Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Look at Giving in 2011: Part 3 of 3 in a Series...Social Responsibility and Giving!

This is Part 3 of 3 in a series. Part 1 is available at: Giving 2011 Part 1 and Part 2 is available at: Giving 2011 Part 2.

More and more companies and celebrities are getting into giving. It is an exciting time in history. In September 2009, Time Magazine called it the "Responsibility Revolution" and the "Era of the Ethical Consumer." Consumers are demanding giving. Time Report html

Despite the economy still struggling to get back on track, giving is here to stay and consumers are demanding it. Cone research found that 90% of consumers want companies to tell them the ways they are supporting causes (that's over 278 million consumers who want to know what companies are doing to benefit causes)! Additionally over 80% of consumers said they would be likely to switch from one brand to another if the other brand is associated with a good cause. Cone Report html

Yet as with many good things comes a down side.

First, corporate social responsibility and celebrity giving efforts often get targeted for their self interest in giving. While there is the potential for and some abuse as it relates to this, it still doesn't account for the fact that companies that are giving those dollars are committing money that wouldn't have been there otherwise. We do all have to start somewhere and starting with some giving is better than no giving.

But why does this have to be a bad thing? Is there anything wrong with creating a win-win scenario. If done well, social responsibility creates a win for the corporation, the consumer and the cause! Plus, even if a corporation starts giving with less than the best intentions, it is a continuum. If they get into giving and have good nonprofit giving partners, they can learn more about it, become more thoughtful and sophisticated in it, and they may even derive more value from it. If their experience with it is positive, then likely their giving will grow too. Over time, creating the partnership can lead to more and more sophisticated donors, corporations and causes - everyone wins!

Second, corporate, celebrity and all giving often gets targeted for corruption, misuse of funds, lack of transparency, etc. Once we get organizations, public figures and others giving, we need to educate them and provide them with the tools and resources to give with ease, transparency and strategy to make giving impactful, sustainable and fun! There need to be more resources to strengthen this capacity!

Finally, consumers are demanding giving and more choice in giving. Cone found that not only do more consumers want to choose brands that are tied to causes, but they want to have more say in choosing the causes they care about (over 84% of consumers want to select their own causes). Campaigns like Chase Community Giving and Pepsi Refresh and others have created online campaigns to allow users to choose their causes of choice. More efforts are being tailored and need to be created to give consumers more choice.

So what's the moral of the giving story? Let's face it...Giving is good, giving is happening, giving is sexy and giving is here to stay. Now if we can find more effective ways to give with transparency; coordinate, consolidate and aggregate our giving across the dozens of giving platforms and players; give more strategically and provide more choice in giving...we will have solved the Giving Conundrum! At least for now!

That is one of our dreams and visions for OneGiving! Thank you for your continued passion, patience and support as we create OneGiving! We will get there...a little at a time!

You can find me at www.facebook.com/pilarstella1 and twitter @pilarstella.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Small Biz Saturday - Investor Stimulus til end of 2011!

As I realized that today was Small Business Saturday, I thought there was no better way to support small businesses (and the economy) than investing in them. So I thought it would be useful to share some information with potential investors about the INVESTOR STIMULUS that is in effect until the end of the year that is worth taking advantage of. If you've been on the fence and have a couple of good companies you've been considering, NOW IS THE TIME to invest!

In September 2010, President Obama signed the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010 (H.R. 5297) which included a provision for an INVESTOR STIMULUS. This law enabled those who invest in small businesses and hold their stock for at least five years to pay NO CAPITAL GAINS tax up to $10 M (approximately). (Summary of Small Biz Jobs Act) The goal of the law was to help stimulate the economy by encouraging investors to invest in entrepreneurs and companies to create jobs. And yes, I said NO CAPITAL GAINS tax up to approximately $10 M!

Originally, the law expired at the end of 2011, but on December 17, 2010, President Obama signed the Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010 (the 2010 Tax Relief Act and Summary).

