Creating Opportunity: Tedesco Strives to Improve Access to Capital for All
Trained as a mechanical engineer, Gina Tedesco earned her MBA and served in various postings in finance and M&A at a global pharmaceutical company in Paris, France and Sao Paulo, Brazil. Then she took the plunge and co-founded and sold three startups. JumpStart NJ's membership chair and board member has also taught entrepreneurship at Fairleigh Dickinson University
When did you join JumpStart NJ?
I met a few successful New Jersey angels in 2009 and started dabbling in early-stage investing. I joined two angel groups, Jumpstart NJ Angel Network and Golden Seeds, and before I knew it, angel investing was my fourth startup venture, Amala Ventures.
Why were you interested in angel investing initially? Has that changed over the years?
Investing is at times frustrating with uncertain outcomes. There is no set formula or right answer, but as a strategic-thinking, curious extrovert who loves problem solving, the challenges of early-stage investing are what I find most engaging.
My thesis is ever evolving but the common thread, even if I did it unconsciously in the beginning, is that I always focused on diversity in all its forms: gender, geography, culture. Team is most important to me, and I only invest in companies that include at least one-woman founder.
Tell us about a noteworthy investment you made through JumpStart NJ.
Although I’ve traveled and lived around the world, I am a “Jersey Girl” born and bred. It is always rewarding to support women-led companies in my own backyard. I was thrilled to invest twice in SunRay Scientific, a materials technology company led by an incredible woman founder solving a big and interesting problem right here in NJ.
Woman-owned businesses receive about 2% of investment from venture capitalists – gender diverse teams receive about 12% so 86% goes to all-male-founding teams. For women of color, the amount of dollars invested are even more abysmal. There is an increased awareness that there is a tremendous problem with inequality in venture funding for women and underrepresented minorities. There is a new wave of opportunity, and the fact that I can play even a small role in improving access to capital for all is both humbling and thrilling.
What is the most common mistake a founder makes when seeking funding?
Lack of understanding of the investor process. All investors are looking for a return on investment, but alignment of the investor’s thesis with a company’s mission and vision is a key component of success. The flip side of “product-market fit” is “investor-venture fit.”
Advice for someone about to present to JumpStart or another angel fund?
Tell us your story efficiently. Show us what problem you are solving, what is your solution, why it is better than the competitors and, most importantly, how you will accomplish your goals in words, pictures, and data. It is a process. Think of the first 10-minute presentation like a film preview clip. Generate enough excitement so everyone will want to go see the whole movie. Then be ready for lots of questions.
Why should someone become a member of JumpStart NJ?
Angel investment is a team sport. The best deal flow comes from people that you know. Being connected to an angel group gives investors access to many points of contacts in both the local community and borders beyond.
How do you spend your free time when not angel investing?
I love to travel and meet new people in new places. I speak fluent French and Portuguese. If I am not working (or even if I am these days), quite likely I am wandering around Paris, my happy place.