Women entrepreneurs the world over, are SUPERWOMEN. This is because they defy the odds, kick all stumbling blocks off their way, and create meaning out of the shattered and broken pieces all around them. These women always serve as an inspiration to other women who only need a piece of encouragement, to grab the reins of their lives and move ahead. Heather Henyon, Founder & Director, Women’s Angel Investor Network (WAIN), is one of those women who have chosen to be one of the SUPERWOMEN of our time. Here is her story:
Heather Henyon is Founding Partner, Athena; CFO Founder & Director, Women’s Angel Investor Network (WAIN), and Director, Dubai Angel Investors (DAI).
With about 18 years of experience in entrepreneurship, emerging markets, angel investing, financial technology, credit and impact investment, she has continuously affected lives through her various roles.
Previously, she was Investment Director with Eureeca, a regulated global equity crowdfunding firm, where she was responsible for curation, products, and investments. Heather founded Balthazar Capital, a social enterprise investment advisory firm for the Arab region in 2010. As the founding general manager of Grameen-Jameel, a social business jointly owned by Grameen Foundation and Abdul Latif Jameel Group, she originated, structured and closed $44 million in leveraged commercial debt financing for microfinance institutions in Syria, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia. In 2013, Heather started the Women’s Angel Investor Network (WAIN), the first women’s angel investment group in the Middle East, and served as Interim CFO for Little Thinking Minds, one of WAIN’s first investments. She wrote a chapter on angel investing in the United Arab Emirates that was published in Angels without Borders in 2016.
Heather left Wall Street in 2004 to venture into the social enterprise sector. Previously, she worked for Standard & Poors as a corporate bond rating analyst in the capital goods and auto supplier sector. Over the last 20 years, she has lived and worked in the UAE, Egypt, Lebanon, and Palestine, and she speaks Arabic and French. She is the advisor to CoFund, a Dutch microfinance private equity fund, and a mentor for Flat6Labs Abu Dhabi entrepreneur members. She is also an investor in Rising Tide Europe and Dubai Angel Investors, where she is also a Board Director and Investment Committee member, and a co-founder of Rhodium 45, an impact angel investor club in Dubai. She serves on the Advisory Council of BR Microcapital, Cornell University’s microfinance fund; is a Board member of the Cornell Club of the UAE and past Co-Chair of the Johnson Middle East Alumni Club (2011-13); served as the Middle East Advisor to Cornell’s Entrepreneurial Leadership Initiative (2014-15); is co-founder and past Chair of the Dubai Microfinance Club (2011-13). Heather represents Oikocredit’s investment on the Sekem Board of Directors.
Heather holds an MBA from the Johnson School at Cornell University, where she was a full-merit Park Leadership Fellow scholarship recipient and a BA from Oberlin College. Heather studied abroad at The American University in Cairo (AUC), where she was a Presidential Fellow. Heather lives in Dubai, UAE with her husband and two young sons.
According to her more women investors are needed to support women’s start-ups and so she set up the Women Angel Investors Network (Wain) three years ago to plug the gap.
Wain invests in early-stage companies that have at least one woman in a C-suite role and a woman equity founder. Its first investment was in the Jordanian start-up Little Minds, investing $100,000 in tools to help children learn Arabic.
“My theory is that angels like to call a friend who knows a person and invest on that basis,” says Ms Henyon.
Women invest through Wain to pool funds, and Wain invests into the start-up, with its three directors taking a percentage of profits upon their eventual exit from the start-up investment.
“The start-up then has one shareholder to deal with, not 20, and investors have a professional on the start-up board, who has oversight of the business and represents Wain,” Ms Henyon says.
“Women often have the capital but choose to invest in real estate rather than something higher risk like angel investing. Having more women investors creates a stronger chance of these start-ups succeeding.”