Artificial intelligence Diversity Startups Venture

The Portion Of US VC Funding That Went To Female Founders Hit A New Peak In 2023, Thanks To Massive AI Deals

Illustration of woman working on a computer.

In 2023, the proportion of U.S. venture funding that went to startups with at least one female co-founder reached a new peak. In fact, a quarter of all funding — $34.7 billion — was invested in companies with at least one female founder, Crunchbase data shows.

The uptick in the portion of startup investment going to female-founded companies — up from 15% in 2022 — was in large part due to a number of billion-dollar-plus rounds raised by AI companies with a female co-founder.

For example, OpenAI raised the largest funding deal in 2023, at $10 billion, and foundation model company Anthropic raised more than $6.5 billion across four funding rounds that year.  Both companies count women among their founders.

Within the AI sector in particular in 2023, more than 50% of U.S. investment went to AI companies with at least one female founder, in total around $21 billion, across more than 360 rounds.

But that was driven by several large fundings that skewed the numbers. The majority of funded AI startups in the U.S. did not have a female founder — just under 20% of funding rounds in AI that year went to companies with a female founder, per Crunchbase data.

Still, OpenAI and Anthropic were not the only AI companies with a female co-founder to receive significant funding deals. Several other unicorn companies — private startups valued at $1 billion or more — have female founders and joined The Crunchbase Unicorn Board in 2023. They include Adept AI, Replit and Imbue, among others.

While female startup founders have by no means reached parity when it comes to venture dollars for their companies, the ground has slowly shifted in a more positive direction, with more women in the startup ecosystem than ever.

“While high-profile, substantial investments in female-led AI startups are encouraging, they can create a perception that progress is faster than it actually is,” said Rudina Seseri, founder and managing partner at AI-focused early-stage investment firm Glasswing Ventures, via email.

“It is important to support female founders early to ensure a balanced and sustained increase across all funding stages,” she added.

A decade and counting

Crunchbase added gender information to its dataset in 2015, becoming the first database with private company and venture funding data to do so. Since then, we have been tracking funding to female founders.

Over that time frame, the venture ecosystem has seen massive change — led by the pandemic  growth surge and a subsequent slowdown in the second half of 2022.

Through the years when venture funding exploded, and with the massive increase specifically to late-stage startups, the proportion of funding to companies with a female-founder did not fall.

Above $30 billion since 2021

Although female startup founders in the U.S. saw a notable uptick in the percentage of venture dollars their companies received in 2023, last year was not the largest annual dollar amount invested in female co-founded companies, per Crunchbase data.

In 2021, close to $48 billion was invested — marking 14% of U.S. venture capital to companies with a female co-founder. That year saw healthcare and biotech as the leading sector, with $20 billion invested in companies with a female founder.

During the peak venture funding market of 2021 and strong first half of 2022, funding to companies with a female founder held up, tracking at 14% and 15% of invested capital, respectively, within a percent or above preceding year proportions since 2015.

Female-only flat

Funding amounts to female-only founded companies grew and contracted with the market changes in recent years. But the proportion of funding was flat year over year, at 3% of funding amounts. This proportion has fluctuated between 2% and 3% since 2015.

Funding amount proportions to female/male co-founded companies ranged between 9% and 12% from 2015 to 2022, but jumped in 2023.

While proportions were within a narrow range prior to 2023, the amount and count have increased over the years as venture capital grew.

Funding counts higher

Funding count proportions are typically higher than amounts invested in female-founded companies.

(This trend was reversed in 2023 with funding counts 4 percentage points lower as female/male co-founded AI companies raised disproportionate amounts.)

In 2023, female-only founded companies represented 8% of deal counts — flat year over year — while female/male co-founded companies were down from the 2021 peak by a couple of percentage points at 14% of deals.

Since 2016, overall funding counts to companies with at least one female founder ranged from 19% to 24%, with 2019 through 2022 at or above 23%.

By stage

How do we account for a greater proportion of rounds than amounts to companies with a female founder?

Companies with a female founder represent a higher proportion at seed and early-stage fundings. Late-stage funding counts show a lower proportion.

However, since 2015, late-stage deal proportions have shown the largest growth span over this time frame as seed and early-stage deals mature to later-stage companies.

Late-stage deal counts trended up in 2023, at 16% of deals compared to 14% a year earlier. As female-founded companies mature, it will be interesting to see if this upward trend continues.

In conclusion

While progress on funding for female startup founders has been slow and still hasn’t reached anything close to parity, 2023 offered new hope that women-founded startups will continue to see gains, particularly as new tech waves like AI come along.

Women have founded some of the most significant companies in the new wave of generative AI. In recent years, AI companies have raised some of the largest funding rounds and have reached billion-dollar values at a faster pace than seen in other sectors.

Time will tell if the AI wave — and the gains for female founders it has helped bring about — last, or if 2023 will prove to be an outlier. In the meantime, it’s encouraging to see female startup founders take a leading role in building one of the most transformative technologies of our time.


The data contained in this report comes directly from Crunchbase, and is based on reported data. Data reported is as of May 29, 2024.

Our analysis is based on announced funding to U.S. companies with founders associated. We include private company fundings from seed through late-stage venture as well as corporate funding and private equity to venture-backed companies.

Crunchbase’s dataset is constantly expanding, but there are gaps. A company may not have founders listed on its Crunchbase profile, or Crunchbase might not have a gender listed for founders. (Note: In addition to “male” and “female,” Crunchbase has more than two dozen other gender tags.) Based on an analysis of current data for this report, more than 95% of dollars raised and 90% of deal counts since 2015 in the U.S. are associated with companies that have founders listed.

Crunchbase, like all databases of private-market transactions, has a documented pattern of reporting delays. It can sometimes take between weeks and months for some rounds to be announced publicly and subsequently added to Crunchbase. This is especially the case for the most recent year, and for seed and early-stage deals, which are often raised by companies before they launch a product or otherwise get much outside media coverage surfacing information about its funding history. As data is added to Crunchbase over time, some of the numbers in this report may shift slightly.

Illustration: Dom Guzman


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