The 2010 Tax Relief Act extended the favorable legislation to allow for 100% of capital gains (up to approximately $10M) on “qualified small business stock” (QSBS) investments held five years, but only for QSBS acquired between September 28, 2010 and before January 1, 2012. An additional explanation is available at Latham & Watkins.

It is not clear if this provision will be extended into 2012, and it is not looking promising. Therefore, if you are an investor, considering investing in a QSBS - or a small business, consider making that investment by the end of 2011 to reap the full benefits of this investor stimulus. Not only will you benefit, but your actions may help foster new entrepreneurs, start ups and our greater economy! Now that would be a GREAT way to do your part on Small Business Saturday!

You can find me at www.facebook.com/pilarstella1 and twitter @pilarstella.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Humor about our Newspapers

I recently had an email sent to me with some humor about some of our country's leading newspaper. I figured for the holiday weekend, a little humor was appropriate. Enjoy! Happy Thanksgiving weekend!

1. The Wall Street Journal is read by the people who run the country.

2. The Washington Post is read by people who think they run the country.

3. The New York Times is read by people who think they should run the country and who are very good at crossword puzzles.

4. USA Today is read by people who think they ought to run the country but don't really understand The New York Times. They do, however, like their statistics shown in pie charts.

5. The Los Angeles Times is read by people who wouldn't mind running the country, if they could find the time -- and if they didn't have to leave Southern California to do it.

6. The Boston Globe is read by people whose parents used to run the country and did a poor job of it, thank you very much.

7. The New York Post is read by people who don't care who is running the country as long as they do something really scandalous, preferably while intoxicated.

8. The Miami Herald is read by people who are running another country, but need the baseball scores.

9. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch is read by people who want only the score of the Cardinals game. They drink Budweiser, Budweiser, and -- wait a minute -- what was the question?

10. The San Francisco Chronicle is read by people who aren't sure if there is a country or that anyone is running it; but if so, they oppose all that they stand for. There are occasional exceptions if the leaders are handicapped minority feminist atheist dwarfs who also happen to be illegal aliens from any other country or galaxy, provided of course, that they are not Republicans.

11. The National Enquirer is read by people trapped in line at the grocery store.

12. The Seattle Times is read by people who have recently caught a fish and need something to wrap it in

13. The Desert Sun is read by people who don't mind getting second hand news, and by those who love to see Mary Bono-Mack's mindless thoughts in print.

You can find me at www.facebook.com/pilarstella1 and twitter @pilarstella.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Why NOT Invest in Women?

I have recently begun to dig deeper into statistics about women in business, technology, startups and investing (http://pilarstella.blogspot.com/2011/11/why-invest-in-women-in-biz-tech-and.html and www.illuminate.com/whitepaper/) and every time it leaves me with one response – JAW DROPPING!

I feel this way more and more every day given my own experiences seeking capital for my technology start up OneGiving® (www.onegiving.com) (however successful or unsuccessful). Whatever the case, several things have really struck me about the process and how the dynamics have to shift for women in business, and particularly in technology, startups and investing. I am not saying, invest in women just to invest in women – a.k.a. through a gender lens, per se, but just not allowing gender be a barrier to investment. I am saying something has to change because the status quo is just not working--for women, but also for investors and the global economy at large!

I have been told more than once during my process seeking capital that I am too nice, hence I am not likely to succeed. I have had people tell me “if you are going to swim with sharks, you have to be a shark,” (or at least you have to play their game). Perhaps this is true, but I am not convinced!

I have also been asked, more than once, “Don’t you think if you dressed more conservatively or had more conservative hair, you’d have more investors by now?” My response to that is, “I’m sure I would, but I don’t want those investors, even if it takes me twice as long.” That may be stubborn but that is my reality. Why is it, that when men like Bill Gates or Mark Zuckerberg come dressed in jeans and disheveled hair or otherwise, it is business as usual and they are a maverick or pioneer, so it is ok. Yet when a women shows up dressed in a way that is “unprofessional,” it is inexcusable or an indicator that she is not proficient in business.

