Venture capital interest in female-founded startups surged last year despite a dramatic dip in overall investment, new research shows.
Analysis from Dealroom on behalf of the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology (DSIT) found that female founders raised £3.6 billion in venture capital across the year, marking a £700 million increase from the £2.9 billion raised in the year previous.
The stats, released on International Women's Day, showed that eight companies with female founders or co-founders each raised over £84 million alone, with the lion’s share of investment pledged to companies at pre-seed or seed funding stages.
Female-founded firms operating in the fintech, energy, edtech, and healthtech sectors were among the most impressive performers over the year, Dealroom said.
FNZ secured £1.18 billion in February last year, while Newcleo and Lendable, both of which have at least one female founder, raised $319 million (£269.5 million) and $252 million (£212.9 million) respectively.
Gradual improvements for female founders
Dealroom’s figures follow a recent analysis that pointed towards a gradual improvement for female founders seeking venture capital funding.
Research from Beauhurst in January found that more than one-quarter (27%) of equity deals in the UK last year went to female-founded or co-founded firms. This marked an increase from 24% in the year previous.
An independent review last year by Alison Rose, chief executive at NatWest group, also found that women in the UK are playing an increasingly critical role in launching new businesses.
Across 2022, women launched 151,603 companies, marking a significant increase from around 145,000 in 2021 and nearly double the rate that was recorded in 2018.
However, despite the growing number of female-founded companies across the country, Dealroom’s recent figures show that tech firms with female founders still only account for 15% of the overall funding allocated to UK startups last year.
Nimmi Patel, head of skills, diversity, and inclusion at techUK, told IT Pro that although these figures hint at progress, female-founded startups still face significant challenges in securing venture capital.
“The figures published by Dealroom show progress but there is clearly more we need to do as women-founded or co-founded startups only made up 15% of funding secured,” she said.
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“We need to encourage more women to put themselves up for funding and make the pathways clear and accessible. Ultimately, the sector needs to reflect on what is happening in this space as we are still excluding 50% of the population from participating.”
Yoram Wijngaarde, founder of Dealroom, echoed Patel’s comments, adding that while great attention has been paid to the progress made by female founders, there is still room for improvement in the industry.
“There is still a huge gap to be made up since the vast majority of startups and funding continues to go to all-male teams,” he said. “By focusing on this metric and on upskilling talent across the digital tech sector, we should be able to make a difference.”
Challenging economic conditions
These figures also highlight an impressive performance for female-founded or co-founded startups amidst what has been an exceptionally challenging period for the broader technology sector.
Economic uncertainty over the last 12 months has prompted a drastic decrease in the flow of venture capital investment.
Figures from KPMG in January revealed that UK VC funding levels dipped by nearly one-third (30%) across 2022 to a total of £22.7 billion.
This comes in stark contrast to 2021, which saw UK tech companies raise more than £29.5 billion.
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Ross Kelly is ITPro's News & Analysis Editor, responsible for leading the brand's news output and in-depth reporting on the latest stories from across the business technology landscape. Ross was previously a Staff Writer, during which time he developed a keen interest in cyber security, business leadership, and emerging technologies.
He graduated from Edinburgh Napier University in 2016 with a BA (Hons) in Journalism, and joined ITPro in 2022 after four years working in technology conference research.