Diversity Funding reports Venture

2018 Sets All-Time High For Investment Dollars Into Female-Founded Startups

Gené Teare is a veteran Crunchbase employee. She compiles this report quarterly for Crunchbase News, using Crunchbase data. 

As 2018 drew to a close, Crunchbase News reported on a year of superlatives. With technology impacting a broader set of industries, we’ve seen unprecedented funding amounts in 2018 (projected to be up 56 percent YoY), along with a rise in supergiant rounds. Nearly $40 billion was invested in companies with at least one female founder, representing 17 percent of invested dollars in the year.

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Let’s take a more nuanced look at how female-founded startups fared this investment cycle.

Supergiant $100 Million Plus Rounds

Let’s take a look at a subset of that topline number.

Of the almost $40 billion raised by women in 2018, 50 known rounds were above the $100 million mark for this year, making up for 65 percent ($26.2 billion) of the dollar amounts raised by companies with at least one female founder.

In contrast, male-only founded companies raised 338 rounds above $100 million at $103 billion (53 percent) of dollars raised by male-only teams.

Global Venture Dollar Volume

In 2018, $38.9 billion was invested in companies with a female founder, representing 17 percent of venture dollars funded globally. Investments in 2018 came close to doubling the amount recorded in 2017, a year that saw $19.8 billion invested into companies with at least one female founder.

2018 is at an all-time high for investment dollars into female-founded tech companies.

So how does this compare to 2017 in terms of percentage of total raised funds by startups with at least one female founder when compared to male-only founded startups?

Even though the dollar amounts close to doubled year over year, 2018 shows only a three percentage point increase in the share of venture capital raised by companies with at least one female founder over 2017, which was at 14 percent. The disappointing percentage increase is due to the overall expansion in investment dollars in tech startups for 2018.

It is also worth noting that female-founded Ant Financial raised an enormous $14 billion round in 2018. Were it not for Ant Financial, 2018 would would have recorded a lower percentage of total venture dollars going to companies with at least one female founder compared to the two preceding years’ results of 14 and 13 percent, respectively.

Global Venture Deal Volume

Though dollar amounts into startups with at least one female founder have gone up, reported round counts have fallen. In 2018 1,106 rounds went to companies with at least one female founder, making up 14 percent of all venture rounds with known founders. It’s a modest decline from 2017, which recorded 15 percent of total deal volume going to female-founded startups.

Female-Only Founded Startups Raise Fewer Dollars

The median funding amount for female-only founded startups is consistently below male-only founded teams, as well as male and female co-founded startups. Across the board, however, all founding teams have seen median dollar amounts go up.

From 2015 through 2017, male and female co-founded startups medians were either higher or equal to male-founded startups, suggesting that it is female-only founded startups that face greater challenges when it comes to fundraising.

Notable Fourth Quarter Fundings In Female-Founded Startups

December is typically a slow month for venture investing; however, a significant number of financings closing at the tail end of 2018.

The Wing

One investment that came in under the wire is The Wing co-founded by CEO Audrey Gelman and COO Lauren Kassan. The Series C funding of $75 million raised in December was led by Jess Lee of Sequoia Capital with participation from Upfront Ventures with Kara Nortman. Prior investors include New Enterprise Associates that led the Series A and BBG Ventures in the seed round. The Wing, a membership-based organization for women (and now all genders) who are seeking a coworking space, is utilizing the recently raised funding to expand to new locales, including West Hollywood, London, Toronto, Seattle, Chicago, and Boston. Many of its investors are also women.


Another December financing went to Minted, a social design marketplace company, founded by CEO Mariam Naficy and President Melissa Kim. Minted raised a $208 million Series E round. The company sells graphic design, stationery, art, and home decor from a global design community. The round was led by PE firms Permira and T. Rowe Price. Previous lead investor from Series A to D include Ridge Ventures, Benchmark, TCV, and Norwest Venture Partners.

Zume Pizza

Co-founded by CEO Alex Garden and President Julia Collins, Zume Pizza raised a $375 million Series C from the Softbank Vision Fund. Zume Pizza is developing next-generation food delivery, with its robotic pizza maker, along with food trucks with ovens that deliver freshly made pizza on the go. Early investors include SignalFire and Kortschak Investments.

Most Active Venture Investors In Female-Founded Startups

New Enterprise Associates tops the list with 24 investments in female-founded companies. Next up are Founders Fund, Social Capital, and Sequoia Capital, with each investing in 15 companies last year with female founders. The investor with this highest percent is Forerunner Ventures with 9 investments at 64 percent of their portfolio. Innovation Works, DCM Ventures, Omidyar Network, and Upfront Ventures all had 30 percent or higher invested in female-founded teams in 2018.

Editorial note: This Crunchbase-sourced report relies on firm and community-provided data to rank investors by seed investments. Due to reporting delays and the relatively opaque nature of private capital, this list may exclude certain investors and investments. Crunchbase News is continually examining how it gathers and reports on this data. Moving forward, we’re updating the process by which this chart was created.

Global Seed Dollar Volume

19 percent of 2018’s reported seed-stage deal volume went to companies with a female founder, the most in the past five years.

In 2018, six percent of total known seed-stage dollar volume went to female-only founded startups, and 14 percent to startups with both male and female co-founders.

Global Seed Deal Volume

At the earliest stages of investment, female-founded startups are making incremental gains year-over-year—accounting for nearly a quarter of known seed-stage deals made in 2018. This is a particularly important stage to see improvement in, as it establishes the baseline of deals made that could later turn into early-stage and late-stage startups. It’s important to note, however, that seed-stage dealmaking has been contracting since 2017, as Crunchbase News’s Q4 2018 VC report noted.

Looking Forward

While 2018 is at an all-time high for investment dollars into female-founded startups, there is still a ways to go with female founders raising only 17 percent of investment dollars. A couple of notable VCs had advice for women when fundraising.

“In my experience, female founders are much less likely to make an ask at the end of meetings with VCs, so my biggest piece of advice is don’t leave without making a clear and actionable ask! Know what the next steps are and what the partner might need to get to a quick decision.” said Kara Nortman of Upfront Ventures.

Kirsten Green of Forerunner Ventures, who raised a $360 million dollar Fund IV in 2018, has the following advice: “Own your ambitions. Seek what you need to achieve the best version of your plan and find a partner who believes in you, your mission, and aligns with your goals.”

Notes On The Data

The charts and information in this report is based off of reported data in Crunchbase. In other words, it’s based off of publicly disclosed rounds included in Crunchbase dataset.

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 that are attached to the person’s Crunchbase profile. (Note: In addition to “male” and “female,” Crunchbase has over two dozen other gender tags.)

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

Correction: Crunchbase News’s chart titled “2018’s Most Active Seed Investors In Female-Founded Startups” has been removed due to data inconsistencies discovered by readers. News will revisit its processes behind this data pull in future quarterly reports.

Image Credits: Li-Anne Dias and Monique Lopez

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