Then I read a quote by Amy Millman, co-founder and president of SpringBoard Enterprises that connects women entrepreneurs to investors, who said, "Investors, like bankers, pretty much invest in what they know, something that they understand or that is clear to them." (http://www.astia.org/content/view/2222/856/)

I started thinking...there is something inherently wrong with this picture and something has to change. That is, women are not men. We do things differently-in business and in relationship (as many of us have experienced personally ;). So if men are the largest share of investors, and they won't invest in what they don't understand or know, then they are not likely to invest in women. We are unfamiliar and "un-understandable" territory. It is no wonder that the statistics are what they are...less than 10% of women in CEO positions in technology startups - and that just scratches the surface. (http://www.fastcompany.com/1730909/why-arent-women-leading-high-tech-start-ups)

I am not trying to be skeptical, but the proposition is all wrong. They have their checklists of what to invest in—and women don't, and the way we do business often doesn't, fit into their checklist. We may learn to do the tap dance, or bend over backwards as we have for centuries to make things fit and work, but it is inauthentic and disingenuous in order to just to close a deal. Now I'm not saying that we both don't have to meet somewhere in the middle, but there is an inherent conflict in all of this.

It reminds me of my experience consulting for many years with large foundations. When I started working with many of them, they had (and continue to have) strict criteria and checklists of expectations that nonprofits submit to seek funding. When those funders reviewed the proposals, if the nonprofit didn’t "dot their i’s" or "cross their t’s," they often times wouldn’t get the grant. As I reviewed more and more proposals with funders, the pattern repeated. Nonprofits that had good grantwriters (and could afford one) would invariably get funding and the others wouldn’t.

Yet, many of the really good ideas were getting lost and dropped away because they didn’t put their explanation in the right place or capture the data in the way that the funder could fully grasp. This ultimately often damaged the caliber and quality of ideas and grantees that got funded and often the “less professionalized” and even "more marginalized" communities lost out because they didn’t “speak the same language.” My work with these funders was often in looking past the well-formatted applicants, to see beyond the "well-pitched exterior" to find the good idea in a haystack and then to provide the proper supports to help that organization make that needed gap being addressed succeed.

This is not much different than the investment world and companies that are pitching to investors. If they "pitch well," they get funded. If they don’t fit into the boxes that investors have, then they don’t get funded. If they don’t speak the same language – one that is understood by investors – then they don’t get funded. If they don’t look the same as, or in a way that is familiar or comfortable to, investors, then they don’t get funded. And an inherent flaw keeps getting regenerated and perpetuated—because we don’t look or act or are "un-understandable" to investors, then we don’t get funded.

Now the even bigger disservice is what this is doing for the economy. We are in a recession on par with the Great Depression (though few will say that publicly). Yet we continue do the same thing over and over again and expect different results – Insanity (as Einstein and others might say)!

As Jensine Larsen posited in her post in World Pulse, “Women manage money differently, and had there been more women at the helm of investment decisions all along, the worst of the global financial meltdown might have been averted.” (http://www.worldpulse.com/magazine/columns/founders-pulse/the-new-silk-road)

It leads me to ponder a similar scenario, if the current investment marketplace isn’t working and the economy is spattering and sputtering trying to make a "recovery," then why not try something different? Why not, change your criteria a little, not accept less than, just accept different?

Look for things that might be out of the box. Be ok if you don’t fully understand it. And recognize that if a woman is standing in front of you and she looks different, speaks different, and highlights and does things a little differently than you would, don’t give her a demerit and check out, sit up and really listen. There might just be something in what she’s saying that could not only make you MORE money, but she might value the money you give her more, leverage it more wisely, and she might even make a difference on the planet at the same time. You might have to provide supports in some more “traditional” or "male" ways, but the perspective she brings, might transform it from an investment to a game changer. There is plenty of evidence and data that makes the case for it. (http://pilarstella.blogspot.com/2011/11/why-invest-in-women-in-biz-tech-and.html)

So the question isn’t “Why Invest in Women?”…it is “Why NOT Invest in Women?”

You can find me at www.facebook.com/pilarstella and www.facebook.com/pilarstella1 and twitter @pilarstella.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Why Invest in Women in Biz, Tech and Startups?

