Microsoft Corp.’s venture fund, in collaboration with the EQT Ventures fund and SVB Financial Group, on Thursday announced the Female Founders Competition, seeking to accelerate funding for top women-led startups focused on enterprise technology solutions. Two winners will share $4 million in venture funding, as well as access to technology resources, mentoring and more.
Women entrepreneurs receive a disproportionately small amount of venture funding, with only 2.2 percent of the total invested in 2017 going to women-founded startups. Studies have shown that investing in companies founded by women delivers significantly higher returns than the market average. By shining a light on this highly talented, but underfunded group of entrepreneurs, M12 and its partners seek to not only fund innovative female entrepreneurs, but to spotlight the funding gap that exists and the benefits of more equitable distribution of capital.
“We formed M12 to make smart bets on innovative people and their ideas, and the Female Founders Competition is an extension of that mandate,” said Peggy Johnson, executive vice president of Business Development at Microsoft. “This isn’t about checking a box; it’s an opportunity to remind the VC community that investing in women is more than just good values, it’s good business.”
“The EQT Ventures team is all about backing founders with the ambition, drive and vision to build a global success story,” said Alastair Mitchell, partner and investment advisor at EQT Ventures. “This competition reflects this and offers women entrepreneurs a great platform from which to launch their business, providing them with access to capital and mentorship. It also raises awareness of the funding gap between male and female founders, and the EQT Ventures team wants to play an active role in bridging that gap.”
Submissions will be accepted from July 26, 2018, to Sept. 30, 2018, and open across three regions: Europe, Israel, and North America (U.S., Canada and Mexico). Companies will be eligible to apply if they have at least one woman founder, have raised less than $4 million in combined equity funding and/or loans at day of application, and offer or intend to release a product, service or platform that addresses a critical business problem.
“At SVB, we strive to help innovative companies succeed,” said Tracy Isacke, head of Corporate Venture at Silicon Valley Bank. “Research tells us diverse teams are more successful. We believe this is true for our business, our clients’ businesses and the innovation economy at large. Our partnership with Microsoft has created a great opportunity for SVB to engage in this competition and is one of the many ways we are supporting diverse representation in the global innovation ecosystem.”
Up to 10 finalists will pitch in person for the chance to be one of the two startups that earn a $2 millioninvestment as well as access to technology resources, mentoring and additional support. The competition also seeks to drive greater awareness for both finalists and winners, with the potential for future funding from the broader VC community. Full guidelines and contest information can be found on M12’s application page.