Saturday May 18th, 2024
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Masterclass With Founder & CEO of Playbook Wafa Al Obaidat

Playbook is an edtech platform that helps connect and support women with executive leaders across the MENA region.

May El Habachi

Masterclass With Founder & CEO of Playbook Wafa Al Obaidat

StartupScene’s op-ed series ‘Masterclass’ invites some of the region’s most dynamic entrepreneurs to divulge their secrets, dispense their knowledge, and share their experiences with the MENA region’s ever-growing startup ecosystem. Whether they’re written by old guards or trailblazers, these masterclasses have been created to illuminate the path for aspiring entrepreneurs.

This month’s Masterclass contributor is Wafa Al Obaidat, founder and CEO of Playbook, an edtech platform that focuses on connecting and supporting women and executive leaders in MENA. Al Obaidat shares her views on how female angel investors can help close the gender gap for women entrepreneurs in the Middle East.

The Impact of Female Angel Investors on Closing the Investment Gender Gap

In the dynamic realm of startup ecosystems, the gender gap in investment remains a persistent challenge, impeding the progress of female entrepreneurs. Less than 17% of C-Suite positions and less than 4% of Board Positions globally are held by women and less than 2% of Global VC Funding is directed to Female Founders. This gap is not merely a statistical quirk but a substantial hurdle that impedes the progress of female entrepreneurs, and perpetuates a cycle where women face hurdles in accessing capital, limiting their growth potential and stifling innovation.

The Transformative Force of Female Angel Investors

Female entrepreneurs often find themselves facing barriers when seeking funding, contributing to a landscape where innovative ideas from women are not as readily supported . However, amid these challenges, a transformative force is emerging - female angel investors. These trailblazers are not only reshaping the narrative of who holds the purse strings but are actively contributing to the closure of the investment gender gap. Female angel investors are instrumental in overcoming the funding barriers faced by female entrepreneurs by providing not only critical early-stage funding, but also through mentorship and guidance, leveraging their extensive business experience.

Female angel investors are shaking up the investment landscape, addressing biases and contributing to a more equitable playing field. They play a pivotal role in building inclusive investment communities, establishing networks that focus on supporting women in entrepreneurship and encouraging diverse ideas and perspectives to catalyze innovation. Through advocacy efforts, female angel investors influence awareness about the importance of gender diversity in entrepreneurship, contributing to a more inclusive and supportive entrepreneurial ecosystem, fostering a comprehensive and empowering environment for female entrepreneurs to thrive.

Bridging the Investment Gap Through Learning and Education

The investment gap, especially concerning women, is a multifaceted challenge rooted in historical biases, systemic hurdles, and a lack of representation. It has been a passion of mine to empower women with the right tools and a supportive ecosystem where they feel ready to make decisions with confidence. One of the critical barriers women face in the investment realm is the confidence gap. Learning and education play a pivotal role in bridging this gap by instilling confidence through knowledge. I have continually strived to innovate and expand our impact, and learning and education have emerged as powerful catalysts, illuminating the path toward financial literacy and empowerment. Understanding investment principles, financial markets, and risk management becomes not only a source of empowerment but also a means to break down barriers.

By demystifying complex financial concepts, women can make informed decisions and actively participate in investment opportunities. Through Playbook, women not only learn individually but also engage collectively, creating networks that amplify their voices in the investment landscape. Networking opportunities become essential for breaking into traditionally male-dominated spheres, facilitating mentorship, and opening doors to collaborative ventures.

The evolution from being an educational guide to establishing a thriving community marked our commitment to providing more than just content - we aimed to create an ecosystem where women could connect, collaborate, and succeed together. Our financial masterclasses achieved an impressive 80% completion rate, our Financial Flagship event series has marked an unprecedented 600 Women Strong Milestone across Dubai, Riyadh, and Kuwait - reflecting a remarkable 20% user growth since the launch of our financial initiatives.

The positive response to masterclasses revealed a palpable appetite among women to take the next step: making their first investment. Our dedicated efforts have converted 15 Playbook members into investors from six different countries, and these success stories of women transitioning from learners to investors underscore the profound impact of education in empowering women to navigate and reshape the investment narrative.

Balancing the Investment Landscape

Addressing systemic issues in the funding ecosystem requires commitment to transforming the landscape, and increasing the representation of women investors from the current 10%. Having more female investors is a key element in balancing the investment landscape which serves as a gateway to fostering innovation and bringing diverse perspectives, ideas, and decision-making approaches to the table, leading to a more comprehensive understanding of the market. Studies consistently show that diverse teams, including those with gender diversity, outperform homogeneous teams. Similarly, a balanced investment landscape, with increased representation of female investors, contributes to a more robust and resilient financial ecosystem. By having more women investors, we not only address gender disparities but also enhance the overall effectiveness and success of the investment landscape.

Female-Centric Investment Platforms

To facilitate this shift towards gender balance, the creation of female-centric investment platforms is paramount. These platforms must be tailored to the specific needs and preferences of women investors, for example, with educational resources or online tools that simplify the investment process.

Partnerships and Collaborations

Collaborating with organisations dedicated to women's empowerment is a strategic step in expanding the reach of initiatives aimed at increasing female representation in the investment landscape. Partnering with both financial and non-financial entities allows us to leverage existing networks and resources, effectively engaging a broader community of female angel investors.

Female-Targeted Investment Funds

The establishment of investment funds specifically geared toward supporting female-led startups or companies with diverse leadership is a tangible way to attract female investors. This approach aligns with the passion many women have for supporting businesses with a social impact.

Mentorship Programs

Mentorship plays a pivotal role in building confidence and sharing industry insights among aspiring female investors. Implementing mentorship programs that connect experienced female investors with those new to the field fosters a supportive community.

At Playbook we are well on our way to making this happen for our female investor community. We acquired Women Spark, an innovative early-stage Female Angel Investor Network and this acquisition adds a crucial dimension to our ecosystem. We’re designing a space tailored for women to make that initial investment with confidence.

By combining Playbook's community-building strengths with Women Spark's focus on angel investing, we aim to create a holistic ecosystem where women can seamlessly transition from learning and networking to actively participating as investors.  We are shaping a future where the investment gender gap is not just addressed but significantly reduced.

This acquisition positions us to further empower women, not only in their careers but also as influential contributors to the investment landscape and as the solution to the problems that the current investment landscape faces due to the gender gap. We're confident that these developments will significantly enhance our collective impact and open up new avenues for growth and innovation.

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