European women in VC call out major funding inequality

16 Jul 2021

Laura Gonzalez-Estefani, Amy Lewin and Kinga Stanislawska of European Women in VC speaking over Zoom with EU Commissioner Mariya Gabriel. Image: Idonea Comunicacio

A group of senior women VC professionals have called for increased funding for women-led venture capital as report finds major gender disparity.

A group of women VC professionals presented a report to the European Commission yesterday (15 July) on the lack of female representation in the venture capital industry in Europe.

The presentation, which took place over Zoom, contained a series of recommendations for increasing women’s involvement in venture capital in the region.

The report was accompanied by a petition calling for equal access to capital for European female-led VC funds. 25 women VC general partners from different EU countries developed the report.

Three of the women involved in its development – Laura González-Estéfani, Kinga Stanislawska and Amy Lewin – met with European commissioner for innovation and research Mariya Gabriel over Zoom.

The group was supported by the European Women in VC initiative, a Warsaw-based body made up of hundreds of women from more than 20 European countries, all advocating for more funding for women-led VCs.

The three women presented the group’s comprehensive report together with the petition and a set of initiatives to ensure equal access to capital for European female-led VC funds.

The report is the first attempt to measure the number of women-led VCs in Europe, as there is currently no official data. The report’s authors have defined a woman-led VC firm as one where women represent at least 30pc of the general partners.

The report found that only 1.7pc of all capital went to female founders in Europe from 2016 to 2020.

Only 10pc of European VCs had a mixed-gender general partnership team in the same period.

Women-led VC firms held just €5bn assets in that time out of the €51bn held by all of the region’s VC firms.

The report recommended that at least 30pc of available funding should go to women-led VC funds over the next four years. This would represent a jump from 3pc.

To achieve this, the group suggested that a European Fund of Funds totalling €3bn is established. This could be used to anchor female-led VCs and growth funds by contributing up to 50pc of the capitalisation of those funds, up to a maximum commitment size of €100m per fund.

European Women in VC also recommended a co-investment fund is set up at the European Union level to match VC funding to female founders. This kind of mechanism is already in place to boost funding in key sectors such as AI and space-tech. However, the group claims that 90pc of female-led VCs are blocked from accessing such funding as VCs need to have the backing of the European Investment Fund to be eligible.

Gabriel commented on the report presented to her, promising the European Commission would support the initiative.

“We’d like to make Europe in 2030 the continent with the highest growth of female tech founders, CEOs, tech investors,” said the commissioner. “We will do our utmost to analyse this report and to show how, together, we’ll have concrete follow-up actions.”

Meanwhile, Dublin-based VC firm, Frontline Ventures, which has one woman principal on its team, this week invested in Irish cloud security platform, Akeero.

Akeero raised $1.2m in a pre-seed funding round which was led by Frontline Ventures. Other investors included Trusight Ventures, Tiny VC, Capitoria and Oyster Capital Investments.

Akeero also happens to have a woman on its founding team. Anthi Gilligan serves as CISO at the company alongside co-founders Stuart Cameron (COO) and Ciarán O’Keeffe (CEO).

Blathnaid O’Dea was a Careers reporter at Silicon Republic until 2024.