Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

Women founders and venture capital – some 2023 snapshots

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Women are making gains in venture capital deal numbers. Image: Unsplash/Amelia Bartlett

Victoria Masterson
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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  • Women-founded startups accounted for 2% or less of venture capital (VC) funding invested in Europe and the United States in 2023, Pitchbook data finds.
  • But by VC deal numbers, women are making gains over the longer term.
  • Innovators worldwide are helping to train, empower and inspire women through the World Economic Forum platform, UpLink.

Startups founded by women struggle to raise venture capital (VC) funding in Europe and the United States, new data shows.

But there are also encouraging signs for women in the numbers.

PitchBook, a provider of data on VC, private equity and mergers and acquisitions, tracks trends in three new analyses.

VC is startup funding for early-stage businesses, while private equity is funding for more mature companies.

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Women founders significantly trail men in VC startup funding

In Europe, startups founded solely by women raised just 1.8% of the total capital invested in venture-backed startups in 2023, Pitchbook’s VC European female founders dashboard finds.

While, in the US, startups founded exclusively by women raised 2% of the total capital invested in VC-backed startups, its US VC female founders dashboard shows.

“The numbers haven't leapt forward for female founders at the same pace,” PitchBook says.

VC deal activity for all male and female-founded companies.
Female-founded startups raised less venture capital in 2023 than male-founded businesses, but deal numbers are growing. Image: PitchBook

Longer-term data shows more positive trends for women founders

But longer-term data on women founders shows some signs of growth. By volume of deals, women-only startups are making gains, according to a separate PitchBook analysis.

The 2023 European All In: Female Founders in the VC Ecosystem shows that, in Europe, startups founded only by women have grown their share of VC deals from 2.7% to 5% between 2008 and 2024.

While, in the US, startups founded exclusively by women have grown their share of deal volume over the same period from 3.8% to 5.4%.

In total, the number of deals for women-founded teams over the last decade has grown more than twice as fast as deal volume for all-male-founded teams. This means the presence of women “is growing to fill the wide gap”, the report’s authors say.

Country breakdown
The United Kingdom and France are Europe's top countries for investing in women-founded startups. Image: PitchBook

Top countries for investing in women-founded startups

With almost €4 billion invested across almost 720 deals for women-founded companies in 2023, the United Kingdom is Europe's top nation for women-founded companies in both deal value and volume, the report finds.

France is second, with €1.7bn euro invested across 276 female-founded companies.

In the US, San Francisco on the West Coast and New York on the East Coast invested the most venture capital in startups founded by women.

Software is the top industry for women-founded companies to raise VC, in both Europe and the US.

Deal count by industry.
Software companies founded by women saw the most venture capital deals by industry in 2023. Image: PitchBook

The global picture for women founders

Data from other countries suggests similar trends.

In Africa, businesses led by women accounted for only 1.5% of the total funds raised by startups in Africa between 2019 and 2023, according to news site Africanews. But separate reports suggest deal value for women-led startups in Africa rose 7% to more than $200 million in 2023, with women-led health tech companies seeing a “significant” boost in funding.

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In Asia Pacific, less than 6% of startups have women founders, according to Google. The tech company announced last year it was launching a fund for women-founded artificial intelligence startups in India, Japan and Korea.

Low-income countries outpace global trends in female entrepreneurship, studies show.

The latest Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, an annual study of entrepreneurship in more than 120 countries, found one in three women entrepreneurs in low-income countries were growing their businesses, compared to one in four women globally.

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Supporting women entrepreneurs

Innovators worldwide are helping to train, empower and inspire women through UpLink, a World Economic Forum platform using innovation to find solutions to the world’s biggest problems.

Lanforce Energy, for example, is a women-led social enterprise in Zimbabwe that aims to empower women financially by providing clean and affordable renewable energy solutions.

The company provides products and services to help homes and businesses generate their own biogas, a renewable energy that can be produced from waste.

Women investors in UpLink’s community of Top Innovative Funds are also role models and advocates for growing the number of funds and investment firms run by women.

“I think having women on the investing side as well and growing that pipeline of women investors in this space is really important,” said Rekia Foudel, Managing Partner of Barka, an investment fund focused on African entrepreneurs.

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