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Interview: What are the challenges to becoming a business angel in Portugal?


Maria Jose Amich – president of WomenWinWin

Maria Jose Amich is a founder and president of WomenWinWin, a women-focused entrepreneurship association and a member of the WA4E project consortium. Previously she has worked for the media and as a management consultant for the private sector. As she has always been interested in entrepreneurship, she has closely worked with IESE and sits on the IESE alumni board in Portugal.

In an interview for our newsletter, Maria Jose Amich explained how WomenWinWin participate in the WA4E project, what the situation in Portugal is and identified the challenges and hurdles to further development of business angel investment in Portugal.



In the context of your organisation’s participation in the WA4E project, could you tell us more about WomenWinWin?

‘WomenWinWin’ is a non-profit association promoting women entrepreneurship in Portugal, founded at the end of 2012. On the basis that female creativity and entrepreneurial potential are an under-exploited source of economic growth and job creation, WomenWinWin promotes, supports and enhances women entrepreneurs in Portugal. It has around 5000 non-paying members. The main activities of the organization focus on developing a community that shares experiences, know-how and best practices through networking events and the online platform Also, the association organizes workshops with keynote speakers and specialists on issues of interest to women entrepreneurs and their businesses. It also publishes and promotes successful women entrepreneur case studies and finally, it implements a proprietary Business Mentoring Program, accompanying women that are at different stages of their businesses. In average, the mentees that participate in the Business Mentoring Program are: 30% women with a business plan in the pre-launch stage, 30% women who have already started their business and are in their first five years of business life and the rest of the mentees participants are women who are at growth stage of their business, looking for support in growing their business or finding an exit strategy for their business. 

 What is the role of WomenWinWin in the WA4E project?

In relation to the WA4E project, WomenWinWin is now organising events designed to raise awareness about women business angels. There are no studies on the number of women business angels in Portugal, but WomenWinWin estimates there are around 5% of women registered as business angels in BA vehicles, in Portugal.

The objective of the organization is to captivate the interest of women, to raise awareness and provide them with the information and the know-how necessary to become women business angels. Furthermore, a medium to long-term goal of the association is to expand some of its activities, namely the Business Mentoring Program to other African Portuguese-speaking countries.

WomenWinWin believes that there is a need to raise awareness in the obvious ways, with advertising and PR campaigns, with publication of interviews, success case stories…This association will be developing awareness events, with non-investors and investors so that these two groups share and learn from the experiences of each other. It will also implement a training programme in Portugal at the end of March and beginning of April, where the results of the survey on women business angels in Europe will be published. An Iberian business angel with vast experience will be talking about the ABC of angel investing during the event, followed by a panel discussion with business angels, men and women. Finally, WomenWinWin will also conduct a specific workshop event with women entrepreneurs to learn how to pitch for investment and organize together with other important players a pitch event for women entrepreneurs  wishing to present their project.

Placing Portugal in a broader European context, what are the country’s specificities? What is the situation as regards business angels and entrepreneurship in Portugal?

The Portuguese context is very important in regard to business angels and entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurship was not a term or a concept very much used or even known within the economy and society before the 2008 crisis, which worked as a spring board for entrepreneurship. Since then, it has become one of the most used words in the press, as the ecosystem has flourished around it and entrepreneurial initiatives have grown considerably with several entities playing a significant role in its enhancement and promotion, placing Portugal in the top 25 most entrepreneurial countries in the world. 

The Portuguese government is also promoting women entrepreneurship with co-investment funds and a tax benefit programs to be discussed for future introduction.  Universities and private companies are also doing a great job by developing incubators, accelerators, mentoring programs and founding venture funds to invest in start-ups.

Nevertheless, challenges in Portugal remain. What would you say are the main hurdles?

The main challenges for the development of the angel investment in Portugal are focused in three main aspects: 

1.         Public support: Sustainability of public policies and incentives, aligned with best international practices

2.         Start-ups: Development of “ready to invest projects” and growth and internationalization of the existing start-ups. (it is important to mention that Portugal still has a majority of projects that translate into lifestyle businesses with low innovation instead of high-growth ventures). 

3.         Business Angels: Capacitation of current BAs and attraction of new BAs, also conditioned by the need of creation and development of an investment exit market.

How does this relate to the WA4E survey results recently published?

The barriers for women business angels are the lack of knowledge regarding business angel communities and investment opportunities, ‘this isn’t for me’ feeling based on several misconceptions, such as the amount of money needed, time allocation, the need for management knowledge and also the lack of self-confidence and risk aversion. Also, most ventures are related to seed capital investment in the IT sector where women have less experience and feel less knowledgeable. 

When asked about their motivations, one of the first aspects mentioned by women business angels is the desire to participate and be near the entrepreneurial scene, “at the edge of innovation”, participating in this “new economy”.  Also, they want to help and support new businesses and at the same time have fun in the process and finally, they mention the interest of having financial return, being this aspect an important motivator but not the predominant one.

Project is co-financed by the European Union