How female investors are challenging the funding gap
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The writer is author of ‘The Reset: Ideas to Change How We Work and Live’
Starting a business may seem like the last thing on anyone’s mind in a time of economic distress. But this is why it could be an excellent moment to challenge the status quo, and the opportunity you’ve been waiting for. After all, many brands we know and love today were born from times like these: MailChimp, Airbnb and WhatsApp.
Challenges bring new opportunities. Triin Linamagi, founding partner at Sie Ventures (an investor network supporting the next generation of female-founded unicorns), says, “I think it’s still the best time to be an entrepreneur, because the best ideas are born when the consumer needs change. You can find gaps in the market that weren’t there [in the past] — before, you didn’t notice. Learn more about your customers and build with them”.
Linamagi and her co-founder Nicole Velho have just opened applications for their catalyst programme to level the playing field for female founders across Europe, and are building an ecosystem where investors can back the next generation of founders. Starting a business is hard. It’s even more complicated if you don’t have a supportive network and funding. Sie Ventures is determined to plug the funding gap for early-stage female founders.
They aim to address the shortfall in venture-capital funding and provide investors with better access to founding teams from diverse backgrounds. Although capital in the hands of women has broader societal impacts — women are more likely to spend money supporting and investing in families and communities around them, according to the OECD — the biases that are present when female founders raise money are well documented. For every £1 of VC investment in the UK, all-female founder teams get less than 1p. All-male founder teams get 89p. Mixed gender teams get the remaining 10p. Not surprisingly, founders are already seeing a decrease in funding amid an economic downturn, which is hitting black and female founders hardest. Funding at all levels is tracking below 2021.
This is why programmes like these matter more than ever. It’s of note that women tend to build start-ups that focus on problems facing real-world issues such as sustainability, the future of work, access to healthcare and access to finance. Linamagi says that these will be the businesses of the future: “We believe they will have stronger societal impact and change the world for the better: making much more meaningful businesses, but also more profitable ones. This is the way the world is moving right now.”
Sie Ventures launched in early 2021 and has since supported 32 companies, helping them raise more than £26mn in pre-seed and seed funding. Notably, they have Juno, an educational investment platform for Gen-Z women; and Jude, a healthcare company breaking the taboos around bladder weakness and incontinence.
Apart from funding, preparing mentally is also crucial. “It’s all about understanding what KPIs you need to hit to raise money,” says Linamagi. “We help them prepare for the first fundraise — reviewing the financial models and how you present your technology, versus how you talk about your future vision to investors. We also try just to show them what good looks like, and we work with VCs and angels to bring that knowledge to our founders.”
With uncertain times worldwide, it’s understandable that taking risks in a new venture doesn’t appeal to everyone. However, I came across a quote on Twitter from last week from the author Adam Grant, “If you wait until you feel ready to take on a new challenge, you might never pursue it at all. Few people wake up suddenly feeling prepared to lead or create. Our greatest regrets are not our failures, but our failures to try.” Maybe now is the time to start building something — start small and grow as, after all, every recession eventually ends.
The founders of the future will look fundamentally different. They will be more diverse and female: if you look at the state of the world, it’s clear the world will be better off for it.