Accelerating and funding incredible women entrepreneurs in Oregon: XXcelerate Fund

The timing is impeccable. Following one of the most poignant, moving, and momentous protests in US history, it seems perfect that a group of women from the Portland startup and investment communities is launching a new organization designed to help women founders in Oregon build amazing companies—and find the funding they need. Meet the XXcelerate Fund.

XXcelerate Fund began with a group of women entrepreneurs gathered around a kitchen table in Portland, Oregon. They faced a lack of support, education, and funding opportunities necessary to grown their businesses. They started looking into the existing structures and saw a gap (that others saw as well) in financing between traditional small business loans and venture capital. Data shows that women-led companies are more successful when they receive funding and support from other women. Forging partnerships with experienced professionals in lending and venture capital, government, and philanthropic institutions, XXcelerate represents a new way to fund growing businesses based on sustainable growth, education, personal accountability, and women’s empowerment. It’s capital designed to fit the needs of women and underrepresented founders.

“If we want more people from marginalized communities to be entrepreneurs, we need to give them the access to capital that they need to scale their businesses,” said Paige Hendrix Buckner, founder and CEO of ClientJoy and cofounder of the XXcelerate Fund. “I see local entrepreneurs solving problems unique to our community in powerful ways that benefit us all. It is this kind of impact and empowerment that has me involved in the creation of the XXcelerate Fund.

“As the founder in a women-led company, I’ve seen first hand what it looks like to build a company and be significantly under-capitalized. Our families have been incredibly helpful with support and funds, but we don’t have access to the kind of wealth that we would need to sustain ourselves as the company grows. We’re not alone. I speak privately with women founders who are working hard to grow their companies in Oregon. They often face a crossroads. They know they should be building their companies for themselves and their families, but they can’t in good conscience continue because they don’t have access to the capital that they need to survive.”

That’s the problem Paige and her cofounders are working to eradicate. Those peer founding entrepreneurs of the XXcelerate Fund include: Genevieve LeMarchal, cofounder of Sadie; Astrid Scholz, cofounder and CEO of Sphaera; and Mara Zepeda, cofounder and CEO of Switchboard.

The new organization is helmed by Robin Klemm, Ph.D., who serves as both a board member and Executive Director for the fund. A successful entrepreneur and active investor, Robin was most recently named 2016 Most Valuable Angel by the Oregon Angel Fund.

“There is a crisis in access to capital and entrepreneurial support for women in the state of Oregon and nationwide,” said Robin. “And this gap is happening at a time when we see continuing proof points of the effectiveness of women business leaders.”

Best of all, this effort includes more than just capital. The fund plans to employ a mentor-driven model to help educate, support, and champion their investments, thereby further strengthening the connections among the incredible women founders in our community.

“In conversations with women entrepreneurs in Oregon, I have heard clearly how Oregon cannot achieve its fullest potential to increase high-skill, high-wage jobs without extending equal opportunities to capital for women entrepreneurs,” said Oregon Senator Ron Wyden. “Despite women entrepreneurs running 30 percent of small businesses, they get less than five percent of the total value of all conventional business loans. Tapping Oregonians’ creativity and grit to come together and find solutions is exactly the type of thinking we need today and every day.”

If you or your organization is interested in supporting this effort, the XXcelerate Fund is seeking two types of capital: loan funds and grants through government entities, foundations, commercial investment, and individuals. Capital will be fully deployed within five years. They are currently accepting applications from qualifying founders, too.

For more information, visit XXcelerate Fund.

[Full disclosure: PIE is extremely proud to be included among the partners of this effort. I am the cofounder and general manager of PIE.]

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