Ep 2: Monica Wheat: From Helping Tech Tweens to Encouraging Angel Investors

Monica Wheat was once a 12-year girl in Detroit who was outstanding in math and science. She attended the Detroit Area Pre-College Engineering Program (DAPCEP) at the University of Michigan for a chance for her to explore how these strengths could bridge into an engineering career. She found herself ignited from this opportunity and was able to participate in many similar youth engineering programs throughout the United States and abroad.

For more information on DAPCEP visit: www.dapcep.org

She took this encouragement and looked at various Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) fields as a college major. She ended up at the University of Michigan in the Industrial and Operations Engineering program while she also worked full time in the automotive industry. Her combination of soft skills and engineering strengths led her quickly to management opportunities in corporate America. After some travel and changes in the automotive industry, Monica was presented with an opportunity to work in a more digital, innovative atmosphere.

Since this role change to digital marketing, she has found her passion. She loved hearing about new companies that had incredible value to traditional marketing models. It got her thinking about what she herself could create. In 2006, Monica started working with her sister, Adrian, on the Digerati Girls technology program.

She wanted the chance to do something new everyday. The sisters behind Digerati Girls started in their “secret lab of two” with inspiration from her young niece. They started small at the public library with a grassroot efforts to teach classes on computers and coding geared towards girls. They started officially in 2011 and now they have moved on to partner with school districts and larger corporate programs as they continue to grow. By working directly with the schools, they are able to reach more children with programs for boys and girls, but she really enjoys the confidence these programs give young women.

For More information on the Digerati Girls Program for young girls please visit: www.DigeratiGirls.com

One key function of the Digerati Girls program is to foster careers in digital and digital entrepreneurship. That is why Monica is excited to be the Detroit lead for a new program around investors and entrepreneurs called the Pipeline Fellowship program.

Pipeline Fellowship is a new program for Detroit founded by another female, Natalia Oberti Noguera, in New York. She understood that in the technology venture capitalist space, there were few women and minorities. This can make it hard for women to obtain the start up money they need based on a concept of pattern matching. This idea in the angel investing world means that investors commonly fund people  similar to themselves.  In a world where the National Council for Women in Technology (NCWIT) believes only 15% of women are female in technology careers, this can be a challenge for women entrepreneurs. According to Pipeline Fellows only 19% of US angel investors are women and only 4% are minorities.

The program can help women understand how they can be angel investors and all about the process from start to finish. There are three main criteria to be an accredited investor in this program. First of all, you must have at least 200,000 in income for the last two years or one million in net worth. Then, they want people who are interested in a group model of learning. Lastly, they want people who are looking to invest in a social, collaborative model. As a group, they look for projects with the most social benefits to financially support.

After the program, women are more likely to fund more projects and improve the numbers for women entrepreneurs over time. Some mentioned angel investor programs include Belle Capital Michigan and the Michigan Great Lake Angels. The program is unique because they actually work as a group to invest during the program in addition to the training. The Pipeline Detroit Program kicks off this March with a pitch contest mid-way.

More information on the Pipeline Fellowship Program: http://www.pipelinefellowship.com/ Link to Belle Michigan: http://michbelles.com/

To follow Monica Wheat: @digerati14

Lessons Learned:

  • It is never too early to start encouraging young women in STEM fields. Monica and her niece both started at young ages.

  • There are programs like Digerati Girls, DAPCEP, and many more that can help supplement traditional school curriculum with technology-oriented learning programs

  • You can shift from automotive to consumer tech here in Detroit

  • Don’t be afraid to share your idea and get started on a business while working full time.

  • Women entrepreneurs are suffering from “pattern matching,” a lack of access to funding

  • The Pipeline Fellows training program for women helps you make your first real investment with support and training

  • There are other resources for women interested in technology investing, too

  • There is a need to change the mindset of investing in technology

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