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Women-Only Investor Network Forming in L.A.

May 03, 2000|MARLA DICKERSON and LEE ROMNEY | TIMES STAFF WRITERS

USA Networks founder Kay Koplovitz was in Los Angeles last week speaking in front of a couple hundred attendees at a women's economic forum.

But she was even busier behind the scenes, working with former California Treasurer Kathleen Brown to organize what could become L.A.'s first women-only angel investment network.

It's an idea that Koplovitz has championed as chairwoman of the National Women's Business Council, which has been instrumental this year in launching a series of venture forums for women-owned businesses known as Springboard 2000.

But getting female entrepreneurs access to the clubby male-dominated venture world is only half the equation. Koplovitz said successful women business owners and executives represent an untapped source of seed capital that could help more women-owned start-ups get off the ground.

"There is a lot of pent-up capital in the hands of women," said Koplovitz, now chief executive of Working Women Networks, whose holdings include Working Woman magazine. "It's time to energize the supply side."

Koplovitz has already helped jump-start women angel clubs in New York, Washington, Boston and Seattle by hooking up with local heavyweights who know the landscape. She's using a similar approach in Los Angeles by working with Brown, a banking executive and member of one of California's best-known political families.

A group of about 10 prospective investors met for the first time last week for what Brown said were "very preliminary conversations." The goal is to recruit around 60 members and raise somewhere between $5 million and $10 million to invest in early-stage companies, a target Brown described as "very realistic."

Members will need to be well-heeled, since the investment requirements probably will be in the $100,000 to $300,000 range. They'll also have to be willing to accept substantial risk.

Though a women's angel network would naturally be open to investing in women-owned start-ups, Brown said, gender will not be the main factor in determining where the group will invest its capital.

"The idea is to make money and grow new businesses," she said.

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