chat on your phone or computer, you can do everything necessary to apply for a business account. By the time you hit submit, everything like money laundering and background checks have already been done. Typically, you have to physically go into a branch and sometimes the bank asks you to bring your whole management team. It can take two weeks to get the account set up while they’re filing paperwork, conducting background checks, etc. CEOs shared with us that they needed a more efficient solution so we were able to provide it for them.

BY: What’s coming up next for your company? Any big milestones on the horizon?

BY: Grasshopper is a fully digital bank with no plans to open branches, other than some offices for loan officers. What advantages or disadvantages does this digital model bring to potential clients?

BY: What advice do you have for early stage founders about raising money, growing a team, fostering company culture or other issues you’ve had to address?

Be sure to ask for help. As a founder, I have learned humility. Developing my own network of other CEOs and professional women in other industries that I can turn to when I have a question or need help is really important.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to make the hard decisions. Being a CEO can be a lonely job and sometimes you have to make unpopular decisions because they are right for the company.

BY: Do you have any lessons learned that you can share with other startup CEOs?

Additionally, don’t let perfect get in the way of good. This has been something I say to myself five times a day right now!

BY: What role has mentorship (both as a mentee and mentor) played in your career?

BY: Tell us about your experience with Golden Seeds. How has the Golden Seeds network been helpful to you?

Interested in learning more about how women entrepreneurs are achieving success? Subscribe to our newsletter.

A Q&A with Marsha Firestone, president and founder of the Women Presidents’ Organization

Marsha Firestone, Ph.D., president and founder of the Women Presidents’ Organization

Marsha Firestone, Ph.D., is the president and founder of the Women Presidents’ Organization (WPO), a peer-advisory group for women entrepreneurs who own and lead multi-million dollar businesses. The group is dedicated to helping accelerate business growth, promote economic security for women-owned and women-led businesses and provide continuing education in a collaborative, peer-focused setting.

Golden Seeds celebrates the WPO and is proud to partner with them in advancing education and access to capital for women entrepreneurs.

Kathryn Swintek, Managing Partner of Golden Seeds Fund 2, recently sat down with Marsha to talk about leadership, motivation and two decades of helping women entrepreneurs.

MF: I was working for a nonprofit called the American Women’s Economic Development Corporation and I noticed that there were so many women who were coming through who had just started their careers or who had very young companies. But it didn’t seem that there were any resources or programs available for women whose businesses were more mature and who had already achieved a certain level of success. I was concerned about those women because I wanted them to be able to build bigger businesses and compete.

I often heard that all businesses run by women were “mom and pop” organizations and I never wanted to hear that again. So I started WPO as one way to address that need. That misrepresentation of women-run businesses has subsided but it hasn’t gone away completely. We still have far to go, but we have grown a great deal. At WPO, from that first chapter I began in 1997, we now have 140 chapters on six continents and over 2,000 members.

MF: One of the most important reasons is the connections they make with other women whom they meet in WPO. We’re a peer-advisory group and we focus on business education so that when our members go to organizations like Golden Seeds, they’re prepared when they’re looking for access to capital and other business opportunities.

Another reason is they learn strategies to help them grow their companies. In order to join WPO, you have to have at least $1 million in revenue, which demonstrates where these members are when they join and that they are looking to scale their companies.

Members also support and learn from one another. One of the things that differentiates the WPO is that we don’t ask members to serve as officers or do the “hands-on” work. We have a staff for that so our members can focus on the reason they’re here — growing their companies. WPO meetings also reduces some of the stress these female executives are facing day-to-day.

MF: I do — I think one of those qualities is being innovative and creative and women do this remarkably well. I polled our members and asked them to identify what they thought were the most important influences that they, as leaders, needed to grow and №1 was innovation and creativity. For women in particular, another quality that really shines through is that they’re driven and simply don’t give up. Self-confidence is critical to their success. The ones who are successful understand financials and use them to help guide their businesses activities day-to-day.

MF: We’re seeing tremendous growth, both within the U.S. and internationally. International chapters started after the U.S. chapters so it’s great to see the growth. Internationally, we recently celebrated our 10th anniversary with our five South African chapters, and we now have 18 chapters in Canada.

