According to Alma Angels, which describes itself as a community that supports and invests in female founders, less that 1% of Venture Capital funding is awarded to women in the UK and EU, whilst 89% of VC’s invest in male led companies. Furthermore, less than 8% of investors and angel investors in the UK are female. This seems to be both a demand and supply issue around capital.
Despite there being a long way to go to decrease this gap, the signs are encouraging and there are many businesses and communities like Alma Angels, that are putting their money in women and reaping the rewards. A well known example of a female founded startup is dating app Bumble. Founded by Whitney Wolfe Herd in 2014, who began her career at rival app Tinder as co-founder and Vice President of Marketing, Bumble was created with the intention of giving women the agency to make the first move and curb harassment on dating apps. Bumble has surged in popularity and has developed its product offering by introducing Bumble Bizz to help users network and Bumble BFF, for those looking to connect with likeminded people. These new features have been developed with the aim of giving women the tools to make the first move in all aspects of their lives. With investment from firms such as Greycroft, Bumble has achieved unicorn status, expanded into countries such as India and with a current valuation of $3bn there is also speculation about plans for the company to go public. To add to this, Wolfe Herd has now founded the Bumble Fund, with the aim of continuing to hand women power, by opening up venture funding to women of colour and minority groups.
One of the Bumble Fund’s portfolio companies includes the Female Founders Fund. Started in 2014, this is now a leading fund that also invests in women owned businesses. The Fund was launched in order to address the problem that only 2.7% of investment from Venture Capital went towards women and this Fund has raised seed capital for businesses with over $3bn in Enterprise value. Founding partner Anu Duggal, an alumnus of Vassar College and London Business School, began her career in the technology industry, as the co-founder of a private sale e-commerce company, Exclusively.in. Although it is very difficult to raise money regardless of gender, this factor does add an extra hurdle for women. This is why Duggal’s fund aims to help women cross this hurdle, by putting trust and money in women to excel and lead winning businesses. Daggal believes that women now have the ability and freedom to carve their own paths than before and the Female Founders Fund hands the power and resources to propel women further in their ambitions. Duggal has been recognised for her role in diversifying the venture capital world, gaining inclusion in Fortune’s 40 Under 40 list and Business Insider’s Ultimate List of Female Startup Founders.
There are also many organisations that provide opportunities for women to network and learn from other women (and men) so that they can excel further. AccelerateHER is one such organisation that works to address the underrepresentation of women in the technology industry and enhance inclusiveness across industries, so that more women are seen in senior level positions. Co-founded by Poppy Gaye and Laura Stebbing, the two women have had diverse careers behind them before starting AccelerateHer. Poppy was the first employee at Founders Forum, which is a network of world leading digital and technology entrepreneurs and is the organisation that gave birth to AccelerateHer. Prior to helping Founders Forum expand and raise their sponsorship and profile, Gaye worked in feature film development and was part of Universal Pictures in LA, amongst other production houses. Stebbing, on the other hand, has a history of working in the social impact space, for organisations that champion causes such as gender equality and human rights. Her resume boasts experience at organisations like human rights organisation Reprieve, the British Home Office and the Cherie Blair Foundation for Women. Stebbing received her undergraduate degree from the London School of Economics and has a legal background, having completed the Graduate Diploma in Law (GDL). AccelerateHER hosts events and bootcamps, that provide women with access to other exemplary women and men with monumental careers behind them, who share their passion of ensuring women get ahead. Speakers at AccelateHER events include Marissa Mayer, ex CEO of Yahoo, Arianna Huffington, CEO of the Huffington Post and fashion powerhouse Diane Von Furstenberg, amongst many others.
Another model making waves across the investment landscape is SHEEO founded by Canadian serial entrepreneur Vicky Saunders. The fund has a large number of investors, which they call ‘Activators’ who are invited to put their money into women working on creating businesses that contribute to social and economic sustainability. The fund has helped over 70 ventures across more than 5 regions and has distributed more than $5m in capital. The ventures that SHEEO promotes are also ventures that contribute to the UN’s sustainable development goals (SDG’s). SHEEO creates a community where the women it supports can build companies based on their own set of values and activators are able to contribute as and when they can. The aim of SHEEO is for its community to bring out the best in each other.
There are a multitude of successful female run companies, many of which have reached unicorn status. Notable businesses include Rent the Runway, which provides clothes and accessories rentals from high end designers and beauty company Glossier. However, investment into women owned companies remains low despite evidence that female led organisations outperform those run by men by 63%. There are an increasing number of young female entrepreneurs with game changing ideas. Now we just need to get them funded.