Can Irish women tech founders surpass €100m in funding in 2018?

8 Mar 2018

Image: Hadrian/Shutterstock

Campaign begins to enable Irish women founders surpass €100m venture capital target.

A new campaign is underway by data platform TechIreland to see Irish women tech company founders grow the level of funding they raised in 2017 from €79m to more than €100m in 2018.

The campaign has the support of a number of leading venture capitalists and organisations, including: NDRC, Suir Valley’s Barry Downes, Draper Esprit’s Brian Caulfield, Frontline Ventures’ Will Prendergast, Tribal’s Conor Stanley and Elkstone Capital’s Alan Merriman.

‘Enterprise Ireland must be credited for leading the way in this, through their funding and training support services for female founder companies’

TechIreland CEO Niamh Bushnell said the not-for-profit organisation will apply its platform, research and data science processes to help all organisations involved measure their impact and double down their focus to reach the target.

“TechIreland is unique as a data service that tracks innovation in Ireland, so we’re in the prime position to track female funding throughout the year,” Bushnell told

“We also have strong relationships with many of the 299 female founder companies profiled on our platform and we feel it’s a responsibility, a duty and an honour to track these companies’ progress and play our part in promoting seats at the funding table for female founders and co-founders.”

Tracking growth

Niamh Bushnell to step down as Dublin Commissioner for Start-ups

Niamh Bushnell, TechIreland CEO. Image: Luke Maxwell

According to data published earlier this year, Irish start-ups with women founders secured €79.4m worth of investment out of a total of €580.2m raised in 2017, or just under 14pc of the total amount.

‘Supporting and investing in female founders isn’t charity. It is an investment opportunity that is constantly overlooked’

In terms of businesses led by women founders, the largest rounds in 2017 were: Global Shares (€4.5m), Axonista (€1.7m) and Soapbox Labs (€1.2m) in Q1; Madme (€1.3m), Popertee (€500,000) and Nova Leah (€422,000) in Q2; Tandem HR Solutions (€2m), WarDucks (€1.3m) and Homestay (€750,000) in Q3; and TransferMate (€30m), Nuritas (€16m) and GC Aesthetics (€4.2m) in Q4.

“There are already an impressive number of female-founder-focused initiatives making a real impact on the funding landscape in Ireland,” said Bushnell.

“Enterprise Ireland must be credited for leading the way in this, through their funding and training support services for female founder companies.”

In a recent interview with, Enterprise Ireland CEO Julie Sinnamon said that 35pc of the 2017 class of high-potential start-ups were women-led, but her ambition is to grow that to 50pc and beyond.

Bushnell said that as part of the €100m campaign, TechIreland will also be inviting all female founder companies to join a private database where they can state their funding ambitions for 2018 privately.

“Via this database, female founders will be able to clearly express their ambition in terms of funding, encourage each other to reach their goals, congratulate each other when they do and egg each other on to be even more ambitious than they would otherwise have been.

“Aggregate figures from this privately managed database will also be shared by TechIreland during the year.”

NDRC commented: “The success of female founders in Ireland is there for all to see, with success stories in our portfolio growing by the year. Start-ups with women on the founding team are more likely to secure follow-on investment than start-ups without.”

Elkstone Capital’s Alan Merriman said that the key is to celebrate and encourage women founders in Ireland.

“At Elkstone, we are agnostic on gender – we just love great founders, all shapes and sizes. For us, supporting TechIreland’s €100m campaign isn’t about favouring one over the other, but it is about celebrating and encouraging more women entrepreneurs.

“Elle Macpherson, a longstanding client of ours, is an ongoing inspiration and mentor to us here at Elkstone. She admiringly calls women entrepreneurs ‘goddesses with guts’. I think, coming from someone like Elle, a serial global entrepreneur, that says a lot. At Elkstone, we have backed a number of Irish goddesses with guts – Trish at Soapbox and Liz at SalesOptimize. We continue to have our breath taken away by all they have juggled and achieved so far. I can only hope we and the wider venture and angel community here have the courage and smarts to support a lot more goddesses like them,” said Merriman.

Women founders in Ireland are not looking for special treatment or tokenism, just fairness and equality when it comes to pitching for investment.

Patricia Scanlon from Soapbox Labs said: “Supporting and investing in female founders isn’t charity. It is an investment opportunity that is constantly overlooked.

“A diverse founding team that understands all markets and consumers is critical to prevent groupthink, which limits a business’s potential. More than that, studies have shown repeatedly that female leaders run more profitable companies. Investing in companies with female founders just makes business sense.”

Data is key, agreed Andreea Wade from “The thesis is simple: data favours companies with female founders yet less than 10pc of venture dollars goes to companies with women on the founding teams. Failure to recognise this by the investment community is just bad business.”

Claire McHugh from Axonista concluded: “I want to see an Ireland where our diverse population is fairly reflected in our industry. Being a founder gives me the power to drive that change.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years