I have recently been asked increasingly to speak to groups about my experience as a women in business and particularly in a technology startup seeking capital. While my personal story and experience is compelling, I am finding that the data is often staggering and irrefutable. In fact, it totally begs the question, not why invest in women in business, technology and startups, but rather why not? Below is some of the data for you data geeks...Happy Reading! ;) p

Women in Investing/Start Ups

· Women manage money differently, and had there been more women at the helm of investment decisions all along, the worst of the global financial meltdown might have been averted.


Women-owned funds are more stable and consistently outperform general funds with higher returns.

· Women—in charge of just 3% of hedge funds and 10% of mutual funds—are more patient and consistent with their investments, are less apt to take overconfident risks and more likely to integrate detailed and conflicting data into their decisions.

· Average return on funds from 2000 to 2009 was 9% for women-managed funds compared to 6% index average.

(National council for research on women, 2010)

· Less than 2% of retirement assets are managed by women- & minority fund managers, yet account for >40% of the top quartile of performing funds.

(Diversity best practices, http://www.diversitybestpractices.com/publications/creating-inclusion-financial-industry)

· Only 5 VC funds in the country with over 50% women ownership.

· 1 of 25 women CEOs who had successfully taken 1 (or more) companies from startup through exit and also been on the VC side.

· Women now represent just over 15 percent of angel investors, but just 5%-7% of partner-level high-tech venture capital investors in the U.S. Firms with women investment partners are 70 percent more likely to lead an investment in a woman entrepreneur than those with only male partners.

· In 2008 woman co-founded tech businesses gained less than 10% of venture investment while representing over 30% of the workforce.

· In 2010, women gained 11% of angel financing and made up 46% of the workforce.

(Cindy Padnos, Managing Director, Illuminate Ventures and www.illuminate.com/whitepaper/)

· The percentage of women among start up capital seekers grew to about 20 percent last year, up from 12.6 percent in 2000, according to New Hampshire's Center for Venture Research. Of those women, the number who received funding grew to 13 percent in 2010, up from 9.5 percent in 2008.

· Research suggests that women's access to, and use of, capital to fund their business dreams lag in comparison to men. Of the U.S.-based companies that received a round of venture capital financing in 2010, only 6 percent had a female CEO, 7 percent had a female founder and 10 percent had a female founder or CEO at some point, according to Dow Jones VentureSource.

· There were 265,400 angel investors in 2010, and they put $20.1 billion in 61,900 entrepreneurial ventures in the U.S., the Center for Venture Research said. Women represented about 13 percent of angel investors, and female entrepreneurs accounted for 21 percent of those seeking angel capital.

· Historically, venture capital has been a much-acclaimed boys' club," says Mark G. Heesen, president of the National Venture Capital Association. "That network is something women have to permeate. It's harder for women to break into that arena."


Women in Business

Women entrepreneurs are poised to lead the next wave of growth in global business.

· Companies most inclusive of women in top management achieve 35% higher ROE and 34% better total return to shareholders versus their peers.

· The average venture-backed company run by a woman had achieved comparable early-year revenues, using an average of 1/3 less committed capital.

· Despite often being capital-constrained, women-owned businesses are more likely to survive transition from start-up to established company than traditional companies.

(Illuminate Ventures – www.illuminate.com/whitepaper/)

· A recent report called Women Matter 2010 found that companies with a higher proportion of women in their executive committees are also the companies that have the best performance.

· Women currently hold 2.8 percent of Fortune 500 CEO roles and 3.3 percent of Fortune 1000 CEO roles

(Gillibrand, Kirsten, Women’s Economic Empowerment, 2011)

Women in Technology

The internet is an inherently feminine entity—it is based on connecting, leveraging, networking, relationship building—all female characteristics. Yet, women’s leadership in technology firms continues to lag.

· According to research from Stanford GSB Project on Emerging Businesses, fewer than 10% of high-tech start-ups have a female CEO, Founder or President. Technology driven start-ups continue to be largely male dominated.


· Yet, high tech companies that women build are more capital-efficient than the norm.