One similarity that we see both internationally and here in the U.S. is that many of the businesses are service-oriented because the founders don’t have the capital to start businesses that are more focused on product, although that’s changing. Groups like Golden Seeds are doing a tremendous job providing capital for product-focused companies, but women still don’t have enough capital to launch and grow companies that were once considered male-dominated businesses. We need more businesses and more women like Christina Lampe Onnerud, who founded Cadenza Innovation, a company poised to become a world leader in battery safety, architecture and performance.

MF: I worked for the American Management Association for three years, and while I was there, they ran a survey with a Harvard consulting group and came up with a list of 18 competencies which were causally related to leadership, success and management. I was in that program and as a result I began to understand what it takes to be a leader. Those 18 characteristics and competencies have helped me grow WPO. The competencies were published in a book, “The Competent Manager,” and I used them to train myself as a leader and now, to train others as leaders.

MF: What I really want is not to need organizations like WPO or Golden Seeds anymore, though I don’t think that will ever be the case. I believe in lifelong learning and since we are a business education organization, I think there will always be a need for that education to help women-owned and women-led businesses to scale.

That’s really what we want — we want members to be strengthened and stronger than they were when they joined WPO. I want there to be a respect for these businesses and an ability to reach out and find financing so that we can start businesses that are more than service-oriented. I want to see growth in size, number of employees and revenue.

MF: It was a commitment I made to myself. Years ago there were three women’s nonprofits that went bankrupt and I swore that would never be me or WPO. I wanted a healthy organization financially and we are, and I’m proud of that.

An important characteristic to which I attribute our success is the educational programing we offer. This educational programing for businesses truly enables these companies to grow. I believe in programs that are defined by the members themselves. We know from research that adults learn best when they determine what they want to learn, when they want to learn it and how they want to learn it. That is part of our programing — chapters are each run by very successful business owners who are consultants, and their job is to bring the “genius that exists out of the group”. We are a peer-learning group and we learn from each other very effectively.

Learn more about Golden Seeds companies and how women entrepreneurs are achieving success with Golden Seeds.

How did she do it? A Q&A with Rita Hansen, Chief Executive Officer & Co-Founder of Onboard Dynamics

Editor’s note: This is an update to the original blog post, “How did she do it? A Q&A with Rita Hansen, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Onboard Dynamics,” published on Oct. 3, 2019.

We are thrilled to share the news that Golden Seeds company Onboard Dynamics recently won the prestigious 2020 Luis Villalobos Award in the technology, services, and consumer category. Congratulations to Rita and her team!

Each year, the Luis Villalobos Award recognizes outstanding ingenuity, creativity and innovation among startups backed by Angel Capital Association members. Award winners have a strong track record of innovation and growth. We look forward to supporting Onboard Dynamics’ ongoing efforts to lower fuel costs and carbon emissions.

“In these uncertain times, it is incredible to have won this influential award and be appreciated for the essential nature of our business,” said Rita Hansen, Chief Executive Officer and Co-Founder of Onboard Dynamics. “The impact of lower emissions due to stay-at-home regulations around the world is astonishing with cities and industrial clusters across Asia, Europe, and North America experiencing a drastic improvement in air quality. We are hopeful this may help shine a spotlight on the importance of reducing emissions, and we’re continuing to stay focused on our goal.”

Rita Hansen, CEO and Co-founder of Onboard Dynamics

It’s impossible to overlook Rita Hansen’s passion for changing the transportation and energy industries by using compressed natural gas as a transportation fuel. As the chief executive officer and co-founder of Onboard Dynamics, a company that is working to lower fuel costs and carbon emissions, she and her team are working to remove infrastructure barriers and get more natural gas-powered vehicles on the roads. Their technology can also be used to address critical issues for the natural gas industry, including pipeline maintenance and capture of stranded/flared gas and renewable natural gas.

Golden Seeds’ Kathie Priebe and Cristina Almeida sat down with Rita to discuss the company’s road to success and how they provide their customers with an affordable, easy-to-deploy alternative transportation fuel.

RH: In 2012, Dr. Chris Hagen, one of my co-founders, had recently joined the engineering group at Oregon State University, when he received a seedling award from the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E) within the Department of Energy (DOE). The award money was dedicated to addressing the obstacles and barriers associated with adopting natural gas as a transportation fuel.

