X Squared Angels supports gender diversity in business

Pat Carpenter says “There really is an old girls' network, but you have to be willing to get in the game.”

For Carpenter and nearly two dozen others, the game is X Squared Angels, a central Ohio angel investors' group that concentrates on supporting women entrepreneurs who struggle to find resources to support their fledgling business ventures.

Carpenter and Carol Clark are among the founders of the group, which was formed in 2013 and has invested $1.5 million in about 30 companies—10 in Ohio and the rest across the country. The average investment is $50,000, but the total per company ranges from as little as $5,000 to more than $100,000, Clark says.

Clark knows something about being a woman entrepreneur, having started and sold MindLeaders Inc., an education software business. A self-described recovering techie and entrepreneur, Carpenter has been involved in startups for more than 35 years.

The 16 women and seven men who make up X Squared Angels—named for the female chromosome—recognize the obstacles women face in business, even though as many women as men start companies. “We feel women-led startups don't have a lot of access to capital,” Clark says. X Squared Angels exists to boost that access and also offer the expertise of its members while promoting gender-diversity in business.

“With women-led companies, you just get different points of view,” Clark says. Carpenter likes that “a lot of women start companies to solve problems.”

For instance, group members have invested in a company targeting a problem many mothers know too well—bed-wetting. Instead of having to change an entire set of linens in the middle of the night, the woman-founded QuickZip created bottom sheets with a section that zips out and in for an easy change from wet to dry.

“What we're trying to do is find good investments anywhere in the country,” Carpenter says. “It's just been a kick; you've got these highly intelligent entrepreneurs who happen to be women.”

The members of X Squared Angels are not in it to get rich.

“The odds are not with us,” Clark says. “You're going to help create jobs, but you're probably not going to make a huge amount of money.” One company that some members invested in returned$1.75 for every $1 invested in 13 months, but that is the exception, she says. Most of their investments are “just kind of chugging along.”

An area where they have seen growth, though, is in the number of women-led ventures seeking their help and in women wanting to get into the investment game, Clark says. “During the time that we've been here, certainly there's more activity now than when we started.”