xElle Ventures-Sponsored Pitch Contest Marks Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

xElle, a female-only angel investment group in N.C., will hold a pitch competition on Nov. 19 to hear from female founders from universities across the state.

xElle Ventures, the only female-only angel network in North Carolina and the only one that invests exclusively in women founders, is holding its first annual Female Founders Pitch Competition next Thursday, Nov. 19. 

The competition—held during Global Entrepreneurship Week and on Women’s Entrepreneurship Day— will start on Zoom at 5 p.m, and people interested in attending can register online

Twelve North Carolina university partners nominated a total of 20 female founders, and xElle judges chose five finalists. Those finalists began working with coaches on Nov. 1 to craft their pitches in preparation for the competition.

The five finalists are:

  • Jeyashree Haridoss, Sol (N.C. State): Sol offers real-time language translation for travelers. (We wrote about Sol this summer.)
  • Orion Brown, Black Travel Box (Duke): Black Travel Box makes travel-friendly hair and skincare products for women of color.
  • Caitie Gehlhausen, Socket Lock-It (High Point University): Socket Lock-It create adhesive cardholders for the back of phones.
  • Dr. Sheeba Dawood, Minerva Lithium (UNCG): Minerva Lithium engineers clean energy solutions to recover usable water and drive the lithium market.
  • Happy Ghosh, Kalia Health (UNC-Chapel Hill): Kalia Health is a biotech startup that develops woman’s healthcare technologies for use in low-resource settings in the U.S. and globally.

Each finalist will present a six-minute pitch, and judges will decide on a winner to receive $1,000.

Robbie Hardy, founder of xElle Ventures, said the event was created to help increase exposure and recognition for these female-founded startups. The founders also have the opportunity to network with one another—by means of a LinkedIn group— and xElle is working with them to connect them with mentors in their field.

xElle Ventures Founder Robbie Hardy

Hardy, who has been an angel investor since 1995, realized female founders received significantly less investment than their male counterparts. In fact, women receive only 2.5% of all angel or venture funding.

Hardy said she would always push her male colleagues to invest more in female founders, but she realized that wasn’t the biggest problem. 

“The problem is we need more women investing in women,” Hardy said, noting how only one-half of 1% of high-net-worth women are angel or venture investors, compared to about 30% of high-net-worth men.

In 2019, Hardy founded xElle Ventures, with the mission to not only increase investment in female-founded companies, but also to have more women sitting at the table, making those investments.  

“Having been in this world for a long time, I want to educate more women on the possibility of them being an angel investor, so that way we can really move the needle,” Hardy said.