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Philly business leader launches investment fund to aid female entrepreneurs

Starting Jan. 3, 2022, the fund will take applications from women in business for at least 2 years.

Judith von Seldeneck founded a C-suite executive search firm, Diversified Search, in Philadelphia.
Judith von Seldeneck founded a C-suite executive search firm, Diversified Search, in Philadelphia.Read moreChris Crisman

Philadelphia headhunter Judith “Judee” von Seldeneck is partnering with Ben Franklin Technology Partners, Pennsylvania’s state-backed investment firm focused on early-stage companies around Philadelphia, to seed a new $2 million fund for female entrepreneurs. The fund will begin accepting applications on Jan. 3.

Von Seldeneck committed $2 million to the JVS Philadelphia Fund for Women, she said in an interview. Von Seldeneck is chair and founder of Diversified Search LLC, one of the nation’s largest executive search firms. Along with Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern PA, the fund will grant capital to coach women who own or lead enterprises with growth potential in the Philadelphia region. Of the $2 million, $1.5 million is slated for grants and the remaining $500,000 for investments managed by Ben Franklin.

For more information on the fund, visit

Von Seldeneck will not be getting an ownership stake in the companies she is investing in, she said. Instead, her aim is to increase the ranks of female founders and business leaders. “I’m not taking equity in the companies, and I encourage other women to contribute to the fund,” she said. Initially, grants will range up to $50,000. “This isn’t for start-ups. This is for women who need funds to go to the next level,” she said.

The JVS fund will distribute capital in two ways: JVS grants made to women-owned businesses, selected by von Seldeneck and an advisory committee; and direct investments in technology-focused ventures in the region, selected byBen Franklin.

“My goal with this fund is to provide women business owners some support and capital to help them achieve their vision,” said von Seldeneck. “Hopefully, this fund will offer unprecedented access to capital — by women, from women, and for women.”

Ben Franklin Partners will invest its portion, the $500,000, into portfolio companies under usual terms, said Jason Bannon, spokesperson for the venture fund.

The fund also assembled a corporate network of companies offering free services to funded companies.

“As one of the great business leaders in our region, Judee continually shows us all what’s possible,” said Susan Jacobson, chair of the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.

Grant recipients must be women-led or women-owned enterprises located in the Philadelphia region with a focus on professional services or product offerings. Companies must have been in business for at least two years.

The JVS Fund follows a trend that exploded during the pandemic: investment in female entrepreneurs.

Money flowing into female-founded companies, measured by both deal count and values, hit new highs over the last year, according to a report on venture capital from Pitchbook.

Through the first nine months of 2021, female founders in the technology market saw more than $30 billion in investments, up more than 82% from 2020, and the highest total ever.

Other funds that finance female entrepreneurs and ventures locally include Golden Seeds Ventures, with $150 million invested so far, mostly in B2B technology and services and health care. The Acquisition and Development Loan Fund, with the Women’s Community Revitalization Project and Community Justice Land Trust, is raising $800,000 to $1 million to help acquire available land in Philly’s gentrifying neighborhoods on which they can build affordable-housing units.