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Female founders are innovating: From building Unicorns to changing the face of our economy. Find out how...




In the world of venture capital, we are now witnessing a transformative wave that is reshaping the landscape: the rise of female founders. As we step into a more progressive world, female entrepreneurs are stepping up, pushing the limits and pioneering innovative solutions to unique problems. We are now seeing a multitude of sectors that are being increasingly impacted by their leadership, diversity of thought, and most importantly, innovation. This month, we shall dive into their ventures, and celebrate their achievements in the forefront of the global markets.


Written by: Jonathan Ouyang

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WOMEN LED UNICORNS ON THE RISE


Indeed, over the last decade, we have observed significant upticks in women-led unicorns (companies that reach a valuation of $1 billion or more). According to Arabian Business, between 2020 and 2021, the number of female-led companies reaching unicorn status experienced a 400% increase.

 

However, the pandemic dealt a painful blow to female founders. In 2022, the pace of growth for new unicorn companies has slowed as valuations have come down. Compared to 616 new unicorn companies in 2021, only 332 companies joined in 2022. Of these 322 companies, only 13 were founded by women, compared to 83 in the previous year. This is likely due to the fact that women bore a disproportionate burden in childcare and education during the pandemic. Nevertheless, considering the strong roots of female leadership, we should expect to see a rebound of women-led unicorns on the scene.



A standout example of a women-led unicorn is Scale AI, co-founded by Lucy Guo. The company has recently achieved a valuation of $7.3 billion. Indeed, Guo’s journey as a 29-year-old entrepreneur perfectly showcases the potential and prowess of women innovators, not only in the tech industry, but across global markets as a whole. 



SOLUTIONS FOR FEMALE EXCLUSIVE PROBLEMS


Now, in the realm of medicine, one widely recognised issue is the lack of research on common illnesses in women, resulting in suboptimal treatment provided to them compared to that of men. Well, female founders are now leveraging their unique perspectives and insights that tackle problems that disproportionately affect women, creating innovative solutions for female exclusive problems.

 




Notably, Maven Clinic stands out as a key example of strides being made in solving female-exclusive problems. Founded by Kate Ryder, the digital health platform dedicates its resources to women’s health and family planning, with a comprehensive suite of services such as telemedicine consultations, mental health support, fertility assistance, and even more. Indeed, Maven is perhaps an important beacon that showcases the significance of delivering gender-specific solutions, particularly in the healthcare space.


While this is only one example, a wealth of other start-ups tackling female specific problems have already gained a foothold in the space. These ventures not only address these long-standing issues, but also fills a gap in the market, opening a new front to innovation.





FEMALE FOUNDERS IN EMERGING MARKETS


In the emerging markets, it is no longer men who are making waves in addressing local challenges. Women have also penetrated the space, developing innovative start-ups in response to the local demands.



Elizabeth Mwangi, a trained architect from the University of Nairobi, founded Gwiji, a tech start-up that connects low-income women from some of Kenya’s most impoverished areas to clients in need of cleaning services, generating a much needed stream of income for them. Since the launch of the start-up in 2022, the firm has generated over 2,000 cleaning orders, increasing the wage of these cleaners from $2 to $10 a day.





Kiva, co-founded by Jessica Jackley, is a microfinance (a financial service provided to low-income individuals who are usually excluded from traditional banking) firm that provides those in emerging markets with much needed financial resources. With Kiva, individuals can lend as little as $25, with these funds being directed towards a multitude of needs, such as expanding businesses, education, or healthcare. 


WHAT MORE COULD BE DONE?


While the rise of female founders is undoubtable, one persistent issue is funding. According to the Harvard Kennedy School, female founders receive approximately a quarter of the amount of funding they seek, considerably lower than their male counterparts, who receive, on average, half. In the same space, the 30-year average of all-female founders’ share of VC funding is only 2.4%.



This is a significant challenge that needs to be tackled. Many agencies have already made a start. For example, the Women Entrepreneurs Finance Initiative has been established to scale up access to finance products and services to help female entrepreneurs. The White House has also pushed out resources to support women small business owners, providing much indeed investments, access to capital, and mentorship opportunities.



We’re sure you’d agree with us that the story of female founders is one of resilience, innovation, and indeed, leadership. In this dynamic and constantly evolving space of venture capital, the rise of women-led start-ups is a positive indicator of change, not only in expanding the scope of innovation, but also in paving the way for a more equitable and harmonious future. 


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