Supporting female-led businesses

Investor Deepali Nangia talks to about her work supporting female-led businesses and what needs to change to level the playing field for female entrepreneurs.


Deepali Nangia is an investor and mentor for early-stage startups in tech with a focus on female enterprise and social impact. Her shareholdings include all female-led companies – LiveBetterWith, Pension Bee, Polipop, Nadine Aysoy & Trunkaroo. She also provides pro bono mentoring for women through Imperial Enterprise Lab and ZincVC. Deepali previously worked in investment banking and private equity. She wrote the Diary of a Mumpreneur blog for How did you become involved in working with female entrepreneurs?

Deepali Nangia: When I worked in the city, my female friends often came to me to ask me for advice around finance and business development when they were running their small businesses.  While in a job in the UK, I also co-founded a business in India – a children’s activity centre in India and loved building it with a female co-founder.  I love working with women – they are hard-working, collaborative and open to feedback.  And there isn’t enough support for them – whether they are running a small lifestyle business or a big tech company.  Therefore, this is what I chose to do – support and advise them through their strategy and fundraising.

WMs: Why do you think we are so bad at supporting female entrepreneurs?

DN: I think women have been viewed as the lesser sex and while they have been seen as having a key role in the home, they have not been supported as much in the corporate world due to inflexible work policies.  Usually they have run small businesses on the side in order to keep up with their household responsibilities and therefore their businesses were never considered serious enough.

WMs: What needs to change?

DN: We need more mentoring and support from women who have made it – they are great role models.  We also need support from the remaining 50% of the male population (but 90% of the CEOs).  Women have also tended to start companies that solve a problem that they can relate to – not necessarily that a male investor understands.  Even if it a non-female specific problem, 90% of the investors in the room that women pitch to are usually male.  Therefore, we also need more female investors.  Grant funding is available but quite limiting; start-up loans are hard to obtain – in general, more funding would lead to more startups and hopefully women will be a larger share of that.  Lastly, I find that women need to fight many biases and are usually grilled more than their male counterparts in pitch meetings – we need a bias-free approach to investment-making.

WMs: Do you think that female entrepreneurs are changing in terms of the kind of businesses they run, their ambitions, etc?

DN: Yes, absolutely. I have personally invested in six female CEOs and they run businesses in e-commerce, fintech, femtech, digital health etc.  They have big visions and want to build big companies.  I have also advised hundreds of other women who are trying to do the same.

WMs: Are they more organised to support each other?

DN: Yes.  There are many more female specific networking events, mentoring events, fundraising workshops – events teaching women how to be angel investors and a few female-specific angel networks.

WMs: What options are available with regard to funding for early start-ups?

DN: Well, the first source of funding is friends and family – this is for companies that are still developing their prototypes.  There are many angels and angel networks through which investors can invest in early stage start-ups and can take advantage of Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme[SEIS]/Enterprise Investment Scheme [EIS] tax incentives.  Depending on the type of business, there are grants from organisations like Innovate UK.

WMs: What about those businesses that want to scale up?

DN: There are many venture capital funds in the UK.  At some point, scale-ups also look at bank financing.

WMs: What are you doing to link funders and entrepreneurs?

DN: I act as an advisor to female CEOs about their fundraising, initially advising them on their pitch deck, validating their financials and then helping them through the fundraising process.

WMs: You do a lot of mentoring. How important are business mentors and how important is it that mentors understand the kind of challenges many women business owners face?

DN: Business mentors are very important, but mentors can’t answer questions for you.  Good mentors help you to get to an answer.  It is your business and you need to figure it out – a mentor acts as a sounding board.

WMs: You also do work with schools and colleges. How important is it to reach out to the next generation of potential entrepreneurs and get girls thinking about enterprise as an option for them in the future?

DN: Yes, I love that aspect of my work.  I have judged competitions at London College of Fashion and Imperial College – where I have also been a mentor for many years now.  I see many girls learning about enterprise and also learning about STEM careers, which have traditionally been dominated by men.  I also recently judged a sustainable enterprise day at a leading independent school in London – Latymer Upper in Hammersmith and the ideas were brilliant – children thinking about real problems that need solving.

*If you want to connect with Deepali, you can find her on Linkedin here and on Instagram at  d_nangia

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