Alicia Robb Magnified the Movement to Drive Impact, Diversity, and Inclusion in Early-Stage Investing

By: Sarah Dickey, ACA Membership Director

Groundbreaking economist, author, investor, and entrepreneur is honored with the Angel Capital Association’s Hans Severiens Award 

While performing the research that culminated in her book, The Next Wave: Financing and Investing Strategies for Growth-Oriented Women Entrepreneurs, Alicia Robb, Ph.D., realized there was an enormous funding gap for women-led companies, which was due, in part, to the lack of women investors. Her research uncovered many reasons for the shortage of women in entrepreneurial finance, especially among angel investors:

  • Many women are not aware of angel investing, and they are not asked to invest
  • They do not know other angel investors and are not part of investor networks
  • They do not see deal flow and are not exposed to investment opportunities
  • They do not feel prepared to make that first investment
  • They are risk averse and shy away from making that first investment until they feel knowledgeable and well-versed

Robb took these insights and, in addition to publishing a ground-breaking book, she decided to create an innovative program focused on growing female angel investors, and piloted it in the United States and Europe while a senior fellow at the Kauffman Foundation.  Kauffman supported the education and training part of the program.  Her current fund builds on those pilots and is focused on impact companies and features 99 female investors (25 of them women of color.) The fund is led by an experienced investment committee of ten women who mentor the fund’s investors. The team has built a diverse portfolio of 15 companies over a three-year investment period, and they are now focused on follow-on investments. 100% of the portfolio companies are led by women and people of color.

This week, Alicia Robb was awarded the prestigious Hans Severiens Award, ACA’s annual award recognizing one individual’s work in advancing the field of angel investing. “Alicia embodies all of the characteristics that would make Hans Severiens proud. The depth and breadth of Alicia's impact on angel investing is nothing but amazing – she has expanded the knowledge base of investing as a Senior Fellow at the Kauffman Foundation, as a prolific author, and as a global educator. As the founder and managing partner of two early-stage funds, Alicia has encouraged, enabled, and advocated for a more diverse group of investors and entrepreneurs - for women, for people of color, and for impact. Alicia Robb shows by doing, and the ACA could not be more proud to promote what she does so well - making angel investing a better, more inclusive purpose for economic progress,” said selection committee member David Verrill, who won the award in 2018.  

“It is such an honor to receive this award and to join such a distinguished group of past honorees.  These past several years, I have had the privilege of working with a truly amazing group of women investors and entrepreneurs who continuously inspire me.  They have become treasured mentors, colleagues, and friends.  I am proud of our contribution to bringing impact into the mainstream of ACA and the coalitions we are building around impact investing and gender and racial equity.  We are aligned in our values and committed to a shared vision of a more sustainable and equitable world. We are passionate about the role that entrepreneurship plays in this vision and the role we play as angel investors.  We appreciate and are humbled by this recognition and will enthusiastically continue our efforts to drive diversity, inclusion, and equity in the entrepreneurial ecosystem here in the US and across the globe.  I'd like to thank the Angel Capital Association for this award, and I'm honored to accept it on behalf of all of the women in the Next Wave Network,” says Alicia on winning the 2020 Hans Severiens Award.

Robb and her colleagues have leveraged their innovative model to build on two pilots in the United States and Europe (the Rising Tide Pilots) with nearly 200 women, which made 18 investments from the two funds. Next Wave engages more diverse investors and supports more diverse entrepreneurs who are focused on creating positive impact and financial returns. The group educates new angel investors through its progressive “learning-by-doing” fund model, which promotes inclusive, positive impact investing. The funds invest in high growth companies with scalable business models, competitive returns, and positive social and environmental impact at their core.

In addition to her success as Founder and CEO of Next Wave Impact, Alicia is also the Research Director at Cruelty Free Investing, and a Research Fellow at the University of Colorado in Boulder. She was a Senior Fellow with the Kauffman Foundation for more than a decade, and a visiting scholar with the University of California in Berkeley and Santa Cruz.

Alicia received her M.S. and Ph.D. in Economics from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She worked as an economist with the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and the Office of Economic Research in the Small Business Administration.

Alicia is a prolific author on the topics of entrepreneurship and entrepreneurial finance. In addition to co-authoring A Rising Tide: Financing Strategies for Women-Owned Businesses and The Next Wave: Financing and Investing Strategies for Growth-Oriented Women Entrepreneurs published by Stanford University Press, she has also written Race and Entrepreneurial Success, published by MIT Press, and dozens of book chapters and articles. She teaches workshops on angel investing and investor readiness around the globe.

About the Award

The Hans Severiens Award is presented annually to recognize an individual's work in advancing the field of angel investing, named after the founder of the Band of Angels. Consideration for nomination is intentionally broad, from legislators to industry leaders to academia, in recognition of the broad reach and impact of angel investing. Individuals may be self or third-party nominated.

Criteria for selection include the following:
1. Depth and breadth of individual's impact on advancement of angel investing.
2. Leadership in bringing awareness to the vital role of angel investing in the support of entrepreneurial companies.
3. Contribution to the knowledge base of angel investing.
4. Respect and recognition by peers for contributions to the angel investment industry.
5. General accomplishments which have influenced or benefited the angel investment community.