· In the past 10 years more than 125 companies with over 200 women co-founders or officers have achieved IPOs or >$50M M&A exits in the U.S. high-tech sector alone.

(Illuminate, 2011)

· The low number of women founders in the high-tech industry could be related the lack of access to equity capital. Women-owned startup companies tend to start with less capital than their male-owned counterparts, according to a study released by the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

· Only a small percentage of women-owned firms attract venture capital, yet technology driven companies typically need millions. Generally speaking, women aren't comfortable raising venture capital in part because of a lack of education regarding the process. Plus, the venture capital world continues to be male dominated.


· Of the over 100 giving technology platforms, approximately 5% are women owned or led.

(Pilar Stella, 2011)

· This all while, women are the majority of users of social networking sites and spend 30% more time on these sites than men; mobile social network usage is 55% female according to Nielsen.

· Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook, has talked about how women are not only the majority of its users, but drive 62% of activity in terms of messages, updates and comments, and 71% of the daily fan activity. Women have 8% more Facebook friends on average than men, and spend more time on the site.

· More women use Twitter, which has a reputation for being a techie insider’s (i.e., male) product. Women follow more people, tweet more, and have more followers on average than men, according to bloggers Dan Zarella and Darmesh Shaw’s analyses.


Friday, November 11, 2011

Welcome to the Aquarian Age

11.11.11 marked the entrance into the Aquarian Age.

I'm sure some of you remember the song from Hair...This is the Dawning of the Age of Aquarius (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EhbxI5eVnM4)! I know that dates me a little...but I can just barely remember it ;)!

Anyway, being a yogini, and a Kundalini yogini at that, this date has special significance of the era we have entered into. Many question it and doubt there is really any truth to it all. Yet, I imagine that was the case when people questioned pioneers like Galileo, Einstein, Edison, the Wright Brothers...and so on and so forth...who proclaimed a different time, era and paradigm.

The Aquarian Age has been forecast by many for generations. Dating back to the Mayans and the Mayan calendar ending life as we know it on December 12, 2012, foretelling of a new golden age, not necessarily the end of life, but life as we know it.

The yogis have told that this time is a transition from the Piscean Age, or the age of information, the age of masculine energy and the age of seeking out, manipulating, and dominating. Rather the Aquarian Age is a more feminine energy, or an energy in balance between male and female, in which we receive and allow information and opportunities to come to us. By doing more meditation and yoga, balancing more between work and fun, between body, mind and spirit, by nurturing our soul, we are raising our consciousness, energy and vibration to attract in more of what we want and need while doing less to get it.

Eric Rankin, the author of The Aquarians - 2012 The New Age described it well, "This period represents nothing less than the second great divide in human history, comparable in magnitude with the shift from barbarism to civilization... To put it simply, we are shifting away from old, fear-based habits and imagining a whole new reality for ourselves - a reality based on hope rather than despair, of abundance rather than lack, of peace rather than war, of contentedness rather than yearning, and of connectedness rather than separation. We are awakening to the fact that a new era is upon us, and that we have the ability to co-create the hopeful future we desire for ourselves and our planet."

It is a good reminder that we all have a choice. We can choose to fret and scurry from here to there seeking and searching frantically, frenetically. Or we can choose to take deep breaths, relax a little more, have a little more fun, integrate our spiritual self and practice into our human lifestyle and elevate our vibration. We may choose to slow down which can help speed up our manifestation.

I know for many this sounds like airy fairy voodoo. And so it may be. Yet, this age is about manifestation. So if we choose negativity, fear, resentment and anger, that will come. If we believe in love, peace, positivity and gratitude, that will manifest very quickly.

I am seeing it with people's health, when they heal their mind, their body follows quickly. I am seeing it with people's financial and emotional well-being. I am witnessing it all around me. If you don't believe it, try it on for size...take more breaths, pauses in your steps, stretches and moments of gratitude in your day and see what happens.

After all, 11.11.11 marks the dawning of the Age of Aquarius to come into full fruition leading up and through 12.21.2012. Happy 11.11.11 all! Just like the saying goes, you are what you eat...you are what you believe! Try that on for size!