Meet Real Life Angel, Arati Sharma
By Nicole Casperson
Last year women founders received a whopping 2% of VC funding, the smallest percentage since 2016.
Though we hate to see it, there are angels on earth making sure we continue to blaze the trail for women knocking at the door.
Meet real-life angel investor Arati Sharma.
The world of investing has long been a boy’s club.
After spending nearly a decade at Shopify, Arati Sharma teamed up with her boo and turned her head toward shaking up the investing world.
Except, it didn’t work out quite as she thought for several reasons.
- She quickly realized most of the founders in their portfolio were white men and a few white women. Shocker.
- People, even women, weren’t turning their heads toward her to ask for funding.
Her passion for supporting women wasn’t enough to get them the monetary resources they needed to succeed.
So she had to rethink her strategy.
Only 22% of angel investors are women.
As you can see, gender inequity runs strong on both sides.
Even though she had the money to invest in women-led businesses, she was consistently overlooked and underpitched as an investor.
Arati saw her husband receive deck after deck while founders constantly passed over her and her female colleagues.
All because of the big vulva-shaped elephant in the room.
So, Arati decided to show the boy’s club that biology has nothing to do with investing.
In March of 2021, Arati and nine former women colleagues at Shopify banded together to form Backbone Angels with a mission to fund women and nonbinary entrepreneurs, focusing on founders of color.
Backbone Angels defines itself as:
“A group of women in tech who are united around the same goal: funding—and empowering—more diverse and women-founded businesses making change.”
Arati was ready to bring the intensity, and girlll did she bring it.
Since 2021, Backbone Angels has invested $2.3 million in more than 42 women-led businesses.
She has offered to fund 28 of them, 72% of which were first-time founders, and 56% of its investments were in companies led by women of color.
Each of the founding partners had the capital and experience working with entrepreneurs to empower women & diverse founders building businesses in tech.
For anyone doubting their ability, you can shut down your biases cause these women have the money to invest in change.
Though many offered women founders other forms of support, “there were so few that were writing the check,” she says. “And I think that’s one of the most impactful things you can do for a woman starting a business and raising funding—just write her first check.“
Angel investors, Arati was told, need to find their specific niche of what they invest in and what they don’t.
For her, that decision was easy.
She committed herself to investing exclusively in women founders, especially women of color, for an entire year.
But then, halfway through, she realized her portfolio was predominantly made up of white women and that she would have to be even more resolute in her goal of inclusivity.
Though she hates “gender-deterministic statements,” in her quest to find herself as an angel, she openly admits that she loves working with women.
Because of how deeply they care and how intimately she understands how they have been discriminated against.
Some of the brands in her portfolio include:
All of these were started by women who designed companies to solve problems they’ve experienced that are gender-specific.
Women are supporting women at their most angelic.
When asked what her number one tip is for women founders seeking investment from angel investors and VC firms, Arati says that women don’t just need to “know the numbers.”
Instead, they need to be THE subject matter experts of their industry.
By immersing themselves in knowledge and being the person in the room who knows their space better than anyone, women are more likely to capture the attention of potential investors and inspire confidence in their ability to make their businesses succeed.
Though it isn’t fair or right, from personal experience, I can say that being on top of your game when it comes to understanding the industry you work in better than anybody—man or woman—is indeed a superpower.
And now we know there are angels like Arati Sharma waiting in the wings to reward women who are brave enough to step into the cigar room and say,
“put out your Cubans, boys, because I have something to show you.”