The COVID-19 pandemic has had a negative impact on businesses around the globe, but female entrepreneurs have been hit particularly hard.
According to data released by Pitchbook in October, venture funding for female founders has hit its lowest quarterly total in three years. In Q3 2020, U.S.-based female founders raised just $434 million across 136 rounds, a sharp decrease from $841 million in Q2 2020.
While the pandemic has exacerbated the disparity, women entrepreneurs have long lagged their male counterparts in the opportunities available to them - even when their ideas, potential, and results are just as good, or better. According to the Kapor Center, only 17 percent of all venture capital-backed tech founders are women. But First Round Capital has reported its female-founded companies performed 63 percent better than its all-male teams, and research from the Kauffman Foundation shows that women-led teams generate 35 percent higher returns on investment than all-male teams.
In an effort to both address these longstanding inequities and assist female founders during this difficult time, Techstars has partnered with Barclays to help 30 women entrepreneurs grow, scale, and promote their businesses. The Female Founders First programme was created to increase access to the networks, business advice, and capital women have historically been denied.
“Female founders are tremendously resilient and resourceful, but research shows the challenges they face are more about access than acumen,” says Jennifer Jordan, managing director for the Female Founders First programme. “In this particular environment, however, the things weighing on all of us, weigh particularly heavily on female entrepreneurs. That’s why we’re gathering this incredible community together - to make new connections and constantly expand their network.”
“We can help them access relationship-based opportunities, amplify their already powerful and impressive stories, and accelerate their path to success.”
The Female Founders First programme is designed to help position participants for their next rounds of funding and support them in their efforts to scale. The women will receive critical access to mentorship opportunities, a curriculum of tailored workshops and roundtables focused on overcoming their unique challenges, as well as perks and brand-strengthening initiatives. They’ll also be connected to a community of like-minded peers.
“Female CEOs frequently express an interest in connecting with their peers,” Jordan says. “They want the opportunity to work with other women and share their experience, journeys, and strategies for success because they have a different experience than male founders. Through this programme, they’ll be able to do exactly that."
The 30 founders come from countries in North America and Europe and their startups operate in a wide variety of different industries, including health care, legal, finance, e-commerce and artificial intelligence.
“Barclays is honoured to partner with Techstars to support this diverse cohort of female founders,” says Sonal Lakhani, Head of Global Programmes and Strategic Initiatives, Group Innovation, Barclays. “Each of these founders is in a critical stage of growth that has often proven difficult for female entrepreneurs to surpass. Through the Female Founders First programme, these women will be able to acquire the necessary tools to overcome the challenges they face.”
The virtual programme will take place over the course of six weeks beginning on November 9.
The inaugural class includes:
To learn more about Female Founders First by Barclays and Techstars, visit https://barclays-femalefounders.techstars.com and follow the hashtag #FemaleFoundersFirst on Twitter.