To use natural gas as a transportation fuel, you have to achieve the same energy density as gasoline or diesel liquid fuel, and the way to do that is to compress the gas. Chris had the idea to integrate the compression function onboard the vehicle. ARPAE said this was great, but if it works, will it matter? They wanted to know what the commercialization plan would be, which is when I was introduced to Chris, and, along with Jeff Witwer, Ph.D, PE., the three of us worked together on our commercialization plan.

In October 2013, we incorporated and established Onboard Dynamics. In September 2014, we received a $3.6M follow-on award from Chris’ seedling award and that is what truly launched us.

RH: We are solving the lack of refueling infrastructure that affects medium-to heavy-duty trucks, transit buses, school buses and waste haulers by using compressed and renewable natural gas (RNG). RNG is an ultra-clean and ultra low-carbon gas alternative. As a transportation fuel, it’s the cleanest alternative fuel available today, according to the California Air Resources Board.

Our GoFlo mobile compressor provides fleet operators with an easy, affordable solution for compressing low-pressure natural gas into usable fuel. It’s easy to install and deploy and, if you have access to natural gas, then our GoFlo unit provides a refueling solution. We don’t rely on electricity, which is another competitive advantage for us.

Most of our competitors are electric-driven compressors. But what do you do when the electric grid goes down? When that happens, it’s likely the natural gas grid has not gone down, which is a huge, unique value proposition for us.

RH: It is a challenge to find capital for a hardware energy. We are clean technology to an extent, but also a hardware, so we can’t always rely on the funds available for clean technology. Fortunately, we have managed to find the right partners by demonstrating our perseverance, tenacity and grit.

RH: We deployed our systems throughout the summer so we’re looking forward to the resulting media coverage from those deployments. We’re also looking forward to closing some big deals in the fourth quarter.

Additionally, we’re doing work with Natural Resources Canada. We received an award to help us with the commercialization of our technology in the Canadian marketplace. We’re really excited about this project.

RH: “Team” and “company culture” are easy words to say but hard to define and implement. When you start with a small team, as is always the case, every new hire is a critically important addition. Hopefully every new person is a success, but if not, it’s important to recognize it and own that mistake. Otherwise, it can have a negative impact on everyone in the company. This will also play into your company culture. It takes a lot of courage but will pay off.

In regard to raising money, be sure to leverage your network. Also, don’t overlook the power of angel networks. We have pitched our company so many times throughout the last 18 months and truly understand how each angel group works, their process and timing.

RH: I was first introduced to Golden Seeds during the Angel Capital Association Summit in 2018 and since then, my experience with Golden Seeds has been remarkable. The network is awesome. They continue to open doors and have helped us raise over $1M of angel money, which is quite amazing.

For more wisdom like this from other amazing female leaders, follow Golden Seeds on Twitter.

Personalization, e-commerce and the future of news with Heather Dietrick, CEO of The Daily Beast

Heather Dietrick and Tracey Riese

At Golden Seeds, we were honored that Heather Dietrick, CEO of The Daily Beast, joined us earlier this year for a “fireside chat” with Tracey Riese, Managing Director of Golden Seeds, to explore her views of leadership and today’s media landscape. In addition, they discussed how to boost engagement and what tools are out there and whether news will ever truly be objective.

TR: Let’s look at today’s digital landscape: How did we get here and what’s on the horizon?

HD: The digital media landscape — as with the overall media landscape — has been incredibly tumultuous over the last four or five years. In fact, a major shift occurred in 2014, which was the era of scale. Media properties like VICE and Buzzfeed received massive valuations and the goal of digital media was to find every last eyeball, user, reader, viewer they possibly could. Facebook’s algorithm was favoring digital media and because of that, traffic to these sites was flowing like an open fire hose.

Of course today, with 20/20 hindsight, we know what happens when a media platform relies on this model. Traffic ultimately went down; they weren’t meeting the very large capital expectations they had incurred and these media properties suffered.

Today, it’s all about engagement. Those media organizations that didn’t chase scale are now well poised for this next period because they spent time with their audiences rather than chasing giant valuations.

