Belle Capital to Launch Michigan Fund for Startups with Women in Charge

1/20/11

Lauren Flanagan believes that “making money is beautiful.” This is not to be confused with the “greed is good” adage of the famous fictional Gordon Gekko. No, what Flanagan is referring to is the name of her newly formed Michigan-based early-stage fund, Belle Capital. The fund of up to $25 million is planning a formal launch next month.

Belle, Flanagan says, is an acronym for Bold Enterprises Leveraging Leadership and Experience and she’s launching it with Carolyn Cassin, president and CEO of the Michigan Women’s Foundation, who had recruited Flanagan for the project. While the fund will target technology companies, it has its own sense of mission—that of empowering women entrepreneurs—so there are certain conditions.

First, companies targeted for investment must have at least one female C-level officer or significant owner and board member, and/or be willing to hire top C-level female talent. Belle Capital’s mission is, specifically, to “help women, who control 50 percent of the wealth in the Midwest but do less than 10 percent of early stage investing,” Flanagan says.

Belle, Flanagan says, is currently doing due diligence on two companies for potential investment. Its headquarters is currently in suburban Gross Pointe Farms, but they are looking for an office in Detroit.

Flanagan has founded and led IT companies in the California Bay Area. Cassin recruited Flanagan to co-found Belle because of her experience in early-stage investing, with 30 investments made in the past six years. Flanagan is also co-founder and manager of the Madison, WI-based Phenomenelle Angels Fund, which is nearing the end of its investment period. Phenomenelle has made 15 investments into eight portfolio companies and expects to make two or three more over the next 18 months.

“The two ‘sister funds’ intend to co-invest when and where it makes sense to do so,” Flanagan says.

Flanagan says investments will target Michigan and the Midwest, and will focus on companies in  IT, mobile, Web 2.0, cleantech and advanced manufacturing. Depending on the final size of the fund, Flanagan says, Belle will invest in between 10 and 20 companies.

Flanagan says to stay tuned until next month, when Belle plans “a big splash” to coincide with its initial close and first investments.

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