Suzanne Ashman, a partner at investment firm LocalGlobe, highlights the need to fund more female tech entrepreneurs.
I have real conviction in London, its founders, and their companies. The London ecosystem has grown some world-leading technology businesses: TransferWise, Deliveroo, Farfetch. The founders of all these companies came to London to build ideas into enterprises, to find talent and serve customers. They also have one other thing in common: they’re all male.
London is unique as a city where global businesses, government, creative industries and top universities sit side by side. But London is changing and the venture capital world must also change with it.
My friend Ben Judah wrote a must-read book ‘This is London’, in which he noted that over one-third of Londoners were born abroad, with half arriving since the millennium. The incredible diversity of this city has been one of the primary reasons that the tech sector has thrived here.
Amongst that diversity there has to be a place for female founders to succeed too.
There are a few well-known investors and founders around town. People like Eileen Burbidge at Passion Capital, Luciana Lixandru at Accel, Leila Zegna at Kindred and Wendy Tan White, the founder of Moonpig, who spread their experience and knowledge generously. Sarah Wood, who co- founded Unruly, a video advertising technology business that sold to News Corp for £114m in 2015, is also an inspiration.
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Younger female founders are also emerging. Angie Ma from ASI Data Science, who holds a physics PhD and worked as a nanotechnology researcher prior to establishing the AI company. Sharmadean Reid, a second time founder, who is building Beautystack, a visual booking system for beauty professionals. Her first company, cult nail brand WAH Nails, sold a million products in Boots, had concessions in TopShop and a flagship salon in Soho.
As a woman in venture capital, I couldn’t be more excited to see these female-founded companies scaling. But these venture-backed founders are, right now, the anomalies.
I won’t hit you with too many stats, so here are the ones in my back pocket: startups founded by women raised just $1.9bn in venture capital funding last year – roughly 2% of the $85bn raised overall, according to research firm Pitchbook. According to data from diversity.vc just 27% of people working in venture capital are female. When it comes to decision makers – the investors who are actually allocating capital – the stats are even weaker. Just 13% are women! Two-thirds of firms in the UK have no women making investment decisions at all.
Last month, a group of London-based female investors decided to come together to help shift those stats. The goal of femalefounders.vc is simple: we want more female entrepreneurs to have both the capital and network to build great businesses. The method isn’t complex either: connect female founders with female VC partners who can lead deals at local funds.
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Inspired by some of our friends in the US who have set up femalefounder.org, we hosted our first ‘office hours’ event last month. In one morning, 30 female entrepreneurs had 1-on-1 conversations with a dozen female decision makers at VC firms. We also hosted roundtable discussions so that founders could meet a community of other female founders. That’s because we know that smaller networks, especially around fundraising, can be an issue for female founders and we want to help where we can. My partner Tara Reeves and I have been overwhelmed with the level of support shown by women in the London venture community.
I joined the venture capital community because I love working with mission-driven founders. Having previously worked in impact investing, I saw technology as the way to deliver impact at scale.
Over the last decade we’ve seen male-founded technology companies radically reshape the way we shop, how we move around the city, and how we talk to our friends.
Over the next decade, I hope we see more founders solving the world’s most complex problems across healthcare, education, food and energy. These problems are even harder than those technology has solved to date. To solve them we are going to need more female founders.