Take us at The Daily Beast as an example. We didn’t receive the big valuation, but we very slowly and carefully engaged with our audience. We knew our readers wanted real content — which takes longer to do, but it also builds loyalty and brand affinity. We also try to engage our audience by going out and breaking news.

TR: There’s a lot of talk about audience engagement, membership, subscriptions as sources of revenue for digital properties. Which of these are most sustainable?

HD: At The Daily Beast, we are really focused on e-commerce and membership as sources of revenue. For other digital properties, I would say if you’re focused on the engagement track, you shouldn’t plan to rely on direct advertising. Instead, create something for your customers that makes them willing to open their wallets.

I relied on my past experience as president of Gawker Media to think about engagement as a way to build an e-commerce component — both in terms of news content and content about products. And both start with trust.

With so many news sites going behind paywalls, most people are familiar with news subscriptions. We recently launched a membership program, which gives our audience extra exclusive content. A subscription program gets the audience a certain number of stories per month. With a membership, however, it’s like being part of a club, where you can interact directly with journalists and get exclusive content.

TR: What key metrics do you use to measure engagement?

HD: We measure engagement in a variety of ways, including time spent on site, number of page views consumed, number of visits to the site per month, and number of visits to our homepage.

TR: Many digital properties are venturing into the world of e-commerce. Where is The Daily Beast in this trend?

HD: We recently launched an e-commerce brand called Scouted by The Daily Beast. For us, venturing into e-commerce wasn’t as obvious of a move as it was for The Verge or The Cut, for example, which produce e-commerce content that is endemic to their journalism.

Most of our traffic is for political news, opinion and entertainment coverage. But today, the landscape is different and people are so used to purchasing on the internet. People are looking for solid recommendations all of the time and our journalists have already earned that trust through their stories, which opened the door for us to launch Scouted and build a business off of that trust.

It’s just as critical to know your buying audience as it is your audience who’s reading your news. For us, our audience has a lot of purchasing power — a household income over $150,000 — ages 45–55, skewing a little female, highly intelligent and hungry for news. We can offer them products that are more curated and tech-forward.

TR: We’d love to get your thoughts on some additional trends — video, curated news vs. ads, neutrality and the future of news.

HD: Let’s start with video, which seemed so attractive a few years ago. But I can’t think of a media company that has figured out monetizing onsite video on the web. Users are just not trained to go onto an individual site to watch a video — views come through Facebook or YouTube. Video is difficult to produce, it’s expensive, it requires large teams and it’s much more difficult to produce than a news article.

As far as customization and personalization in news, that’s an interesting topic. Some people feel that their news isn’t as specifically targeted for them as ads, for example. But you have to keep in mind — editors usually believe that you come to them for their concept of what you should know rather than just what some algorithm told you to read.

Regarding nonpartisan news, there are very few news organizations that are totally neutral and don’t get criticism for being one way or the other. Of course we try to be nonpartisan, but it’s also important to show the writer’s biases. It’s very voicey. We want you to know where they’re coming from. And I question whether we should aspire to true and full neutrality. Humans are the ones producing our content and humans are not completely neutral. It might be better to know people’s biases and make a decision about where you get your news knowing that.

TR: Let’s discuss leadership. You were named to Crain’s 2019 40 Under 40 after successfully leading Gawker Media through bankruptcy and its $135 million sale to Univision, all while managing to remain trusted by your staff and helped 248 of 250 employees keep their jobs. What were your biggest takeaways from this experience?

HD: I built trust with the employees, showing them I was a partner and making myself available as much as possible. I spent time getting to know employees. When I did break the news about the bankruptcy filing, I made it clear that the employees’ best interests were truly top of mind. You have to have trust as leader.

We also had a culture of radical transparency, so I shared everything I legally could with the team about what was happening.

I also reminded people of Gawker’s mission — to tell real stories and share the truth. This mission extended beyond the stories we published — it was ingrained in our culture. Having a mission that everyone bought into was critical to keeping people motivated and focused on their work throughout the sale of the company.

Tracey Reise is an entrepreneur, private investor and company director, nonprofit leader and sought-after speaker in strategy, branding, leadership and culture.

