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A new FinTech platform is shaking up angel investing in the UK by aiming to address the current gender gap.

The Obu Angel Investment Platform launched this week, connecting eligible angels with female-founded businesses. 

Women make up just 14% of angel investors in the UK, an issue which has been identified as having a direct impact on the limited investments placed in businesses founded by women. Less than 2p in every £1 went to all-female founding teams in 2022, and only 0.02% of Venture Capital funds invested in the last 10 years have gone to black female founders. 

Obu believes in diversifying the demographic of both angels and entrepreneurs by offering a financial services product which recognises that women’s life experience of money, wealth and therefore investing can often be different. With this underlying principle, Obu’s purpose is to increase the number of women angels in the UK from 14% to 30% by 2030, a key objective of the Women Backing Women campaign.

The Obu Angel Investment Platform is open to all eligible investors who support its mission to close the gender investment gap. It will focus on female-founded businesses in the fintech, edtech, femtech, AI, food and drink, health and beauty sectors, who are seeking up to £250,000 via the Seed Enterprise Investment Scheme (SEIS).

Once on the platform, founders and angels are guided through a joining journey which includes due diligence of investment opportunities as well as ID checks. They then create personal profiles with a focus not only on capital, but on what Obu are calling ‘Capital+™’ – the particular wisdom, network and cheerleading which each individual angel can offer.Obu will enable the end-to-end investment process including shareholder agreements, articles of association and Companies House filing. 

Aspiring angels, who are curious about investing, but lack the information, network or resources, are educated and supported through the Obu Angel Collective and via Obu’s Corporate Halo programme.

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Obu is the brainchild of female entrepreneurs Sarah King and Claire Dunn, whose successful campaign in 2021 – #overbeingunderfunded – brought to light the inbuilt inequalities in the investment sector for women-founded business and succeeded in changing the legislation around access to SEIS. 

King said: “From childhood, gender plays a significant role in how we’re socialised when it comes to money, and subsequently, how we develop financial literacy. Research shows that girls receive 20% less pocket money than boys and yet products marketed to girls cost 5% more. This bleeds into adulthood, where women experience a gender pay gap and where mainstream media still portrays a difference between the ‘earners’ and the ‘spenders’ within a household. 

“So it’s no surprise to see that the financial services sector is dominated by men – 86% of angel investors, 83% of financial advisors, 94% of CEOs in the financial services sector are men. This underrepresentation of women impacts the way in which financial services products are designed, creating a missed opportunity of $700bn a year globally. 

“At Obu, we’re flipping the narrative that suggests women need to fit into the products offered and instead we’re unlocking this huge untapped potential by asking ‘how might we deliberately design products for you’?” 

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As well as bringing founders and angels together, Obu is aiming to use technology to remove some of the pain points often experienced during an investment round. For example, active angels are clearly identified as such; funding expectations, limits and timescales are set out; and the language is deliberately accessible and clear. 

King added: “The Obu Platform and Collective have been designed with women angels in mind – the customer journeys, the way information is presented, the language we use, the guidance we provide has all been built to disrupt and demystify investment. We’re building a new table and we’re welcoming eligible women and ally investors who recognise the need for change to pull up a chair.”

The Obu platform has launched with female-founded businesses who have been through a robust due diligence process, and more will be added as the platform grows its angel investor community. 

Cornrow founders

The Cornrow is an online home and lifestyle boutique celebrating contemporary African design. Co-founders and sisters Kemi Lawson and Lara Senbanjo (above) have backgrounds in corporate finance and marketing respectively. 

The Cornrow co-founder Kemi Lawson said: “Obu’s focus on female investors and underrepresented founders made them ideal partners. The team have really demystified the fundraise process and we love the simple way that Obu allows founders to connect with a number of investors on one single platform.”

A strong community of eligible, forward-thinking angel investors is now developing on the Obu platform.

Erika Brodnock (below) is an angel investor; she is co-founder of Kinhub and head of research at Extend Ventures. She co-authored the report Diversity Beyond Gender, which highlights that black founders received just 0.02% of total venture capital invested over the last ten years. 

“More women, especially black women, need to become angel investors,” she said. “Obu is opening a pathway to eligible women from all ethnic backgrounds, regions, and classes to invest within their means to create positive economic futures for themselves and for their families and communities. I’m delighted that tangible action has been taken following the Diversity Beyond Gender report recommendations, and that I am able to support Obu as an angel investor.”

Erika Brodnock

Sarah Windrum became an angel investor as a way to give back to the entrepreneur community after successfully selling her tech company in 2021. She enjoys investing in companies with purpose and also believes in positive action to close the gender investment gap. 

“We need to change the conversation, build better relationships, and focus more on purpose-driven investment – and Obu will be a gamechanger in helping us do that at scale,” she said. 

“If I want a business to exist because it will make the world a better place, then I have to be prepared to back them with my support, my experience, and a little cash too. When I began my own investment journey two years ago it felt like angel investors were people who didn’t look or sound like me. I believe in Obu’s mission to encourage new entrepreneurs and new investors to step forward, and that is why I am part of their network and also an investor in their business.”

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