Investing in Women

Before Taking a Stake in a Company, Make Sure They Understand the Female Demographic

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In Ad Age's Q&A with Paco Underhill this week, the CEO of Envirosell discussed how marketers can reach out to women based on the research from his latest book "What Women Want." Women are increasingly the biggest earners in their household, and with 140 women receiving a bachelor's degree to every 100 men who earn one, that is likely to continue. If you're looking to invest in a company, you might want to make sure it understands the importance of this demographic. We asked Mr. Underhill for some signs to watch out for.

Ad Age: What should a venture capitalist look for to insure a potential investment is paying enough attention to the female demographic?

Mr. Underhill: Maybe what they should do is hire us. Collecting data in 2010 is easy, crunching it is much more of an art form and much more important. We try to triangulate. When someone asks us to solve a problem, we use more than one methodology to try to get to the solution. If the same solution gets pointed to from a variety of ways, you're probably headed in the right direction.

Ad Age: And once they've done their research, what should they hope to find?

Mr. Underhill: I think, first of all, you look at their board of directors and senior executive officers. People who pay attention to women have women in senior management roles. If you're a consumer product of any kind, having women in senior management and on your board should be no-brainer.

I think one of the ironies of our tech businesses is that so much of it doesn't recognize that women have the power to take a technology and turn it into an appliance. It's only when something has mass acceptance to females that it succeeds.

Ad Age: Anything in particular in the business or marketing plan investors should look for?

Mr. Underhill: You might look at the research work that they've done and see if they've segmented what they think their potential audience is. If they think there's a female segment to it, have they followed up on it?

Ad Age: How would they follow up?

Mr. Underhill: Some of it is actually doing some research work and one-on-one work with women. One of the interesting issues if you've been reading the media is Comic-Con and the high percentage of women who came to their gathering for the first time in their history. I don't think tech, going forward, is the sole domain of male geeks.

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