Let’s celebrate! Research shows nearly 100,000 women are now angel investors

Throughout Golden Seeds’ lifetime of investing in women-led companies, an amazing thing has happened in angel investing — more women than ever before are now involved as active investors.

In 2004, women accounted for just 5% of the 225,000 angel investors in the United States. Last year, that number increased to 30% (of the 335,000 angel investors). This means there are now nearly 100,000 women angel investors — that’s nine times more women as angel investors than 15 years ago when Golden Seeds began its journey, according to research from Jeff Sohl at the University of New Hampshire’s Center for Venture Research.

At Golden Seeds, we’ve observed this trend impressively inch upward and have been vocal advocates for more women to become involved in angel investing along the way. But we couldn’t have predicted this impressive growth 15 years ago. To put it simply: we are delighted to see so many women actively investing as angels.

Why we’re experiencing this upward (and exciting) trend

Today — and at long last — there are many women who have had successful careers across a variety of industries where they honed critical skills, earned capital and established professional networks — typically elements of effective angel investors. In fact, these women possess these skills more than any generation of women to come before them. And this trend is continuing as more and more women develop the capacity to do this work.

Since 2005, nearly 800 angel investors have been a part of the Golden Seeds angel network, 80% of whom are women. As has always been the case with angel investors, these women have jumped in to evaluate companies, utilizing their vast professional networks, industry expertise and financial resources to support companies, and serve as board members and advisors.

Golden Seeds was an early and persistent voice in calling attention to the opportunity for women to become angel investors and — equally as important — for all angel investors to consider investing in women entrepreneurs. Women have often done this great work alongside other women, but let’s not forget the 250 angel investment organizations in the U.S., many of whom have attracted women members at unprecedented rates. All such groups can use their talents and companies can benefit from the additional capital.

Many ways for women to participate

Women can decide how they want to participate (as active investors or passive). As for those who prefer a more passive route, they can invest in funds, including the Golden Seeds Venture Fund.

In addition to Golden Seeds, there are other funds/angel groups that particularly focus on women investors and/or women entrepreneurs, including Artemis FundAstiaBelle MichiganChloe CapitalFemale Founders FundInvestHerNext WavePipelinePlum AlleyPortfoliaRethink ImpactSophia FundSpringboardThe JumpFund, True Wealth VenturesWomen’s Venture Capital Fund1843 Capital, and 37 Angels.

And there are more. They are all doing their part in closing the substantial capital gap faced by women-led companies.

It’s no surprise (or coincidence) that during this same time, from 2005 to 2019, women entrepreneurs have also received a substantial uptick in angel funding. Back in 2004, women-led companies made up 3% of the 48,000 companies funded by angels. In 2018, women-led companies were 20% of the 66,000 funded companies.

Golden Seeds is made up of women and men who invest exclusively in women-led companies. Women are remarkable entrepreneurs and investing in gender-diversity is increasingly recognized as a wise investment strategy.

This movement has been exciting and successful and it’s still growing. There’s room for many more players still. We welcome women (and men) to jump in and join us in this exciting field of innovation, growth and gratification.

Learn more about the Golden Seeds Investor angel network.

How did she do it? A Q&A with Gail Page, Executive Chairperson and co-CEO of NX Prenatal

Gail Page, Executive Chairperson and co-CEO of NX Prenatal

It’s hard to miss Gail Page’s passion for healthy babies. As the executive chairperson and co-CEO of NX Prenatal Inc., a private, U.S.-based molecular diagnostics company, she’s overseeing the development of diagnostic assays for adverse pregnancy conditions, such as preterm birth as early as 10 weeks’ gestation.

During a recent Q&A, her determination was clear when she talked about the enormous impact that preterm birth has on babies and their families. Golden Seeds’ Laura Baldwin and Julie Medler sat down with Gail to discuss how NX Prenatal is on a mission to keep babies in utero for as long as possible.

LB and JM: Tell us about the origins of your company.

GP: About five years ago, our co-founders came to understand that by applying the innovative exosome technology in the maternal fetal space, one had the opportunity to detect the proteins that modulate the balance between the mother and baby at a very early point in time in the pregnancy. This innovation coupled with artificial intelligence/bioinformatics had the potential to enable the next wave of early high-risk pregnancy detection.

