The Vast Majority of Venture Dollars Go to White Male Founders, Report Finds

Francesca Billington

Francesca Billington is a freelance reporter. Prior to that, she was a general assignment reporter for dot.LA and has also reported for KCRW, the Santa Monica Daily Press and local publications in New Jersey. She graduated from Princeton in 2019 with a degree in anthropology.

The Vast Majority of Venture Dollars Go to White Male Founders, Report Finds

Though more women and entrepreneurs of color are leading venture-backed startups across the country, founding teams are still predominantly white, male and located in the Bay Area.

A report from RateMyInvestor and the nonprofit Diversity VC looked at data from 2018 to 2019 — before the killing of George Floyd and others thrust the country into a racial reckoning. Using data from its previous report taken over a four-year period beginning in 2013, it tracked the top 100 U.S. VC firms accounting for $68 billion in funding across 3,304 companies.


Just as the first report found, startups funded by the top VCs were nearly 90% male. Seventy-two percent of founders were white and a little over a third — 35% — were based in Silicon Valley. Almost 14% were Ivy League-educated.

"Women and people of color are starting companies at a record rate and yet, investors are still saying there is a talent pipeline problem," said Shila Nieves Burney, founder and managing partner at Atlanta-based Zane Ventures.

In Los Angeles, female founders are funded at a higher rate than the national average. Nearly 30% of the companies funded in the city have a female founder, compared to 22% nationally. Data also shows that Black founders are more likely to be backed if they are based in L.A.

Funding raised by companies the authors tracked nearly tripled in 2019 from six years earlier. And companies in L.A. raised 7.5% of all seed funding over the time period analyzed. The average amount per deal represented 20% more than the national average.

Despite the bump and considerable attention paid to the issue last year, many figures from that first study have barely budged.

The Bay Area still holds a tight grasp on VC funding, but more investors are turning to companies founded in other cities. An average of 388 funds were launched outside of the Bay Area, New York and L.A. in 2018 and 2019, according to PitchBook data. That number hit just 180 between 2013 and 2017.

The report released Thursday found that over two-thirds of investments were brought in from other cities, 28% of which came outside of major metropolitan areas.

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The Impact of Authentic Storytelling. LA Latino/a Founders and Funders Tell All

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

The Impact of Authentic Storytelling. LA Latino/a Founders and Funders Tell All
Decerry Donato

As one of the most diverse cities in the world, Los Angeles is home to almost 5 million people who identify as Hispanic or Latinx. Yet, many feel they still lack representation in the city’s tech space.

“I can safely say that last year’s LA tech week hosted all of the events on the west side, and very few were focused on telling Latino and Latina entrepreneurial stories,” said Valeria Martinez, investor at VamosVentures. “We wanted to change that this year.”

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LA Tech Week Day 3: Social Highlights
Evan Xie

L.A. Tech Week has brought venture capitalists, founders and entrepreneurs from around the world to the California coast. With so many tech nerds in one place, it's easy to laugh, joke and reminisce about the future of tech in SoCal.

Here's what people are saying about day three of L.A. Tech Week on social:

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LA Tech Week: Female Founders Provide Insights Into Their Startup Journeys

Decerry Donato

Decerry Donato is a reporter at dot.LA. Prior to that, she was an editorial fellow at the company. Decerry received her bachelor's degree in literary journalism from the University of California, Irvine. She continues to write stories to inform the community about issues or events that take place in the L.A. area. On the weekends, she can be found hiking in the Angeles National forest or sifting through racks at your local thrift store.

LA Tech Week: Female Founders Provide Insights Into Their Startup Journeys
Decerry Donato

Women remain a minority among startup founders. According to Pitchbook, even though women-led startups in the United States received a record $20.8 billion in funding during the first half of 2022, U.S. companies with one or more female founders received less than 20% of total venture funding in 2022. U.S. companies solely led by female founders received less than 2% of the total funding.

The panel, titled Female Founders: Planning, Pivoting, Profiting, was moderated by NYU law professor Shivani Honwad and featured Anjali Kundra, co-founder of bar inventory software Partender; Montré Moore, co-founder of the Black-owned beauty startup AMP Beauty LA; Mia Pokriefka, co-founder and CEO of the interactive social media tool Huxly; and Sunny Wu, founder and CEO of fashion company LE ORA.

The panelists shared their advice and insights on starting and growing a business as a woman. They all acknowledged feeling pressure to not appear weak among peers, especially as a female founder. But this added weight only causes more stress that may lead to burnout.

“The mental health aspect of being a founder should not be overshadowed,” said Kundra, who realized this during the early stages of building her company with her brother..

Growing up in Silicon Valley, Kundra was surrounded by the startup culture where, “everyone is crushing it!” But she said that no one really opened up about the challenges of starting your own company. .

“Once you grow up as a founder in that environment, it's pretty toxic,” Kundra said. “I felt like I really wanted to be open and be able to go to our investors and tell them about challenges because businesses go up and down, markets go up and down and no company is perfect.”

Honwad, who advocates for women’s rights, emphasized the value of aligning yourself with people with similar values in the tech ecosystem. “[Those people] can make your life better not just from an investment and money standpoint, but also a personal standpoint, because life happens,” she said.

Moore, who unexpectedly lost one of her co-founders at AMP Beauty, said that entrepreneurs “really have to learn how to adapt to [their] circumstances.”

“She was young, healthy, vibrant and we've been sorority sisters and friends over the past decade,” she said about her co-founder Phyllicia Phillips, who passed away in February. “So it was just one of those moments where you have to take a pause.”

Moore said this experience forced her to ask for help, which many founders hesitate to do. She encouraged the audience to try and share their issues out loud with their teams because there are always people who will offer help. When Moore shared her concerns with her investors, they jumped in to support her in ways she didn’t think was possible.

Kundra said that while it is important to have a support group and listen to mentors, it is very important for entrepreneurs to follow their own thinking and pick and choose what they want to implement within their strategy. “At the end of the day, you really have to own your own decisions,” she said.

Kundra also said that while it is easy to turn to your colleagues and competitors and do what they are doing, you shouldn’t always follow them because every business is different.

“When I was in the heat of it, I kind of became [a part of] this echo chamber and that was really challenging for us,” Kundra added, “but we were able to move beyond it and figure out what worked for us [as a company] and we're still on a journey. You're always going to be figuring it out, so just know you're not alone.”

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