2020 Was Great for Startups, If You Were a Man

Ben Bergman

Ben Bergman is the newsroom's senior finance reporter. Previously he was a senior business reporter and host at KPCC, a senior producer at Gimlet Media, a producer at NPR's Morning Edition, and produced two investigative documentaries for KCET. He has been a frequent on-air contributor to business coverage on NPR and Marketplace and has written for The New York Times and Columbia Journalism Review. Ben was a 2017-2018 Knight-Bagehot Fellow in Economic and Business Journalism at Columbia Business School. In his free time, he enjoys skiing, playing poker, and cheering on The Seattle Seahawks.

Female Founders

Record amounts of venture capital were deployed in 2020, but fewer dollars flowed to companies run by female founders, according to a new report from All Raise, the nonprofit backed by Pivotal Ventures, the investment firm of Melinda Gates and the Reid Hoffman Foundation.

"Our latest analysis of 2020 data shows that the pandemic year precipitated a backslide for female founders' access to funding — as well as those writing the checks," Jenny Abramson, co-lead of the All Raise data team wrote in a blog post.

Funding for teams with at least one female founder fell 2.5% in 2020 from 16.9% to 14.4%, according to the report. The percentage of funding that went to all female-led companies also dropped, to just 2.3%. It comes after years of progress for female-run startups.

When female-led teams did get checks, they were between 15% to 49% smaller than their male counterparts. The report found the divide is getting worse, especially for later-stage companies.

On the venture side, the study found 64% of firms still have no female check writers and only 10% have more than two. And there were 27 women elevated to check-writer status for the first time, which was actually a decrease of 50% from 2019. Amongst the 27 new check writers, only 1 identified as Black and none as Latina.

The mission of All Raise is to highlight tech's gender gap with data and to that end the nonprofit unveiled a dashboard tracking progress, or the lack thereof.

Los Angeles is home to several of the nation's top female VCs including Greycroft's Dana Settle, Upfront's Kara Nortman, and M13's Anna Barber. But they are still vastly outnumbered.

Similarly, there are plenty of top female founders — $544 million was invested in female-founded startups last year in the Los Angeles area — but their ranks pale in comparison to males.

The report does not explore the reasons for the decline, though one likely culprit is the trend in 2020 of most money going to big, established funds, which tend to be run by white males.

Established firms secured nearly 75% of total capital raised in 2020, the highest share since 2012, according to Pitchbook.


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