Female-founded tech companies in Ireland raise record €105m

8 Mar 2021

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While the 2020 funding figures show an uptick for companies founded by women, this still only accounts for a small slice of the investment picture.

Female-founded start-ups and scale-ups in Ireland raised a record €105m in funding in 2020, according to a new report from TechIreland.

A total of 50 tech companies raised investment throughout the year, with funding coming from various sources including venture capital, equity financing, angel investors and grants. The report was released to coincide with International Women’s Day today (8 March).

Start-ups in health, agritech, edtech and enterprise attracted the most funding last year. Some of the year’s most notable rounds included Mayo fintech start-up Payslip raising €2.7m and biotech firm Avectas securing €18m.

The upward tick bucks the global trend, where VC funding to female founders declined in 2020 amid the pandemic.

Later-stage companies accounted for much of the year’s increase in Ireland – a common trend in 2020 across the country’s start-up ecosystem as investors focused on existing portfolio companies. For early-stage companies, Enterprise Ireland was a key investor throughout the year and TechIreland notes that without this source, “funding to early-stage start-ups run by female founders would have been severely impacted”.

Almost half (46pc) of the female-founded companies tracked in the research were based in Dublin, with the rest spread around Kildare, Cork, Waterford and several other regions. Only six female-founded companies in Northern Ireland raised money last year.

TechIreland chief executive John O’Dea said the funding growth is an “important milestone” for female founders in Ireland but that start-ups founded by women still only account for a small slice of the overall funding picture.

“The uncomfortable fact is that female-founded tech companies are still underrepresented with female founders accounting for just 10pc of the total funding raised last year, while only 18pc of the tech companies that raised funding had a female founder,” O’Dea said.

“There is an urgent need for greater support for female entrepreneurs to create tech businesses and also for the continued promotion of STEM subjects for girls in our educational system.”

Martina Fitzgerald, chief executive of start-up support and lobby group Scale Ireland, said that while the increase in funding is welcome there is still a need for greater supports for women entrepreneurs.

[The] overall picture is stark in terms of the total number of female founders and the level of funding they are receiving. This highlights the need for additional support and training for women to develop their own tech business,” Fitzgerald said.

Jonathan Keane is a freelance business and technology journalist based in Dublin