Female founders: Digging into the 2018 investment numbers

This month, Crunchbase released 2018 funding stats for companies with female founders under the encouraging headline; “2018 Sets All-Time High For Investment Dollars Into Female-Founded Startups”.  While that statement is factually accurate — $38.9 billion was invested in companies with a female founder in 2018, up from $19.8 billion in 2017, which represents a 3 point increase in the percent of total dollars invested from 14% to 17% —  a deeper look is less encouraging.

If you remove the $14 billion Ant Financial financing, just one investment, the dollars decline to $25 billion and the percent of total dollars declines to 13%, which is down year over year. Similarly, by the total number of investments, there was a decline from 15% to 14%. The data from Pitchbook, by way of Fortune, tells a similar story of limited progress.   

These industry-wide stats are in contrast to the investment opportunities I saw in 2018:

  • 125 of the 260 companies I met in 2018 for a focused “new investment pitch”, were with a company with at least one female founder. That’s 48%. Not quite parity, but very close.
  • 100% of the 16 new investments made by XFactor Ventures in 2018 were in female-founded companies.  XFactor Ventures was created in July 2017 in conjunction with an amazing team of women who are currently leading successful venture-backed businesses. It is our collective goal to invest in early-stage female founders pursuing billion-dollar opportunities.  Of these 16 companies, 9 have all-female founding teams and in 13 of the 16 companies, the female founder is the CEO. If this data was included in the Crunchbase article linked above, XFactor would fall as the second most active venture investor in female-founded startups — below NEA but above Founders Fund, Social Capital, and Sequoia.Slide1.jpg
  • 40% of the new investments Flybridge has made in the last 18 months (since the launch of XFactor), have had a female founder — an increase of 13% from the preceding 18 months.

While the available data shows it was not the case for the industry as a whole, for me, it’s clear that 2018 was a strong year for female founders. For new investments, venture capital has always been a network, relationship, and focus business but since the launch of XFactor, we’ve noticed a shift — our networks have expanded, driving a significant increase in the volume and diversity of the investment opportunities we’ve seen. In 2019 we expect this momentum to continue and even pick up speed.  Also, stay tuned for more from XFactor as we are actively expanding the investment team and will announce a second, larger fund in the early coming months.

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