More often than not, pitching VC firms means pleading your case to white men. This is no easy feat for women entrepreneurs who, at best, may be easily dismissed or, at worst, may be taken advantage of. The solution, of course, is to overhaul the culture and demographics of VC firms—but as is the case with male-dominated tech companies, that’s a tall order.
Below are funding options for female founders that, in most cases, were created by women and are run by women. It could take years for the VC landscape to change, so perhaps you’ll be emboldened by the avenues that are already available to you.
Female Founders Fund
Chances are you know this one already: Female Founders Fund‘s portfolio ranges from Rent the Runway and Zola to Thrive Global and Maven. The early-stage fund helmed by Anu Duggal is committed to investing in—you guessed it—female founders and high-impact sectors for women-led startups, like e-commerce and marketplaces. Since Female Founders Fund’s launch three years ago, its portfolio has raised a total of $400 million in capital.
XFactor Ventures is a pre-seed and seed stage fund that plans to invest $3 million into 30 female-led companies. XFactor is a bit unique in that its investing partners include nine entrepreneurs who are themselves female founders that have successfully obtained VC funding. In giving the likes of Mattermark CEO Danielle Morrill and The Muse CEO Kathryn Minshew investing power, XFactor is upping female representation on both sides of the table.
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Since BBG invests in consumer-facing internet and mobile startups with at least one female founder, its portfolio overlaps a bit with that of Female Founders Fund. (This isn’t uncommon, given there’s only a handful of VC firms serving female founders.) That means BBG has also invested in Zola, Shine, Handwriting.io, Ringly, and Rockets of Awesome, along with other companies like women’s club The Wing and organic feminine hygiene service Lola.
You might assume a female founder’s best chance at funding is in a city like New York. If we’re going by numbers, that’s true: Earlier this year, Female Founders Fund reported that in 2016, female founders raised 17% of overall series A funding in the Big Apple. But there are opportunities to be found elsewhere—in Ohio, for example, where the nonprofit JumpStart created a $10 million public-private fund last year. The Focus Fund exclusively offers seed funding to startups led by women or underrepresented minorities, though they must be based in Ohio or relocate to the state.
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What Pipeline offers is twofold: an angel investing bootcamp to train would-be female investors, and a pitch summit to give female entrepreneurs a chance to score funding from its investors. To be eligible for the pitch summit, startups should have a social or environmental slant, and Pipeline explicitly says founders should identify as “women and/or non-binary femme social entrepreneurs.” Since Pipeline holds summits in cities across the country, it is—like Focus Fund—a good alternative for women who live outside the entrepreneurial enclaves of San Francisco and New York.
Forerunner doesn’t explicitly fund only women-led companies, but as a female-run early-stage VC firm that invests in commerce startups, it has lent support to a slew of female founders. (Founder Kirsten Green recently told CNN that Forerunner’s own staff is 70% female.) Forerunner counts among its portfolio Glossier, Birchbox, Draper James, and Reformation, and reportedly now invests in 48 companies. Last year, Forerunner raised its third fund, which is worth a whopping $122 million.
Backstage has invested in more than 30 companies started by underrepresented founders—those who identify as women, people of color, or LGBTQ. After closing a $5 million fund late last year, Backstage founder Arlan Hamilton is raising a second fund and, as she told TechCrunch back in January, is looking to fund largely women of color. Hamilton hopes to eventually invest in 100 companies, with half of them founded by women of color.