When Natalia Oberti Noguera ’05 B.A. graduated from Yale, she didn’t know exactly what career path she would take, but she knew two things: “I was not going to sell out — or settle.”
Oberti Noguera, a cis queer Latina whose gender pronouns are she/her, is now the founder and CEO of Pipeline Angels, an angel investing firm focused on changing the face of angel investing and funding for-profit social ventures led by women and non-binary femmes (anyone who identifies with womanhood, she explains).
While she didn’t realize it then, Oberti Noguera says she now recognizes how entrepreneurial she was in her undergraduate years — launching many creative pursuits, from a campus TV show to a photography journal called “The Gaze.” Rosalinda Garcia, former assistant dean of Yale College and Latinx Cultural Center director, was one of a few key individuals Oberti Noguera met during her time at Yale who influenced her journey and helped her build a community and support system on campus.
She fine-tuned her negotiating skills while working for the Yale Office of Development, calling alumni to ask for donations. “I was connecting with alumni one-to-one and sharing my own experience,” Oberti Noguera says. “It was such a great skill to develop, to find points of rapport.” That ability would serve her well when she was later pitching Pipeline Angels to potential lenders, she says.
Oberti Noguera came to Yale after a series of moves precipitated by her father’s job with the United Nations — from New Jersey to Ecuador to Colombia to Honduras to the Dominican Republic and, finally, to New Haven. Growing up, she says she doesn’t recall anyone being introduced as “a founder or entrepreneur,” adding: “A lack of language and terminology means a lack of access.” That notion was confirmed for the alumna when she launched New York Women Social Entrepreneurs in 2008 and discovered how many women struggled to find funding for their social venture ideas.
“If they shared their nonprofit ideas, people were excited to donate,” she says. “But if it was for-profit, they backed away.”
Pipeline Angels’ goal is to train more women and femmes to become angel investors. Referencing the show “Shark Tank,” Oberti Noguera says she’s in the business of creating more women and femme sharks.
One of her early supporters was William Schnoor ’80 B.A., partner at the law firm Goodwin Procter. “Natalia blew me away with her vision and passion,” says Schnoor, adding that the model of creating more women and femme angel investors to improve gender diversity among entrepreneurs makes sense. “If there are more women investors, it’s easier for women to raise capital,” he says.
According to the organization AllRaise, just 15% of U.S. ventures dollars in 2017 went to startups with a female founder. And, per digitalundivided’s 2018 ProjectDiane report, black women entrepreneurs have raised only .07% “of the $424.7 billion in total tech venture funding raised in the U.S. since 2009.
Goodwin Procter offered space and speakers for Pipeline Angels’ events, and one of the firm’s partners, Mitzi Chang, has led workshops on term sheets for Pipeline Angels’ signature angel investing bootcamp, held at cities across the U.S. In addition to workshops, the bootcamp connects aspiring women and femme investors with seasoned investors to serve as mentors, and members participate in a pitch summit with new startups, where they invest at least $5,000 each.
To date, Pipeline Angels’ 300+ members have invested more than $5 million in over 50 new companies. The investors are multi-racial and cross generations — ranging in age from their late 20s to early 60s. They have backgrounds in tech, law, consultancy, and philanthropy; there are stay-at-home parents and successful entrepreneurs, and even a baker and a dentist. What they share, says Oberti Noguera, is a desire to use their money to help other women and femmes succeed, beyond philanthropy.
This past summer was the first time Pipeline Angels ran a bootcamp in Puerto Rico. Startups founded by local women and femmes are seen by many experts as a necessary piece to rebuilding Puerto Rico’s economy following the devastation of Hurricane Maria in 2017, which left the island’s residents without power for nearly a year. “We welcome efforts to increase access to capital for our local startups, particularly when it means that founders will also get access to a powerful network of new mentors, partners, and potential clients,” said Laura Cantero, executive director of Grupo Guayacán, Inc.
Pipeline Angels’ fall angel investing bootcamp is now accepting applications — with priority given to candidates who apply by Sept. 14.
While Pipeline Angels has held bootcamps in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Washington D.C., Detroit, Los Angeles, Miami, Minneapolis, New Orleans, Portland, San Diego, San Francisco, and Seattle, among others, the organization is continually expanding.
“We’re committed to unleashing untapped capital at the local level,” Oberti Noguera says.