Springboard Co-Founder and Chairman Kay Koplovitz was interviewed for the .CO Icons & Innovators. The series showcases interviews with the big thinkers, crazy dreamers, rule breakers and risk takers who spend their days breaking through boundaries, creating new possibilities, and transforming current realities to build the future online – on .CO, of course!
Australia has made big leaps in its move towards a supportive environment for entrepreneurs but the first ever female president of a television network, USA network and Sci Fi channel founder Kay Koplovitz, says there are huge gaps that need plugging.
“We wanted to move the needle,” she told The Australian in an interview. “We knew there would be a lot of interest from investors if they just knew about [women-led companies]. Most people believed women would be in more home-based businesses and small businesses, well we were about big business and that’s where we operated then, and now.”
“What we work really hard at is getting the right coaching team for each entrepreneur, so understanding what strengths she has, what weaknesses the business might have. A micro biologist might have spent her whole career in a lab, but she hasn’t been out there raising money. We help her ‘speak investor’.”
A co-founder of one of the world's first women-only business growth accelerators says Australian investors are still too conservative and need to do more to support the early stage companies, and particularly those run by women.
"The first year we came [to Australia] we were actually a catalyst for the marketplace because there was almost no venture investing and very modest amounts of angel investing," Koplovitz says.
"Australia has a tremendous amount of capital asset management but I do think it is more conservative. A lot of it's tied to mining companies and asset class management and stocks and bonds" and there was not money going into start-ups.
"We need to ramp it up," she says.
Springboard Enterprises is a program that Koplovitz founded in 2000 to coach female business founders and offer them the support and networks that the broader startup ecosystem still largely directs towards men.
Importantly, the program now includes a dedicated sidecar investment fund, which made its first investment in April by contributing to the $US40 million Series B round of a Springboard alumni, luxury e-wholesaler The RealReal, alongside other female entrepreneurs from previous programs.
Legendary US entrepreneur Kay Koplovitz describes the 2016 presidential primaries’ season in the US as “very disheartening, very dispiriting,” and the “craziest election cycle I have ever seen.” “It’s been strange and, especially on the Republican side, it has been embarrassing in a lot of different ways to the country.” As someone who has been on the front-foot of gender diversity and equality issues over a long period, this is not surprising. Ms Koplovitz has not been a bystander in life. She has got amongst it.
Women need to learn how to talk themselves up, says Kay Koplovitz, the first woman to serve as network president in US TV history."I don't think it's a matter of confidence; it's a matter of [women] not wanting to brag about themselves," she says. Koplovitz's US-born company, Springboard Enterprises, aims to help startup women in high-growth industries access venture capital.
A large part of this is about teaching them to be "better promoters".
"We want to make sure that our [female] entrepreneurs are delivering messages that will be positively received," she says. "To do that, they must be explicit about their qualifications."