Why investing into teams with female co-founders makes sense for APX
We like numbers. At the beginning of our monthly “Nasty Wo/men” panel at APX, we like to ask the predominantly female audience, “Please clap if you are a founder!” A few shy claps. “And who of you has an idea for a startup — but has not dared to start?” The vast majority of guests starts clapping.
Today everybody wants to be a tech founder. Why is it though that especially women find it hard to leave security and employment behind to build their own company? A recent study by Google for Startups and Bundesverband Deutsche Startups reveals that less than 10% of German startups consist of female-only teams. 70% are run exclusively by men. As Gründerszene concluded, “society has less confidence in women’s economic and management skills. On the one hand, this leads to women not trusting themselves to found a company, and on the other hand, it leads to investors investing less in women.”
That’s bad news for us as a VC, which is why I was excited to take part in the ‘Girls just wanna have fun(ding)’ panel discussion, hosted by Tech Open Air and Google for Startups. We engaged in an energetic conversation with a female-dominated crowd of more than 100 attendees — not only to address the status quo, but to encourage individuals to venture, and exchange advice. Judith Lola Dada from La Famiglia pointed out that it’s important to be persistent and remain critical, also in day to day conversations. She shared valuable insights from her meetings with other investors, and how she repeatedly questions the share of women in VC funds, specifically in partner positions. Hans Raffauf from Clue told the audience about his fundraising experience and roles in pitches as a mixed founding duo. He argued that it’s important to consider the specific skills of the founders in each pitch situation, and align the strategy accordingly. Zoe Adamovicz from Neufund agreed, promoting a pragmatic, straightforward approach in fundraising. It is impressive if founders set sail to disrupt the imbalanced funding ecosystem — but to be successful your main focus has to stay on getting funding for your company.
Why do we care about female founders?
As an investor, APX supports outstanding teams to grow sustainably and create value. So it’s in our interest that we encourage any strong team to get to know us, and engage in our selection process, regardless of gender. Our business model is based on investing in new ideas that will one day result in successful ventures. Data shows that innovation revenue is much higher with more women in management positions. We do what’s best for our business in terms of profitability. If the female potential remains inactive, we miss on business opportunities. We don’t like that.
Status quo at APX
We invested in 25 companies over the last 12 months. And only two of them have teams with female co-founders. That’s less than 10%. We want to change this and we have taken concrete measures.
- Reading dealflow data: while we’re monitoring dozens of data points in our dealflow, we didn’t measure the ratio of female founders in the dealflow last year. As of the beginning of 2019, we started to track. We are now able to see how far female and mixed teams make it in our selection process, and what stages are particularly challenging. We will gain insights about potential obstacles for female teams.
- Building the APX Team: we strongly believe in diverse teams. This is true for our own team, as well. In order to select the best founders from all across Europe and beyond, and to deliver extraordinary value to the teams, we decided to run APX as an international, heterogeneous, and distinct team. Our team brings together outstanding individuals from all sorts of backgrounds and origins. Their combined skills make APX unique. We are confident this will attract more and more diverse founding teams.
- Creating touch points: we host content events that are focussed on diversity. Nasty Wo/men has been one of our most successful event series, discussing how the VC industry can become more accessible for all talented, ambitious individuals. Our last event was about salary negotiations.
We’re confident that we can triple the number of portfolio companies with female co-founders by the end of this year.