Wherever you look the statistics are striking. The latest UK VC and female founders report from the British Business Bank published in February this year showed that 75 percent of pitches submitted to VC funds in the UK come from all-male founding teams and just four percent come from all-female founding teams. On top of that, for every £1 of VC investment, all-female founder teams get less than one pence.
The report, which was supported by Diversity VC and The British Private Equity and Venture Capital Association, also showed that only 36 percent of female founders have access to 'warm introductions', which are more likely to result in funding, against 42 percent of all-male teams.
Then there is venture capital firm Atomico's State of European Tech 2018 report, which showed that investors had committed 93 percent of all startup funding to teams founded entirely by men, with all-women founding teams attracting just two percent of total investment.
So, while the technology industry may still lack anything approaching true gender diversity, that in itself is not an excuse, with a clear inequality of opportunity and access to funding for female founders.
On the other side of the table, Diversity VC found that just 27 percent of the total UK venture capital labour force was women back in 2017, and when you took just the titles that actually invest capital (from analyst to partner) that dropped to 18 percent.
What all of this shows is that venture capital has been a boys club for many years now, and the engine that has powered the stratospheric growth of technology companies has been powered by mostly white men in control of vast funds, who tended to back people that look and sound just like them.
Change is coming though. In the US the venture capital industry grappled with its own #MeToo moment last year, and the subsequent #MovingForward campaign has rapidly raised awareness of the industry's lack of diversity and inherent biases. Since expanding to Europe this year, 30 VC firms have pledged to post their policies regarding harassment, with more to come.
Here in the UK we now have a wealth of data on the diversity and inclusion gap in venture capital, and we have seen a steady stream of hugely talented female investors get hired or promoted at firms across the capital recently. Other women have gone on to set up their own funds and fundamentally rethink how they find the best companies to invest in, something that would have been all but unprecedented just a few years ago.
Techworld decided to seek out these women, with the aim of profiling a dozen people who are changing the face of venture capital here in the UK.
We start today with Ophelia Brown, who founded Blossom Capital last year to invest in large Series A rounds across Europe. Next week we will publish our interview with Suki Fuller, the CEO and cofounder of ethical investment fund Salaam Ventures, followed by two of the cofounders of Diversity VC, with more interviews to come.
This list will eventually comprise a dozen female leaders working in VC today, but it is just a snapshot of what is long overdue change for the industry.
We had very few formal criteria for this list, instead focusing on who female VCs said they most admired in the industry. We only spoke to women at the investor level, but we are keen to expand this list, and our coverage of the sector, as the year goes on, so please get in touch if you would like to put someone forward: [email protected]
Lastly I want to say a special thank you to Ben Goldsmith, of Goldsmith Communications, for facilitating a large number of these interviews, and to all the women that spoke to us for this series.
Meet the changing face of UK VC:
- Ophelia Brown, founder at Blossom Capital
- Suki Fuller, cofounder of Salaam Ventures
- Check Warner, cofounder of Diversity VC
- Lillian Li, cofounder of Diversity VC and investor at Eight Road Ventures
- Megumi Ikeda, managing director of Hearst Ventures
- Anya Navidski, founding partner of Voulez Capital
- Maren Bannon, cofounder and partner at Jane VC
- Laura Connell - Principal at Balderton Capital
- Esther Delignat-Lavaud Rodriguez, investor at Oxford Capital
- Suzanne Ashman-Blair, partner at LocalGlobe
- Siobhan Clarke, partner at Episode 1 ventures
- Cassandra Harris, advisor at The Billion Dollar Fund for Women