The Road to VC Investment’ for Female Founders – An Enterprise Ireland-IVCA Partnership

19th March 2024

Posted In: Entrepreneurship

Financial data and research firm PitchBook, recently reported that €100 million was invested by venture capital (VC) firms in Irish women founders in 2023.

The report also confirmed that Ireland is the 3rd country in Europe per deal count on a per capita basis for investment in women-led start-ups and has consistently ranked in the top 5 countries for the past 10 years.


The findings were published recently in PitchBook’s inaugural ‘All In: Female Founders in the VC Ecosystem’ report, a pan-European analysis of VC investment in women founders.

The report comes as, Enterprise Ireland launches a programme in partnership with the Irish Venture Capital Association (IVCA), to support women-led start-ups to access finance.  The new phase of the ‘Road to VC Investment’ programme was launched earlier this month at Enterprise Ireland’s ‘Funding the Future’ event which was opened by Jennifer Carroll MacNeill TD, Minister of State for Financial Services.

This initiative will focus on increasing the amount of venture capital invested in women-led businesses in Ireland.

Enterprise Ireland is committed to bringing positive change to the entrepreneurship ecosystem in Ireland, and that includes collaborating with others to bring sustainable improvements which will narrow the participation gap between women and men and deliver increased economic growth.

Enterprise Ireland has been championing this agenda since 2011, when only 7% of the start-ups Enterprise Ireland invested in were led by women. By 2023, that figure rose to 31%.

Enterprise Ireland’s €175 million Seed and Venture Capital Scheme (2019-2024) which is now fully allocated, co-invested in VC funds, focused on the Irish market, to support the funding requirements of early-stage, innovative Irish companies.

By 2022, 70% of the Seed and Venture Capital funds that Enterprise Ireland supports, had women at partner or manager level.

The ‘Road to VC investment’ is the third such partnership between Enterprise Ireland and the IVCA. This year’s series of initiatives will take place over a number of months and includes webinars on tax governance and legal issues, as well as an equity and pitching workshop, and an opportunity to further develop pitching skills and to receive feedback from members of Ireland’s VC ecosystem and mentors.

Details of this year’s programme were discussed at Enterprise Ireland’s IWD event held recently entitled: ‘Funding the Future: How women-led Irish businesses are financing their journey to success’.

Opened by Minister Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, members of Ireland’s funding and enterprise ecosystem included Helen McBreen, Partner of Atlantic Bridge; Sarah Jane Larkin, Director General, IVCA; Debbie Rennick, General Partner, ACT Venture Capital and David Bowles, Managing Partner, Yield Lab Europe.  The event also featured companies supported by Enterprise Ireland who have successfully funded and scaled their businesses, including Caroline Sherry, CFO, Hostelworld; Orlaith Ryan, Co-Founder, Shorla Oncology; and Karen May, CFO, XOCEAN.

Jennifer Carroll MacNeill TD, Minister of State for Financial Services, Credit Unions and Insurance, said: “Ireland has made gains, increasing investment levels in women-led start-ups and this is reflected in PitchBook’s report today.

However, I look forward to when we don’t have to work specifically on supporting women founders – when women-led companies are achieving the same level of investment as men. Encouraging more women to establish their own companies is key to this.

“Government is committed to developing the Irish venture capital market to better help all entrepreneurs and high-growth SMEs access funding.  It’s important that Enterprise Ireland and ICVA continue to run programmes like the ‘Road to VC’ to support women-led businesses access an increased shared of VC investment.”

Jenny Melia, Executive Director, Enterprise Ireland, said: “Enterprise Ireland is committed to increasing opportunities for women entrepreneurs and supporting them at every stage of their start-up journey.  We strongly believe that the key to Ireland’s economic success is a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem which utilises the skills, ambition, and talent of a diverse population. We are championing this agenda for over a decade.

Last year 31% of the start-ups we invested in were led by women, and our continued ambition is to continue to increase this.

Our Pre-seed Start Fund, Innovative HPSU Fund and our investment in VC funds though the €175m Seed and Venture Capital Fund has been instrumental in providing funding to start-ups in Ireland.

Sarah-Jane Larkin, Director General, IVCA, said: “Our aim in the IVCA is to increase both the number of women setting up companies that can be venture capital backed and increasing the proportion of women securing funding. We are delighted to partner with Enterprise Ireland in this programme connecting our female funders with female founders.

“All of the activities that are part of the programme are all designed to demystify and smooth the path to VC funding for female founders, and to help female founded companies build a strong network with our investor community.”

A kick-off webinar will be hosted later this month for innovative women-led companies, supported by Enterprise Ireland, that are actively seeking to raise investment for their scaling journey and are interested in learning more about participating in the ‘Road to VC Investment’ programme.

Pictured (l-r): Jenny Melia, Executive Director, Enterprise Ireland, Jennifer Carroll MacNeill TD, Minister of State for Financial Services, Credit Unions and Insurance and Sarah-Jane Larkin, Director General, IVCA.