TECHNOLOGY

In a banner year for VCs, women still struggle to get funding


At its initial meeting, Kolacursio said his startup was judged on its defenses rather than its vision. In 2018, Harvard researchers observed a similar phenomenon: investors ask men about the potential gains of their startups and women about their potential losses. As a result, the researchers concluded, startups with male founders increased fivefold compared to female founders.

Finally, Colacursio met with Fern Mandelbaum at the Emerson Collective, an impact investment firm founded by Lauren Powell Jobs. Mandelbaum, who has a track record of investing in women, gave Cindio his first contract. Afterwards, Colacursio says things got better: “Everything becomes so much easier once you get into the network.” Now, the startup has raised a total of মিল 83 million.

Since most of the initial fundraising is broken within the network, many advocates have focused on solving the female founder problem by creating more female VCs. According to All Rise calculations, C5 percent of VC firms do not have a single female investor. For that reason, the company has made it one of its goals to increase the number of women in VCs who can actually write checks. In 2018, 9 percent of such VCs were female. Now, that’s close to 14 percent.

Some women in the VC are committed to investing, especially women founders. The Women’s Founders Fund, backed by Melinda French Gates, closed out $ 57 million rounds in July, becoming the largest seed fund specifically for women founders. Anu Duggal, a founding partner of the Female Founders Fund, says it is designed to raise women in the first round, when founders are more likely to be biased. “We all know that if you can’t get it, it’s very difficult to build a billion dollar business,” he says. The portfolio includes startups like Runway, Maven and Billy, all of which have gone on to see big ratings. Duggal believes his woman-centered thesis “will prove to be a really good return if not given a good return.”

Some women founders jumped at the idea of ​​being part of a “women only” program. “As a woman, I would prefer to stay away from investing based on gender portfolio goals. I want people to know that I belong,” said Gina Young, founder of Akita Software. Young, who raised ড 4 million in seeds in 2018, believes lots of women are great at fundraising – but others are discouraged by statistics or by a disability perception of their gender. “If your coach tells you you’re going to lose, what’s the point of playing?”

“Fundraising isn’t always easy, but I don’t blame gender on any of it,” said Mirav Oren, co-founder of Versatile, a startup that uses machine learning and AI in construction. He believes that all kinds of biases can affect if an investor clicks with an founder, but the best startups find a way. Funds are raised to learn how to answer difficult questions, Oren said, especially the “defensive” type of questions that women are more likely to get from investors. “It’s very instructive.”

If so, the gender gap in VC funding can be partially reduced by teaching more founders the ins and outs of pitching. Recently, a number of mentoring programs and accelerators have emerged to do just that. The Women Founders Alliance runs an accelerator program to help women founders scale their startups, and Google’s Startup Accelerator has announced a 10-week program this year specifically for women founders. As of this year, All Rise offers women “office hours” to get feedback on their pitches and launches a virtual “bootcamp” to train women to raise an institutional round this year. (The material is free for anyone.)



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