Much like cancer, early detection for preterm birth risk is very important, as the optimal time for intervention is before 16 weeks into the pregnancy. Physicians need information as early as possible so they can apply the appropriate care pathway. Our goal is to keep the baby in the womb as long as possible to decrease the time spent in a neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) and the long-term disabilities associated with preterm birth.

LB and JM: What market need are you solving, and how is your approach different from the way others have addressed this need?

GP: In our early conversations with physicians, they stressed the need to understand what’s going on in utero during the first trimester. Other technologies are unable to detect risk markers until weeks 20 or 21, which doesn’t leave doctors the time to intervene in a meaningful way; the recommended intervention timing is prior to week 16. That is what makes our proprietary exosome technology so important for healthy first-time moms, as they have no other indicator that they may be at risk. It provides doctors with the chance to improve outcomes by employing interventions such as bed rest, more diagnostic testing or progesterone therapy. High-risk protocols are in place, it is just identifying the women who need to be placed there.

The industry has done a great job figuring out how to keep a baby alive in a NICU, but it is still extremely important for babies to stay in utero as long as possible. For example, during the last four weeks of gestation, significant brain, liver, and lung development happens, and more than 50 percent of maternal antibodies transfer.

In addition, preterm birth costs the system approximately $26B a year. Preemies are often referred to in our industry as “million-dollar babies.” On average, one day in the NICU costs around $7,000 and some babies are in the NICU for up to three months. When babies come home from the NICU, they may have lifelong illnesses such as cerebral palsy or lung infections and constantly need to go to the doctor. It puts a lot of stress on the families. Our goal is to be able to offer the test for around $500 and to make it available to women during routine blood work at their 10- or 12-week appointment. Even if we can keep a baby out of the NICU for one week, imagine the cost savings. We also believe this price point is palatable for insurance companies, and the payback is documented.

LB and JM: What challenges have you encountered along the way? How have you overcome them?

GP: The biggest challenge we’ve had is educating the market on the severity of this unmet need. Unfortunately, preterm birth is a problem not necessarily associated with men and is thought of as a woman’s problem. In the beginning, we focused on groups that supported women’s health issues. We had several individual investors that had experienced preterm birth within their families and totally got it. So far, so good, but we still have a lot of work to do. Our next round of financing will focus on existing investors, high net worth individuals and family offices, as well as strategic investors.

We’re also working on educating doctors in preparation for a launch because once you get them on board, you can then start doing outreach direct to consumers. This avoids the situation where patients are asking for a test that doctors don’t know anything about. We’re thrilled to have the world-renowned Dr. Thomas McElrath as the company’s lead investigator. He manages the Preterm Birth Clinic at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and has been critical to have on board to ensure we’re developing something that is clinically useful.

LB and JM: What’s coming up next for your company?

GP: We’re currently in the final stages of clinical validation, which is the last phase before launching our test in the market. We were recently awarded 2,400 blood samples, at two time points, collected by the National Institute of Health. We can use those samples to do our clinical validation work this year which will lead to commercialization. This was a huge endorsement for the company and the technology.

LB and JM: What advice do you have for early-stage founders?

GP: It’s important to understand that not everyone is meant to be an entrepreneur — it takes a lot of stamina and patience. If you are a young entrepreneur, surround yourself with people that have experience that you can learn from. Understand that, as a founder, once your idea has blossomed, it’s okay to hire a CEO or CFO. While you’ll always remain an integral part of the company, you can’t be everything to everyone. Having that fortitude to build the right team will move you forward.

LB and JM: Tell us about your experience with Golden Seeds. How has the Golden Seeds network been helpful to you?

GP: It’s been phenomenal. These are women who are seasoned and have a real passion for women’s issues and supporting women.

The most important thing that I have learned from them is that they are realistic about the path to success and they remain engaged with you. They work hard to understand your product and determine where they can make introductions. They’re supportive, honest, direct, and approachable. I’ve learned a lot from them, and I think they, in turn, have learned from us. It’s a very synergistic relationship.

For more wisdom like this from other amazing female leaders, follow Golden Seeds on Twitter.