New joint initiative for female-led firms raising venture capital

Enterprise Ireland

Empowering women

Eimear Ní Nualláin

The evidence is in, and it’s quite clear – gender-balanced teams and businesses perform better.

That’s a key reason why, under its ‘Women in Business’ strategy, Enterprise Ireland has over the past decade focused on diversity and increasing the number of women-led companies in Ireland.

These efforts are paying off. In 2011, just 7pc of Enterprise Ireland’s high-potential startups were led by women. By 2021, that figure had risen to 29pc. So while we may not be at parity yet, the progress is clear.

Positive momentum is also evident from the Female Founders & Funders 2022 report from Tech Ireland, which states that women-founded tech firms in Ireland raised €230m in 2021. While that’s an increase of 120pc on 2020, it still only represents just 13pc of all funding in this space.

Across Europe more broadly, only 1.8pc of capital raised by tech companies in 2021 went to all-women founding teams, according to European Women in Venture Capital (VC).

As a result, Enterprise Ireland continues to focus on this area to bring about positive, sustainable and long-lasting change in the entrepreneurship ecosystem and to harness the full talent and expertise of a diverse population. This is vital, as we position Ireland as a leading location for entrepreneurs to start and scale businesses, and to be ambitious about the growth they can achieve.

While Enterprise Ireland invests directly into companies, we also invest indirectly through seed and venture capital funds. For example, under its most recent seed and venture capital scheme, Enterprise Ireland sought commercial fund proposals that help progress key EI strategic priorities, including our ‘Women in Business’ strategy.

Indeed, 70pc of the fund managers supported under such schemes have women at the partner/investment manager level.

As a result of programmes such as these, Ireland is already at the vanguard when it comes to nurturing gender diversity in private equity.

According to Level 20, a not-for-profit organisation founded to improve gender diversity in private equity, Ireland is top of the leaderboard regarding women being senior investment professionals. Women make up 28pc of the people at this level in Ireland’s private equity and venture capital industry, compared with 10pc across Europe.

The reasons why women have been under-represented in this space are multifaceted and complex, though the under-representation is particularly pronounced in certain industry sectors – such as deep tech.

Under its ‘Women in Business’ strategy, EI is focused on increasing the participation of women across all sectors.

Recognising that raising equity finance is tough and time-consuming, EI is collaborating with the Irish Venture Capital Association (IVCA) on a pilot programme of events focused on women entrepreneurs.

This programme kicked off in July with a webinar which included panel discussions from experienced women funders and a successful founder, to identify and provide examples of fundraising strategies.

According to the Tech Ireland Female Founders and Funders 2022 report, companies with women founders raise investment amounts that are, on average, 20pc lower than the average amounts raised by all companies.

Therefore, in recent weeks, together with the IVCA, we ran an in-person equity masterclass for women entrepreneurs, to develop a roadmap for those currently raising funds who wish to develop their investment skills and network with other women founders. In addition, the IVCA has provided women VCs as mentors to the entrepreneurs who attended the masterclass.

Women VCs are also participating in EI investor-ready panels, where women entrepreneurs on the programme can present an investment proposition and receive feedback from an independent panel of mentors with experience in fundraising, startups, and business leadership.

Next month, the IVCA hosts a joint networking event aimed at bringing funders and founders together. With this pilot series of events, we are aiming to support innovative women-led companies with high growth potential seeking venture capital finance. A recording of the webinar for women entrepreneurs raising VC funding is available at

Eimear Ní Nualláin is the senior investment adviser in growth capital at Enterprise Ireland

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