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2021: The Year of the Female Funded

If you have/had an early school-age child, you may have heard them sing the song “Months of the Year.” (Or you might even remember it from your own school days). It’s simply singing each month of the year with a very catchy tune that will get stuck in your head and drive you crazy. And if you’re so inclined to listen here, go at it; however, I am sure you know all of the lyrics already. :)

While the song has been stuck in my own head, it led me to reflect on 2021 literally month by month. I’ve felt I’ve lost all sense of time and am often asking myself whether something happened in 2019 or 2020 or 2021? As life marches on in these difficult times and we’re faced with negative news daily, it’s easy to forget some of the better highlights of the year.

So in the spirit of “The Months of the Year” song, here is our 2021 month-by-month rundown of the female funding landscape.

January

W Fund and Playbook Capital launched their first Cohort of their Accelerator for early-stage Black and Latinx women tech founders.

We continued to hear about how moms are super stressed out. And unfortunately — it’s deja vu once again for January 2022.

Random fun fact, 2021 kicked off with Jamie Dimon saying that incumbent banks should be scared shitless by fintechs. (I will come back to that.)

February

Avid Ventures raised $68 million for their female-run fund targeting fintech and consumer startups, with a significant focus being on female founders.

There’s a reason I mentioned the Jamie Dimon comment above. In February, HBR and Crunchase recognized that there was also something to be scared sh*tless about, in 2020, that fell to 2.3% went to women-led startups, falling from 2.8% in 2020.

Female-backed SPAC Powered Brands listed, aiming to create a new beauty conglomerate.

March

Anthemis investor Elizabeth Davis wrote The Gender Wealth Gap: Why We Need More Women to Invest including some stark statistics:

-Women own just 32 cents for every dollar a man owns, and Black and Latinx women own just pennies.

-Not only do women receive less than 3% of venture dollars, but less than 13% of all investors at venture capital firms are women.” (Women in VC report highlighted only 5% of VC partners are women.)

-Over the past 200+ years, thousands of companies have gone public on the New York Stock Exchange (or NASDAQ), yet only 20 of those that are currently public were founded and led by women.

And speaking of IPOs that takes us to…

April

Honest Company, led by Jessica Alba, filed for IPO. 2021 marked a historic year for women-led IPOs, including Bumble, Figs, Rent the Runway, Vimeo, and Rhianna’s Savage x Fenty.

Canva founder Melanie Perkins became a billionaire.

May

Lightspeed Venture Partners, Sequoia Capital, and BLCK VC teamed up to launch their scout network for underrepresented investors.

June

WXR Fund closed the first and only venture fund exclusively focused on women pioneering the next wave of computing: extended reality (XR) and artificial intelligence (AI) spaces. Participation was made up of over 50% women.

Women’s social network Peanut launched microfund StartHER to invest in pre-seed stage startups.

July

Female Founders Fund shattered records, closing $57 million funding round. With more than $95 million under management, Female Founders Fund became the largest seed capital fund geared specifically toward female entrepreneurs.

August

Swiftarc Ventures launched a beauty fund aimed at women-led startups; Swiftarc itself put forth its own commitment for a 50% diverse employee base by 2022.

September

The Female Innovators Lab fund by Anthemis and Barclays announced its expansion beyond the US into the UK, Europe, and Canada, increasing its fund size from $15 million to $30 million, the largest fund and studio dedicated solely to female founders in fintech.

And we mentioned Melanie Perkins back in April, but it was official that Canva became the world’s most valuable female-led startup.

*And now this is the part when Q4 goes insane…*

October

Female Founders Alliance raised a $10 million fund, renamed Graham & Walker. Graham & Walker reported that two-thirds funds raised were from women, a third from people of color, and almost half of the investors were first-time fund investors.

Revaia closed a €250m growth fund making it the largest women-led fund in Europe.

Oraan raised $3M to increase financial inclusion among Pakistani women. Founders Halima Iqbal and Farwah Tapal became the first women entrepreneurs in Pakistan’s fintech space to raise a seed round.

A Pitchbook/NVCA report revealed the 2021 female funding stats thus far, reporting that Female-Founded U.S. Venture Firms were on track to raise over $7B In 2021.

Blackstone bought a majority stake in Spanx, and as I’m sure your Instagram stories informed you — this was immediately followed by Sara Blakesly giving all employees $10,000 and two first-class plane tickets. The transaction was led by an all-female Blackstone investment team.

November

Anthemis Digital Acquisitions, Women-Led and ESG-Focused SPAC closed on a $230 SPAC to transform the financial services industry. Making it what I believe is the most gender, racially, geographically and experientially diverse team of professionals that the SPAC industry has seen to date, which is an absolute differentiator in the market.

Auxxo, Germany’s first VC fund for female founders, launched. Based in Berlin, Auxxo’s s investor base included 60% women, including some female founders (now funders!) An example of the exact virtuous cycles we’ve been hoping for.

December

And December wrapped up 2021 wrapped up with a flurry of activity.

London-based Pink Salt Ventures announced its fund dedicated to female entrepreneurs.

Philly business leader Judith “Judee” von Seldeneck, in partnership with Ben Franklin Technology Partners (Pennyslvania’s state-backed investment firm), announced a $2m seed fund for female entrepreneurs.

Sequoia Capital kicked off a fellowship program for female founders in the Middle East, South East Asia and India.

Array Ventures led by Shruti Gandhi raised $56M to back “technical back-bone enterprise tech.” Gandhi couldn’t have said it any better, sharing, “When a woman is starting a company, people assume that they’re going to be starting a consumer company — it’s the bias we have in the market. And the same holds true toward me, running an enterprise fund.”

Women-focused PE fund Alitheia IDF raised $100 million to invest in gender-diverse businesses across Africa.

Bloomberg put women’s newest hedge funds on our radar.

Women-Led Anthemis Raises $700 Million of fresh funds for embedded finance startups.

New York Times closed out 2021 with a bold statement: Funding for startups founded by women is surging.

There you have it. And as the song goes — “And these are the months of the year.” 🎵🎶

I continue to be fascinated and inspired by all things female funded, founded and fintech-ed.

The above is by no means an exhaustive list; please feel free to contribute by adding additional 2021 female funding news in the thread here. Here’s to 2022!

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Katie Palencsar

Renaissance woman. Founder. Investor. Early Stage Builder @anthemis