Venture capital (VC) for women: the female focus
Celebrating International Women’s Day (IWD) 2020, we’ve created a series of articles to support female entrepreneurs as they tackle starting up, funding and growing their business. Staying with the IWD 2020 #EachforEqual theme, this second article focuses on access to venture capital (VC) and the funding needed to scale your business.66
Just 8.6% of UK women planned to start a business in 2019, compared to 14.3% of men, with funding the number one problem. This is according to women taking part in the government-commissioned review of the challenges faced by UK businesswomen, masterminded by Alison Rose, CEO of the Royal Bank of Scotland. The Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship (The Rose Review) was published in 2019.
In response, the government has committed to a new Investing in Female Entrepreneurs Code, designed to ‘promote greater transparency in UK funding allocation’. The Code will require funding institutions to track and publish their funding gender split, which HM Treasury and UK Finance will report on annually.
It’s an intentional step forward, but what can female entrepreneurs do right now, to access funding more effectively?
Startup funding is the #1 barrier
The Rose Review’s detailed research identifies three major opportunities to support female entrepreneurs in the UK:
- Increasing the funding directed towards them;
- Greater family care support; and,
- Making entrepreneurship more accessible for women and increasing support locally, through relatable and accessible mentors and networks.
Funding is high on the agenda, and the Review clearly calls out the UK venture finance community’s bias as a big problem. Just 13% of senior UK investment team members are women, and more disturbingly – 48% have no women at all. Almost half.
Women of Wearables – the femtech, healthtech and everything besides tech network – say in their Top 50 Female VC Investors list, ‘women cannot be what they cannot see’. And we’re inclined to agree.
Women need to see it
Investment teams make the dream a reality for entrepreneurs, whether it’s starting up or scaling. But with such a glaring gap in female representation on those teams, a trickle-down effect is that women launch businesses with 53% less capital than men.
The Review highlights the real need for an increase in funding directed towards female entrepreneurs. Access and awareness are a primary issue, preventing scale up at every stage of the journey and penalising female-led and all-female teams. In fact, only 1% of all venture funding goes to businesses founded by all-female teams.
VCs for women – we need ‘access and awareness’
The British Business Bank’s UK VC & Female Founders report, commissioned by the government in 2017, found that for every £1 of VC investment, all-female founder teams get less than 1p. This is made more stark when you realise that all-male founder teams get 89p, and the final 10p goes to mixed gender teams.
So there’s the Code to adopt, recommendations to make real and data to change, but what can women in the UK do right now about bucking the trend and finding funding? There are good resources for the taking, but as the Rose Review points out, this is useless unless access is open and women are aware of it.
Here’s our list of 15 UK VC and funding initiatives with a female focus, or networks specifically designed to raise awareness of VC designed for women. From a newsletter to a global fund, the right one may be the turn-key for a game-changing investment in your business.
15 female-focused UK venture funds (and funding networks
Founded in 2014, Angel Acadame invests in tech companies with at least one woman on the founding team. It’s an award-winning angel network, and 80% of its 400 investors are women.
Angel Investment Network
Angel Investment has a curated list of businesses led by one or more female founders on the UK Angel Investment Network. It’s part of their wider goal to join the dots for a community interested in funding and supporting women-led businesses.
This is an expert community with a shared goal – to level the playing field for female entrepreneurs by providing access to capital. Astia is powered by a global network of over 5,000 investors, and sponsored by Google for Startups, J.P. Morgan, and the Three Guineas Fund, based on Virginia Woolf’s original manifesto.
An early stage fund, BBG Ventures is focused on consumer tech startups with a female founder. Their portfolio includes membership-based women’s club The Wing and Zola, the innovative wedding registry platform.
The British Business Bank
The British Business Bank, in collaboration with Diversity VC and BVCA, have published a pioneering study, examining the current state of play for VC and female founders in the UK. The report ends with an action plan, challenging firms on issues of diversity and inclusion. Watch out for new female-focused funding options from the bank, as a result.
Cartier Women’s Initiative
This is an annual international programme with an ambitious, specific set of criteria. It’s open to women-run and women-owned businesses who have a strong and sustainable social and/or environmental impact. Cartier’s initiative has raised $3 million since 2006 for female entrepreneurs.
Catalyst at Large
Suzanne Beigel founded Catalyst at Large to put a ‘gender lens’ on investing. It’s not in itself a fund, but an organisation doing great, gender-focused work across investment, philanthropy, international development and entrepreneurship.
This is a non-profit partnership, focused on promoting diversity in VC. Diversity VC helps investment firms hire from diverse backgrounds, aiming to broaden out the industry and provide a healthier, more representative web of global VC opportunities.
Female Founders Fund
Another early stage fund, investing in exceptional female talent. The Female Founders Fund has invested in a wide range of ventures, from Peanut – a local connection app for mothers – to Billie, the female-first shave and body brand.
A weekly newsletter set up by Sarah Nöckel, VC investor at Dawn Capital, the largest VC fund dedicated to B2B software and fintech startups across Europe. Femstreet focuses on news on women in tech and VC.
Girl Geeks with Transmit Start-Ups
For instant signposting, head to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics industry) leading support network Girl Geeks. They’ve partnered with Transmit Start-Ups to help women prepare for pitching and access finance.
Global Fund for Women
This is a global fund, championing the human rights of girls and women. It shines a spotlight on critical issues, building investment interest and appetite. Founded in 1986, the Global Fund for Women has raised hundreds of millions for female enterprise across the globe.
Global Invest Her
Another global fund, helping prepare female founders for their funding journey, and fast-track their success. Global Invest Her are aiming to get one million female founders funded by 2030.
Hit their website and the mission is clear to see. Jane VC invest in visionary, female-led startups. With a laser focus on access, they’ve invested in a broad portfolio, including Vault, a UK misconduct-reporting platform and Hatch Apps, a Washington-based platform known as the Wordpress for mobile apps.
Last but not least, Voulez Capital is Europe’s first VC fund for female founders. They provide seed and Series A capital to high-growth female-founded businesses and have invested in Femedic, the women’s health information platform and Evrelab, drivers of transparency around toiletry product information.