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Women tech founders raised £3.6 billion in funding in 2022, up from £2.9 billion in 2021

9 March 2023
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The Business Magazine article image for: Women tech founders raised £3.6 billion in funding in 2022, up from £2.9 billion in 2021

Tech startups and scaleups with at least one woman co-founder raised £3.6 billion in venture capital funding in 2022, according to data from Dealroom, analysed for the Department for Science, Innovation and Technology.

In 2022, eight companies with women founders and co-founders raised over $100 million, demonstrating how the UK tech sector is maturing. The majority of investments into women-led businesses took place at the pre-seed and seed stage with 158 startups raising early-stage funding, helping to support the building of next-generation tech businesses.

Tech Secretary Michelle Donelan said: "I want the UK to be the best place for anyone - male or female - to start and grow a tech business, so it's brilliant to see female founded firms attracting more investment than ever before. Together with industry leaders my brand new department will work hard to create the right environment for inspirational women to forge careers in the UK's thriving tech industry and help it reach new heights."

The top 10 rounds for UK startups with at least one women founder or co-founder:

  1. FNZ - fintech - $1.4 billion

  2. Newcleo - nuclear tech - $319 million

  3. Lendable - fintech - $252 million

  4. Multiverse - edtech - $220 million

  5. Starling Bank - fintech - $157 million

  6. GrowUp Farms - agritech - $120 million

  7. Karma Kitchen - foodtech - $120 million

  8. 5ire - fintech - $100 million

  9. Proximie - healthtech - $80 million

  10. Cleo - fintech - $80 million

 

The UK has a world-leading fintech ecosystem. Fintech companies make up the majority of venture capital funding flowing to women-founded firms, such as PensionBee, which helps people to amalgamate their pensions on a single platform, and Tumelo, a fintech based in Bristol which facilitates shareholder democracy with technology to make stewardship more impactful.

Energy is the second biggest sector for women founders, with large rounds raised by companies such as Nyobolt which is focused on delivering end-to-end ultrafast charging battery solutions (£50 million) and Hydro Wind Energy which is creating systems to combine wind and wave energy (£44.5 million).

Women founders are leading the way when it comes to creating and leading impact tech companies - startups focused on using technology to solve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. This includes companies like COMPASS Pathways which looks to tackle mental health; Vira Health which has created the menopause app Stella to improve women’s long-term health; Ivy Farm which is developing cultured meat; Peppy, the employee healthcare benefits platform; and Oddbox, the surplus fruit and vegetable startup. With nearly 200 impact startups founded by women in the UK, together these companies employ an estimated 8,000+ people.

There is some way to go to achieve gender parity. Only 13 of the UK’s 144 tech unicorns - companies with at least $1 billion valuation like Matches Fashion, Interactive Investor and Lastminute.com - have at least one woman founder, which amounts to 9% of the total unicorns created in the UK. To ensure UK tech attracts the best talent and represents the whole of the country, the government has undertaken extensive work to improve diversity across the sector.

Since 2016, the government has supported the Tech Talent Charter, an industry-led group bringing together more than 700 organisations together to improve diversity and inclusion in tech. The Department for Science, Innovation and Technology is also working closely with Colorintech on the development of a toolkit for digital businesses to create a more inclusive workplace.

The government is continuing to invest in opportunities to diversify the digital skills pipeline - including up to £30 million in its successful artificial intelligence and data science conversion course programme, including scholarships awarded to students from underrepresented backgrounds and targeted cyber training programmes - so that more women are encouraged to consider a career in tech.

The Digital Skills Council, launched as part of the Digital Strategy last year, also brings together industry leaders and training experts from Starling, Google, Future Dot Now, Microsoft and others, to drive business-led action and widen the pipeline of talent into digital and tech.

Last year the Government Equality Hub launched an industry-led taskforce to increase the number of women-led high-growth businesses, with a particular focus on regions outside of London. Chaired by Anne Boden, CEO and founder of Starling Bank, the taskforce is supporting women entrepreneurs, influencing high-growth investors, and working with organisations across the UK to help deliver the government’s target of increasing the number of female entrepreneurs by half by 2030.

Debbie Forster, CEO at Tech Talent Charter, said: “Since 2015, we have been leading the charge to ensure women have the means and support to be a part of this dynamic and exciting industry. Over the past eight years, we have brought together over 700 signatory organisations, including companies, charities and government departments, to drive their diversity and inclusion efforts in digital and tech with tools such as our recently launched Diversity in Tech Report. This is necessary if we are to close the skills gap and provide the industry with the talent and creativity it needs to compete on a global scale.”

Yvonne Bajela, partner at LocalGlobe, said: “Women founders are integral to the UK tech ecosystem but we need more of them to create and build companies that can challenge the status quo and make the world better. We’ve backed some incredible female-founded businesses at LocalGlobe from Supercritical which is helping businesses to reach net zero and Cable which is tackling financial crime. Incredible progress has been made so far and it’s important that we continue to champion and support women founders at all stages of their journey.”

Kate Hofman, Founder and Chief Brand Officer at GrowUp Farms, said: “At GrowUp Farms we have been growing restaurant-quality greens for almost a decade. I co-founded the business because I’m passionate about making sustainable food affordable to everyone. We’ve just launched the UK’s first vertically farmed bagged salad brand, a fantastic achievement by our talented and diverse team. The progress made so far in supporting women entrepreneurs and founders is great to see but there is more to do to make it a level playing field. We need more diversity in business leadership if we’re going to make UK food and farming resilient and self-sustaining. We need to better support our women entrepreneurs who are building impact businesses to solve pressing challenges facing society, from the environment to the economy and people.”

Georgia Stewart, co-founder and CEO of Tumelo,a global fintech that's set on changing the landscape of shareholder democracy,said: “Our mission at Tumelo is to empower investors and promote effective stewardship through technology. It’s been a whirlwind building this business, from launching it with my co-founders five years ago to our Series A last year, changing the future of shareholder democracy. It’s important we keep supporting and challenging future women founders to build businesses that change the world.”

Yoram Wijngaarde, founder of Dealroom, said: “Attention has been repeatedly drawn to the dearth of funding for female-founded businesses so it is good to see a significant number of UK companies raising mega rounds and the progress that has been made by female-founded companies across the board. However, there is still a huge gap to be made up since the vast majority of startups and funding continues to go to all-male teams. By focusing on this metric and on upskilling talent across the digital tech sector we should be able to make a difference.”


Nicky Godding is editor of The Business Magazine. Before her journalism career, she worked mainly in public relations moving into writing when she was invited to launch Retail Watch, a publication covering retail and real estate across Europe.

After some years of constant travelling, she tucked away her passport and concentrated on business writing, co-founding a successful regional business magazine. She has interviewed some of the UK’s most successful entrepreneurs who have built multi-million-pound businesses and reported on many science and technology firsts.

She reports on the region’s thriving business economy from start-ups, family businesses and multi-million-pound corporations, to the professionals that support their growth and the institutions that educate the next generation of business leaders.

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