Lately, Sheryl Marshall has been thinking a lot about the idea of “the last mile.” The concept is a familiar one to engineers working in transportation or telecommunications. It’s the notion that even when you build a massive network, you still have to find ways to get to the people at its outermost reaches.
The Hubway is a perfect example of one kind of solution: Once you hop off the T, the bike-sharing system can get you closer to where you want to go.
But Marshall isn’t an engineer; she’s an entrepreneur and investor. She’s also the founder of Capital W, the Boston Women’s Venture Summit. Launched last year, it will return May 6 with a daylong event at District Hall in the Seaport.
The goal of the conference, she says, is solve the last-mile problem that female entrepreneurs often face.
“You have many, many women’s groups helping women get their businesses off the ground,” Marshall said. “There are many angel groups that help with the first round [of financing] and offer training. But when the pedal hits the metal, and it comes time to get institutional financing, it’s almost impossible.”
In 2014, the Diana Project at Babson College found that only 2.7 percent of companies that had received venture capital in the three years prior had a women in the role of chief executive. It also found that female-led companies that were funded also tended to be better established, demonstrating that venture firms were more likely to invest when the companies were more of a sure thing.
That’s the problem that Marshall is hoping to solve with Capital W.
The event brings together angel investors, partners from some of the city’s largest venture firms, and female entrepreneurs for panels, workshops, and a series of speed-pitching rounds. It’s a chance to build valuable networks, she said. Last year’s event drew entrepreneurs from New York and California, and Marshall is in talks to replicate the concept in other states.
“You cannot be what you cannot see, you cannot invest in what you don’t know,” she said. “I want to put myself out of business. That’s my goal: To finish the last mile.”