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VC Capital to Women

Let’s step backwards in time about 7 years. I’m at a friend’s house for brunch where she gathered about 25 female founders. The environment was tense because news had broken out about a few big names in VC having sexually harassed several female founders.

A smaller group of women at the brunch were huddled conspiratorially around a small table. I overheard one of them say, “Let’s out every male VC who’s a jerk. Now’s the time, we should publish their names.”

I remember feeling both the desire for justice but also a sickness in my stomach. It was a complicated time.

The #MeToo movement kicked off surfacing the unique journey of the female founder. Our challenges of fundraising, recruiting, and even our intriguing relationship with imposter syndrome. 

One powerful stat that would live on for years was the headline that “Female founders receive less than 2% of venture funding.” It’s so powerful, I heard it repeated just a few months ago. 

And whenever I’ve heard the stat, it comes with a lot of fear: the fear that being a woman puts us at a disadvantage. That potentially we aren’t the best stewards for our ideas because of our gender. Because we’re viewed as the weaker sex, we can’t be CEO. Or raise money. 

This story breaks my heart for so many reasons. At its core, it rejects the unique contributions that women offer to the tech industry. Especially our human-focused leadership, our warmth, and our empathy for the user and teams. 

It breaks my heart because I know women who live in the shadow of this story. It lurks over their shoulder to suffocate them when fundraises are going downhill or investors ask if their male cofounder is the CEO. 

The quiet question sits in the background: “Why am I doing this if I don’t belong?”

I’ll spend my career tackling this question on behalf of outsider founders and myself. 

Let’s start with the story that women only get 2% of financing. There is a big asterisk here – they (Pitchbook) define female founders as “female founders only.” That means that mixed-gender teams (like myself and my male co-founder) are excluded from this 2%. 

I shot an email to Pitchbook a few months ago looking at their statistics, since they conveniently withheld the mixed-gender data. Instead they compared female founder only teams with male only teams, which made the story look dark. 

I never got a response back, but I checked back today and I was delighted to find an update as of last week to their data:

As of 2024, female founder only teams received 1.5% of VC funding, but mixed gender teams received 26.1%. From 2020 to 2024, teams with at least one female founder receiving VC investment jumped from 15.3% to 27.6%. 

In the last four years, female founder representation in VC funding nearly doubled!

If you look at the percentage of female founders (only women and mixed teams) by deal count, you’re looking at 24.7% of deals having a woman on the founding team (with deal count percentage holding steadier over time than funding amount).

Let’s elevate the story for women.

It’s time for us to soften the stories we have of being alone. 1 in 4 companies receiving investment in 2024 have a female founder. While that’s a far cry away from 50/50, it’s a huge milestone for women in tech.

I can feel it. I sat at a beautiful female founder dinner hosted by the lovely Mada Seghete last week with 41 women on the list. Pear VC’s Female Founder Retreat had almost 100 women in attendance. Female focused and managed VCs have popped up like Female Founders Fund, Gingerbread Capital (who were Chewse investors!), and BBG Ventures. 

The movement is building. I’m meeting young women getting ready to start companies fresh out of college. They are studying computer science and ML, medicine and psychology. They’re eager, nervous, but ready to break glass ceilings. They buzz with enthusiasm and vision. 

Let’s elevate the story for them (for you, since that’s many of my readers!).

The journey of being a founder will always be plagued with hardships. I would never paint the rosy, perfect picture for a female founder. Fundraising will still be a rocky road, early stage pivots are gnarly, and building your first team can feel like a complete mystery.

But let’s be honest about the trendlines: the tech world is opening up to women. And the ones who see this are grabbing opportunities younger and younger. Huzzah!

If you’re a female founder, I want to hear from you. What would you do differently if you knew being a woman was not a death blow to your company? How would your leadership or fundraising approach change?

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