Raising equity investment is hard work. You need to evidence the traction you have built in your business, find the right investors and then pitch the business so that investors can understand the opportunity for themselves.

These hurdles are challenging for all startup founders but, when it comes to raising equity investment, female founders have a harder time than most. Why is that and what can we do to support female founders?

Atomico’s State of European Tech report (Dec 2022) revealed less that 1% of equity investment went to female founders, a drop from 3% in 2020. Beauhurst’s The Deal report (Jan 2023)confirmed that less than 2p in every £1 invested by VCs goes to women founders, compared to 85p (in every £1) invested in male founders. Slightly more encouragingly, Beauhurst revealed that high-growth companies with a female founder secured 27% of UK equity deals in 2022, up from 24% in 2021. This comprised businesses with mixed-gender founders securing 18% of investments (the same as in 2021), while firms solely founded by women achieved 9% of investments. The figures show women still lag far behind men when it comes to securing equity investment, and improvement in this area is painfully slow.

There are a number of reasons why female founders are missing out when it comes to investment.

One thing that certainly plays its part is the predominately male makeup of Venture Capital (VC)firms. A report from the British Business Bank revealed only 13% of the senior team in UK VC firms are women, and 48% of firms have no women at all. This lack of representation of women in senior positions impacts investment decisions.  There is a similar picture if you look at the gender mix of angel investors in the UK. The UK British Angels Association reports that less than 14% of angel investors are women. If we want more funding for female founders we need more female investors.

The Investing in Women Code is a step in the right direction to support female founders. The signatories of this code commit to improving female founders’ access to tools, resources and finance from the finance sector. It also offers a voluntary code for measuring and sharing data about the amount of investment going to female founders.

Despite this, change is slow. We need more support for our female founders. I believe there are three key areas where we can all support female founders in accessing the investment. education, mentorship and community.

The first time you do something “you don’t know what you don’t know”. Providing training to explain the different types of investments that are available, what is required to secure these and a step-by-step process for accessing funding is vital. When female founders understand the options, process and path to investment they can make appropriate decisions and better prepare themselves for the funding journey. Funding accelerators and training programmes are a good starting point for female founders looking to raise investment.

Even when you have a good understanding of what is required, raising investment is a journey. Beauhurst suggests it takes 15 months to raise a first funding round. Not only is it a long journey, but it can be a lonely one too. When a female founder surrounds herself with people who understand the journey and who can travel with the founder on the road to investment, the chances of success are far greater. I believe mentorship has an important role to play here in supporting our female founders. A mentor can offer practical support to overcome obstacles, can provide an impartial sounding board for the issues that arise, and can help re-focus and inspire our female founders when they are feeling worn out by the process of raising investment. In my experience, the best mentors are those who have been on the journey themselves and know, first-hand, what it will take to secure investment.

A strong and supportive community of like-minded people is another key factor in securing the success of female founders. Having access to a network of people who are also raising investment, people who are as passionate and committed as you to the job in hand, plays a huge role in maintaining motivation, but also provides a source of practical suggestions for the challenges that will, inevitably, appear.

I am reminded of the phrase “It takes a village to raise a child”, When it comes to improving the amount of equity investment going to female founders we all have a role play. We need to collaborate, commit and continue to do all we can to support female founders if we are to ensure a more equitable distribution of investment.

About Hatty Fawcett

Hatty has a strong track record raising equity investment for early-stage startups, raising over £5m for start-ups in the last 12 months. She believes start-up investment should be available to everyone and the process shouldn’t be over-complicated or unnecessarily time-consuming.  

Hatty focuses on start-ups raising their first or second round of equity investment and works with start-up founders and small business owners to give them clarity on the information that investors will expect, and connect them to investors and other like-minded entrepreneurs who are generous in sharing their experience and insights. Hatty encourages founders, giving them knowledge, tools and techniques they can use in their investor outreach so they grow in confidence and ability when presenting their investment opportunity. This confidence ensures founders attract a range of investors, allowing them to choose the right investor for their business and growth aspirations.

Hatty has more than 10 years of experience in getting startups funded and has seen investment from both sides of the fence, so is uniquely placed to understand the founder journey and what early-stage investors look for. Following a successful 15-year career in marketing, and an MBA from Imperial College, London, Hatty worked in two start-ups before launching her own start-up, for which she raised a quarter of a million pounds. She then looked after some of the investments Kelly Hoppen made when she was a Dragon on the TV show “Dragons Den”.

Hatty’s unique perspective on start-up funding, and the work she does to level the playing field when it comes to raising equity investment, has resulted in her being recognised as Enterprise Nation Adviser of the Year 22/23 for Finance and Funding.

About Focused for Business

Focused for Business is on a mission to level the playing field and make it faster and fairer for founders to raise early-stage (pre-seed/seed stage) equity investment.

Best known for its flagship programme, Funding Accelerator, Focused For Business gives founders the knowledge, tools and techniques to position their business for investment, find and attract the right investors and secure the investment to grow their business.

Since Funding Accelerator launched in 2020, the programme has raised over £10 million for start-ups, £5m of which was raised in 2022.