Women founders are asking for support, and they’re being ignored.
We’ve all seen the statistics — women-founded companies receive less than 2% of funding despite consistently performing better than their male counterparts. It’s all we’ve been talking about for the last few years. So why haven’t things changed?
As it turns out, women founders and VCs aren’t putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to raising up other women. The current landscape looks a lot like it did when I started my first company.
Jelena Jansson, founder of Chunkie, a body confidence app, details what she’s seen over the last three years. Jelena noticed 50 or so women leaving the startup community because they get sick of the constant excuses in the form of advice like “just rework your deck” and not being able to talk openly about their experiences without being shunned by investors who claim to be “female-friendly.” This is a massive loss for all of us, says Jelena Jansson.
As a woman founder myself for the past 10 years, I know exactly what it’s like.
I struggled to find support for my business financially and emotionally. I emailed woman founders I read about in the news, trying to find solidarity — no replies. I emailed women in power looking for a mentor — no replies. Women VCs were nonexistent so I searched for VCs who invested in women and reached out to them — no reply. I was alone.
I made a promise that as SOON as I exited my company or had some sort of success financially, I would make a change and invest in women like me.
Before that happened though, I figured I would start doing what I could without the capital.
(FYI: there are things you can do to uplift women entrepreneurs if you don’t have capital)
- I started a podcast called She Starts Up where I invited women building companies to talk about how they got their start.
- I mentored female founders who were just a little behind me to give them resources and connections to grow their startups.
- I started a newsletter called Let’s Start Up which later turned to No Longer Overlooked where I highlight (and still do) 2 Women Founders You Should Follow and a whole section of Women in the News.
- I began writing my business memoir on the reality of being a woman founder in an effort to help other women founders who are on the journey feel less alone and empower them with the tools and advice they need to know.
Then finally in Sept 2019, I had my exit and I told my husband the first thing I would do is to invest in women founders who don’t have support, connections, and funding. I sent out a tweet that I was angel investing and within a few days, I had 40+ pitch decks from women-led companies in my DMs. I sifted through, reviewed decks, talked to founders, and made my first angel investment in Chrissy Cowdrey and her company Stagger.
After that, I made more angel investments in women-led companies including West Tenth, a digital marketplace where you can shop the talents of the women in your own neighborhood, Couplet Coffee, a b2c brand making specialty coffee more fun and approachable, Promoteo, the open banking platform for Latin America, and most recently, Leda Health which helps empower survivors of sexual assault.
I have not only felt like it’s my duty to support and fund women founders but it’s my calling. Everything I have done in my professional career has led me to invest in overlooked founders. And that is when Brandon and I started Overlooked Ventures, a $50M fund that backs early-stage tech or tech-enabled startups with one or more historically-ignored founder(s). In a recent Forbes article, I called for venture capitalists to make 2022 a strong year for women and women of color.
Why aren’t women succeeding?
It’s clear that something is holding investors and powerful women back from supporting other women, although women-led startups generate more revenue on average. Women founders expressed their frustration and experiences on Twitter, sparking a larger conversation about what it’s like to start a company and raise capital.
Trisha Bantigue, founder and CEO of Queenly, the leading marketplace and search engine for formalwear, shared her personal experience raising funding and why she believes the number of women founders getting funded is so low. Her observations:
- 9/10 of investors were male
- Women investors who championed investing in women automatically rejected her
- Sometimes, women investors would be the worst critics, even when she expected them to understand her more
- Women investors wouldn’t pay it forward by using women-founded products/platforms as opposed to male-founded platforms.
- There’s a toxic mentality within women VCs and founders: many don’t share a slice of the pie because they climbed the ladder without any help.
Unfortunately, there is a lot of truth in Trisha’s Twitter thread. Powerful women need to know that success is not a zero-sum game and there is plenty of room for other women at the table. In response to the thread, VC, Angel, and Micro Fund Manager Del Johnson shared his findings, recently featured in Tech Crunch. His theory aligns with Trisha Bantigue’s experience: “male power brokers are more likely to select or fund the women VCs who share their own patriarchal biases, and keep out the many women who don’t share those views.”
Dr. Kelly O’Brien also chimed in, sharing an article from The Atlantic, which states that women “respond to sexism by trying to distance themselves from other women,” also known as queen bee syndrome.
Despite the upsetting statistics and trends discussed above, I want to shift the story to celebrate women founders who are excelling and venture capitalists who actually invest in women.
Although there are SO many amazing women to follow who are building cool things, here is just a shortlist of some! 👇🏼
Women Founders You Should Know!
- Alex Friedman | FounderGigs and Talk Howdy
- Cindy Gallop | MakeLoveNotPorn
- Arion Long | Femly
- Kt McBratney | OwnTrail
- Lex Oiler | Peachy
- Amanda Goetz | House of Wise
- Nicole Jarbo | Boost
- Bea Arthur | The Difference
- Yuliya Bel | Notus
- Gefen Skolnick | Couplet Coffee
- Florence Kwok | Jelcie
- Mariam Nusrat | GRID
- Laura Behrens Wu | Shippo
- Kelly Vaughn | Govalo
- Michele C. Heyward | Positive Hire
- Kylie Krejmas | Nanny Marlowe
- Rachel Anderson | Social Impact Entrepreneur
- Celine Halioua | Loyal
- Noelle Acosta | Noula
- Rhian Beutler | Govalo
- Megan Gray | Moment AI
- Funke Tegbe | 54 Thrones
- Snigdha Sur | The Juggernaut
- Mads Campbell | Leda Health Co
- Dawn Meyers | The Most Curls
- Naza Shelley | CarpeDM
- Kavitha Gnanasambandan | Blooming Health
- Olamide Olowe | Topicals
- Shaun Chavis | LVNGbook
- Yan Lawrence | The Regime
- Kristina Liburd | Viageur
Our favorite women investors that ACTUALLY investing in women founders:
- Kathryn Finney | Genius Guild
- Deena Shakir | Lux Capital
- Qiana Patterson |
- Lolita Taub | The Community Fund
- Jesse Draper | Halogen VC
- Claire Díaz-Ortiz | VC & Angel
- Jill Klinvex | Capital Factory
- Shila Nieves Burney | Zane Venture Fund
- Christina Farr | OMERS Ventures
- Candice Matthews Brackeen | Lightship Captial
- Kelly OConnell | 360 Venture Collective
- Anna Raptis | Amplifica Capital
- Paige Finn Doherty | Behind Genius Ventures
- Hitha Palepu | Adama Ventures
- Leslie Feinzaig | Graham & Walker
- Rachel ten Brink | Red Bike Capital
- Gale Wilkinson | Vitalize
- Rebekah Bastian | AuthenTech Investor
- Arlan Hamilton | Backstage Capital
- Kimmy Paluch | Beta Boom
- Deepali Nangia | Alma Angels
- Hope Ditlhakanyane | FoundersFactoryAfrica
But while so many great things are happening for women and women of color founders, we can’t ignore the statistics, disproportionately low amount of VC dollars, and all the other inequities that they face every day.
Together we can make an effort to get more women funded, in the press, and speaking opportunities. Founders, don’t forget to put yourself out there too. If you search Twitter for relevant keywords, you can often find people who are willing to write checks and articles.
Check-writers, successful women entrepreneurs — I urge you to ask yourself this question: Are you doing everything you can to support emerging women founders beyond a tweet?