Anthemis Insights
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Anthemis Insights

The Female Innovators Lab Goes Global: Why We’re Expanding

Yesterday Anthemis announced that we’re expanding our Female Innovators Lab (FIL), in partnership with Barclays, to support female fintech founders around the globe. Our $30 million fund is now open to founders in the U.K., Europe, and Canada in addition to the U.S. FIL is the first and what we believe to be the largest fund dedicated to investing in female founders in the fintech space. With our expansion, we’re doubling down on both the potential of women in fintech worldwide, and the significant need for more capital at the earliest stages of company development.

Female founders have trailed their male counterparts in raising money across sectors. And the gap is particularly stark in fintech. Firms with only female founders accounted for 3.8% of fintechs that attracted capital over the past year in the U.S. But they drew proportionately less funding — less than 1% of the total money raised by fintechs during the same period. In Europe, Pitchbook reports that companies founded solely by women in 2020 garnered just 2.1% of the total capital invested in startups. The need for capital is especially significant within early-stage startups. Over the past five years, median deal sizes for female-founded fintechs at seed, Series A, and Series B stages were smaller than those for fintechs with male or mixed-gender founders. (For more data on female founders in fintech, follow me on Twitter)

Looking back to when we launched FIL at the end of 2019, I was deeply excited, but also nervous. I had a nagging voice in the back of my head that questioned whether we’d be able to find enough early-stage female founders in fintech to support. I’m happy to report that my worries proved incorrect. In less than two years, we’ve met with hundreds of early-stage female-founded fintech companies. We’ve invested in multiple startups specializing in sub sectors from payments to infrastructure to financial solutions for underrepresented communities. FIL investments have empowered founders to grow their organizations; the startups we’ve invested in have hired more than 50 people collectively. Our early investments have already gone on to raise Seed and Series A rounds. FIL founders have varied backgrounds and experiences. They are operators, engineers, and more, coming from traditional and non-traditional financial service professions, and serving in roles from CEO, COO, to CTO. What’s more, they represent a growing component of Anthemis’ entire portfolio. Among the 130 companies Anthemis has invested in, more than 20% are female-founded.

Our experience reveals the impact of deploying capital to underserved groups. But this work is far from done. At Anthemis, we believe in empowering female founders through virtuous cycle outcomes. Funding is certainly a foundational piece. But the real impact stems from the continuous efforts to build an ecosystem that addresses the capital gap with a global lens and from multiple constituents’ points of access, knowledge, and resources. To that end, our work and commitment to FIL include connecting with founders as well as financial institutions, investors, fund managers, and even students.

The expansion allows the fund to continue to support founders with capital, customized support, and dedicated resources on a global scale. As renowned economist and writer Thomas Friedman presciently noted 16 years ago, “the playing field is being leveled…the world is becoming flat.” The pandemic has validated this more than ever. Elevating the ideas and potential of female fintech founders shouldn’t be limited by geography or even language barriers. Digital technologies mean that we’re more connected than ever before, and that our challenges — and our opportunities — are shared. Now with the FIL expansion, Anthemis’ financial resources, expertise, and network can be too.

Of course, all of this work is made possible by our phenomenal FIL team. Elizabeth Davis, based in New York, joined the FIL team in 2020 and Swarnali Mitra, based in London has recently joined us as we expand our efforts globally. We’re grateful to have such dedicated team members who work tirelessly in bringing the unique Anthemis studio model to female fintech founders. Our partnership with Barclays with the Female Innovators Lab enables us to increase the reach and impact of our efforts that much more. Throughout our work, we remain committed to finding new ways to provide support, especially for founders who are often overlooked or underserved.

We hope that the growth of the FIL helps close the gender capital gap in fintech, while supporting and empowering the female founders that will define the next generation of financial service. If you are a female founder building a company that would benefit from the capital and resources through the Female Innovators Lab, please submit your company details on the Female Innovators Lab website.

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Katie Palencsar

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