Elevating Entrepreneurs (Like You!)

#PEIntensive16, PE Intensive 2016, UBS

Project Entrepreneur is launching a leadership thought series, featuring PE partners and entrepreneurial veterans to share experiences and advice to help you build your business.

We sat down with Lori Feinsilver, UBS Head of Community Affairs & Executive Communications, Americas, to get more insights on how the firm’s flagship philanthropic initiative – UBS Elevating Entrepreneurs – supports established and aspiring founders, and what she’s most looking forward to about PE Intensive 2016 this weekend.

1) UBS is the founding partner for Project Entrepreneur – why is entrepreneurship a focus for UBS?

As a global leader in financial services, we believe in empowering entrepreneurs by providing access to resources, tools, and training they need to do create value and grow. They are the backbone of our economy – when these businesses are thriving, our economy will accelerate and become stronger too. We’re proud to focus our philanthropic efforts on entrepreneurship through our program, UBS Elevating Entrepreneurs, where we aim to spur economic growth by supporting growing companies, creating jobs, and helping entrepreneurs contribute to their communities. Many of our clients in the Americas are first-generation wealth and have achieved entrepreneurial success, so this is a group we know well.

2) Of course at Project Entrepreneur, one of our main goals is to level the playing field between men and women in the workforce. How does women’s success benefit women, and men, everywhere?  

In addition to being the right thing to do, leveling the playing field has a positive effect on our economy. According to Kauffman Foundation research, women-led private technology companies are more capital-efficient, achieving 35% higher return on investment. In addition, when venture-backed, these women-led companies are bringing in 12% higher revenue than male-owned tech companies. Given this, why wouldn’t we focus on leveling the playing field? Elevating entrepreneurs – particularly female entrepreneurs – will lift up our economy.

3) What about the startup landscape? What does women’s inclusion look like there and what would be considered “success” when we’re talking about providing female-founded companies with opportunities to succeed?

While there is greater awareness about the disconnect between the rate at which women-led companies start and the ratio of women led-companies growing to scale, I don’t think success is fully achieved until the numbers are equitable; this will take time. In an effort to transition the situation from awareness to measureable action, now, in partnership with Rent the Runway Foundation, we are focused on building that pipeline of women who aspire to build high-growth companies.

We joined forces with Rent the Runway Foundation to design and launch Project Entrepreneur as a way to address the fact that while women are starting more businesses than ever before, only a small fraction — four percent to be exact — generate $500,000 or more in annual revenue. In addition, women account for less than 10% of founders at high-growth firms. These are stats that we need to change, and through Project Entrepreneur, we hope we can play a meaningful part of balancing out the statistics while providing female-founded companies with greater opportunities to succeed.

4) You’ve met many entrepreneurs in your role at UBS – what’s one piece of advice you would give to aspiring entrepreneurs?

It’s hard to give just one, but an important one is to continue to believe in yourself, your company, and your product – investors, partners, and friends can see when you’re excited about what you’ve dedicated yourself to. Build that into your pitch, and don’t forget why you were motivated to launch your business in the first place.

5) As we’ve seen with many of Project Entrepreneur’s Intensive participants, startups are being launched across the country, particularly in major cities such a New York, Austin, San Francisco,  where natural networks have historically existed. For entrepreneurs who aren’t in these major hubs, what advice would you give to them for building a network and getting additional resources that may be more challenging to access?  

The good news is that entrepreneurial communities are emerging – and growing – in many other cities across the country in places like Chicago, Nashville and Atlanta, particularly as cities identify their competitive advantages that exist as a result of current industries and businesses in that region. I always encourage entrepreneurs to stay up-to-date and connected to their cities’ entrepreneurship pulse and activity.

One thing I’m continuously inspired by is how entrepreneurship and community go hand-in-hand. It may take a little more work for entrepreneurs to seek out their peers if they’re not in a major city, but they are there. And in regards to tech hubs, we see entrepreneurship spaces and groups continuing to emerge in every market we touch. So take advantage of networking opportunities, meet ups, and social media to meet and connect – the more involved you become in your community, the more you might be surprised how many other entrepreneurs there are close by!

6) What are you most looking forward to about Project Entrepreneur’s 2016 Intensive this weekend?

Our female founders, PE Class of 2016 as we call them … I can’t wait to meet them in person. Collectively, the Rent the Runway Foundation and UBS teams interviewed all the women coming – and I think I talked to about 40 on Skype, in preparation for the weekend. It will be wonderful to spend time with them one-on-one and to hear how their businesses have progressed even in the short time since we spoke with them.

Follow the NYC Weekend Intensive on social media with #PEIntensive16, and watch the livestream of Jenn Hyman’s and Jenny Fleiss’s conversation with ABC Correspondent Rebecca Jarvis on Project Entrepreneur’s Facebook page Saturday morning at 9:15am ET. See the full weekend schedule here.