Funding for Female-Founded Startups Surges

13th March 2023

Posted In: The Topic

Data from a new TechIreland report shows that funding into women-led startups reached a historic new high last year. Despite the macroeconomic challenges and a general cooling of investments into startups globally,

female founders on the island managed to raise €234 million, another record for the third consecutive year, just pipping the €230 million raised in 2021. Not only is this the highest funding, it was also a record number of companies with 72 women-led startups.

‘‘Female founded companies in our portfolio are among our highest performing and have collectively raised over €110m to support development of technology solutions addressing global challenges in healthcare, climate and communications,” said Helen McBreen of Atlantic Bridge.

‘‘There’s still a long way to go, and there are challenges on the horizon, but we are seeing some incredibly exciting innovations coming from female founders in Ireland,” acknowledged Áine Mulloy of Amazon Web Services.

It is heartening to see that female founders have kept their record streak going, and for the first time they have outperformed the overall startup population. While overall funding for startups in Ireland dropped, women-led startups have bucked the trend. Enterprise Ireland, NDRC, HBAN, Spark Crowdfunding, and angel investors deserve credit for this pleasant anomaly.

Martina Fitzgerald of Scale Ireland said: ‘‘This is impressive given the challenging investment background in the second half of the year. However, the total funding into female founded startups in 2022 does not tell the full story.

Sadly, female-led companies represent just 24% of the total number of companies that raised funding last year, and only 13% of the total funding raised.’’

Like previous years, the top three outliers make up 66% of the total (€66 million by TransferMate Global Payments, €58 million by Carrick Therapeutics and €30 million by Proverum). Another large outlier was &Open which raised €26 million last year.

The other 68 companies raised €58 million between them.

“While TechIreland’s report shares some positive strides, we are cautious about a prevailing illusion of robust progress for female entrepreneurs. In Europe, the proportion of funding to women-only teams has dropped from 3% to 1% since 2018,” said Faye Walsh Drouillard of WakeUp Capital.

Early-stage rounds between €100k and €300k increased dramatically to 36 last year, partly due to Enterprise Ireland increasing their early stage pre Seed round to €100k. There were also some smaller bridge rounds into previously seeded startups.

“Through our Action Plan for Women in Business, Enterprise Ireland is now taking a broader approach to influence lasting change to the overall enterprise landscape,” said Sinead Lonergan of Enterprise Ireland

In terms of sectors, HealthTech continues to top the table with 22 companies raising a total €106 million, followed by Enterprise Solutions – €43 million into 16 companies. eCommerce was a significant winner – from just one the previous year to 11 companies last year.

Lucy O’Keeffe of CroiValve admitted:

‘‘Funding our startup required us to invest in the key areas of risk, while minimising spend that doesn’t move the needle in terms of progressing the technology.’’

One sector that fared poorly, despite a lot of push, was cleantech and sustainability, which attracted less than €2 million last year.

In terms of the regional spread, 60% of the funding went to regions outside Dublin, aided by TransferMate (Kilkenny) and Carrick Therapeutics (Galway). However, It is encouraging that half of all women-led startups funded last year were in the regions.

“A third of our enterprise investment in 2022 was in female founded and/or led enterprises. We need to better communicate to girls and young women that engineering disciples help address major societal issues. We must also encourage more women into the VC industry and more female angel investors,” said Gillian Buckley of the Western Development Commission.

Northern Ireland based startups raised €4 million which is small in proportion to the island total.

Mary McKenna of the AwakenHub said:

“2022 saw a small number of female-founded medtech and medical device companies in Northern Ireland raise investment but the investment ecosystem is challenging.’’

Last year also revealed a more diverse mix of investors funding female founders, with at least 40 domestic and international investors, which underlines the confidence in women entrepreneurship on the island.

Responding to the report: Chief Executive of TechIreland, John O’Dea; “When we reported the record €230 million in 2021, we thought it was an outlier.

But women-led startups are pushing the bar higher each year, thanks to early stage backing from Enterprise Ireland and our investor community. We should continue to build on these strengths.’’

Download the report for free: CLICK HERE