In every entrepreneurial investment pitch, there are two invisible boxes that need to be ticked: Male or Female? Are you like me or not? In the ultimate A/B split test, half of the sample are at an immediate disadvantage derived from a lack of diversity across both tech and venture capital.
Globally, there are twice the amount of male entrepreneurs than female entrepreneurs, yet roughly 10% of venture capital goes to women-led companies. While these very same companies deliver a 34% higher return on the investment than their male-led counterparts, the initial investment flows are not reflecting this reality. In a world where spreadsheets are analysed with a fine tooth comb, there seems to be a hidden column that is stacking the odds against women entrepreneurs.
To give just one example, early stage investment firm Female Founders Fund published its latest report, revealing the gender of startup leadership that venture capital firms invested in during 2015. Of the 204 San Francisco startups that received series A funding in 2015, just 8% – 16 firms – were led by women, a number that declined 30% from the previous year (twice the decline in the wider market).
Is this because of a lack of perceived competency? Do women simply not have the skills? Are the female entrepreneurs not active in the right industry sectors? Or is it simply because there are not enough female investors, who are ready to fight their corner?
In a minefield of unconscious bias and misleading statistics, this last question is particularly interesting to explore. If there aren’t many women with money to invest, how can we realistically expect female entrepreneurs to get their fair share? A UK Centre for Entrepreneurs report released in January reported that the proportion of women angels in the UK now stands at 14% – just one in seven. Women control nearly half of the net wealth in the UK yet represent a tiny proportion of angel investors and the total amount of money invested.
Revealing research by Harvard, University of Pennsylvania and MIT demonstrated that even with identical investment proposals, investors preferred male entrepreneurs to female entrepreneurs in a ratio of 67% to 33%. How much does the male nature of the investment community come into play in the decision-making process? Are women missing out on investments because later stage investors may be less interested?
It seems that the only certain way to prove these assumptions wrong is for women to first take control of their own destiny at the top. Easier said than done, but increasing numbers of women are starting to make their own rules.
In the UK, companies such as Angel Academe & crowdfunding platform Growthdeck are working hard to support more female angel investors, in a similar way to Sally Krawchek’s Ellevest in the U.S. – This experience is then feeding into the world of venture capital. It will take a good while, but with the proven success of women-backed investments, the money should follow when sense prevails.
At the various Tech London Advocates Women in Tech workshops and events we hold, this seems to be the consensus. More women need to be standing behind these investment decisions to enable the wider community to understand that women entrepreneurs are just as successful as the men.
We are not a group merely about discussion, we are about change and action. That’s why this London Technology Week we are dedicated to raising awareness, from schoolroom to boardroom driving the diversity agenda. Amongst many of the activities, we will be opening the market at the London Stock Exchange at the start of London Tech Week on the 20th June – exemplifying the fact that diversity is a crucial tool for our vibrant capital’s success. In an industry that is so dependent on a thriving start-up scene, securing the initial oxygen of funding is vital for female entrepreneurs to prosper and take their companies to the next level.
A higher proportion of female angels may well be the first piece of the puzzle.