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Recapping 2021 — The year of doubling down on female founders

Bridging the gender funding gap

One key theme for us in 2021 has been improving the gender composition of our portfolio’s founding teams. It’s not news anymore that venture backed capital has been terribly distributed among male and female founders. Sifted published an article to uncover the ugly truth of how half of the top VCs don’t even reach 15% when it comes to female-founder representation. . Later on in the year Atomico published their State of European Tech report which revealed that in 2021 only 5.4% of the investments were made in female-founded teams while teams all-male founders landed on 82.7% of all investments in Europe.

Getting to the root of the gender imbalance has taken a lot of self assessment, improving the gender ratio of our deal team, hundreds of hours of deal sourcing and countless discussions and learnings from female founders. In order to hold ourselves accountable for future discussion, we want to share some of last year’s progress.

We’re happy to say that we almost doubled the number of female founders in our portfolio during 2021 going from 17 at the end of 2020 to 32* at the end of 2021. Moreover, during 2021, the number of teams in our portfolio with at least one female founder grew from 12 to 25 bringing the proportion of female-founded companies from 25.5% to 31.6%.

*25 investments + 7 term-sheets signed before the end of 2021.

# of female founders and # of teams with at least 1 female founder 2020 vs 2021.

When looking at our new investments in 2021, 40.6% have at least one female founder in the founding team. In terms of invested capital, 47.5% of the new capital went to teams with at least one female founder in the founding team.

Portfolio founding team gender composition data on initial investments made in 2021. # of Initial investments Includes 25 closed investments and 7 term sheets, % of capital allocated includes only closed investments.
Portfolio founding team gender composition data on 2021 initial investments broken down by our focus regions; Finland, Sweden and Estonia.

The progress we’ve made in 2021 proves that by actively discussing, taking action and challenging ourselves to do better we can achieve great results. With the results from 2021, the founding team gender ratio across our entire portfolio is 68.4% all-male, 5.1% all-female and 26.6% mixed teams today. We are extremely thankful for the trust from so many amazing female founders in our portfolio and are looking forward to investing in many more over the course of 2022.

Our 2021 recap

Overall 2021 was an action-packed year for us. We closed not one but two fresh funds; Icebreaker Fund II and Opportunity Fund, our team was strengthened with four amazing talents, we welcomed 30+ new phenomenal teams into our portfolio family and our existing portfolio companies have raised a whopping $90M+ in follow-on funding. We also celebrated our 5th birthday just before christmas! 🎂

New Investments

Despite tens of thousands of startups founded in Europe every year, we still see a huge gap in (very) early-stage funding for European startups. Icebreaker exists to rectify the structural issues and we invest €150–800k from as early as the idea stage in Finland, Estonia and Sweden. We want to support founders with strong domain expertise and ambition to build categorically-better products from day one.

Our investment pace has accelerated rapidly over the course of 2021. As a result, these phenomenal early-stage teams have joined the Icebreaker portfolio this year:

  • Accurator — A purchasing tool that aims to digitise the construction industry
  • eBrands — An ecommerce group company that acquires, operates and scales small and medium-sized brands on Amazon.
  • Coupleness — Relationship and wellness app on a mission to make it easy and fun to invest in your relationship
  • Spaceit — A space tech company offering Mission Control as a Service, a single platform for satellite operations and ground station services
  • Eperoto — A powerful yet easy to use software tool to produce risk-value assessments of legal disputes
  • Helppy — A personalized elderly care platform supported by technology.
  • + Over 20 unannounced teams that we can’t wait to introduce to the world!

Portfolio Highlights

Our #1 priority is Portfolio Development; how we can support our portfolio teams from day 0. This year the focus has strongly been on narratives and hiring pipeline. We’ve been supporting our portfolio founders on attracting the top talent as well as building their narratives — bringing their inspiring stories to life. It’s been fantastic and very humbling to see those narratives building into success stories and the teams growing from three to ten to fifty members strong.

During 2021 our portfolio teams raised over a whopping $90M in follow-on funding! The hard-working teams contributed in tackling big global issues such as climate change, Covid-19 pandemic, toxicity in online communities and elder care. Here are some of the 2021 portfolio highlights:

Icebreaker team growth

Our rapid growth wouldn’t be possible without our team. In 2021 we welcomed four new team members into our team.

Lukas Malmberg
Lukas joined Icebreaker in March as Investment Analyst and has since been promoted to Senior Analyst. Before joining Icebreaker, Lukas has worked as a private equity analyst in Boston, as a consultant for a VC in the bay area, and at a startup accelerator in Germany. He also hosts Futurama, a podcast focused on disruptive technologies and emerging industries.

When not hunting the next category-defining companies for Icebreaker’s portfolio, Lukas is busy trying to find padel tennis times.

Ying-Ying Huang
Ying-Ying joined Icebreaker in June as a Senior Associate. Before Icebreaker, Ying-Ying worked with the venture investment arm of Telia Company, the largest telecom operator in Northern Europe, and at NFT Ventures, a Stockholm-based fintech fund. Ying-Ying was born and raised in Taiwan and moved to Sweden in 2015 to pursue her Master degree. She speaks English, Mandarin Chinese and enough Swedish to survive a crayfish party.

When not chasing the future unicorns, Ying Ying enjoys exploring Swedish forests and discovering the best kanelbulle in Stockholm.

Caroline Gattner
Caroline joined Icebreaker in August as an Investment Analyst and like Lukas, she has since been promoted to Senior Analyst. Before joining Icebreaker, Caroline worked at Stocard, a German Fintech startup which was recently acquired by the Swedish unicorn Klarna.

Caroline was born and raised in Germany and has also lived in Milan and Lisbon. She came to Finland in January 2021 as a part of her Master’s studies and despite the welcoming -20 degrees, fell in love with the country. She speaks German and English but isn’t afraid of taking on the challenge of learning some Finnish as well. Outside of work Caroline enjoys running on the Helsinki waterfront as well as making music on her piano or guitar.

Jesse Tinell
Jesse joined Icebreaker in October as a Head of Software. Before joining Icebreaker he worked as Full-stack Software Engineer at Sweden’s most recent unicorn, Epidemic Sound. He was also a co-founder and CTO of Swiftr, a Sweden-based digital training platform that offers training services in well-chosen gym and exercise facilities.

Outside of work Jesse enjoys building prototypes and validating business ideas, flying drones, listening to books and podcasts and cooking epic halloumi burgers.

New Office

Our third office was opened in the Old Town of Tallinn, Estonia. We are excited to now have offices in Helsinki, Stockholm and Tallinn. Some of our team members already had the chance to visit the office this year but we’re looking forward to throwing a proper Tallinn housewarming party as soon as the situation allows!

Growth Hacking Internship Program

We have been running our Growth Hacking Internship program since 2019 and have trained nearly 90 interns in total. Here are some key numbers of the program from this year.

  • 350 applications received
  • 23 Growth Hackers trained — yes, we scaled back a bit but quality over quantity!
  • Over 80% of the graduated hackers were employed immediately after the internship
Gender ratio and background of interns graduated in 2021.

2022 — even out the gender funding gap and invest in at least 10 diverse teams

We have just started. In 2022, we will keep up the investment pace and invest in at least 20 new companies from idea to pre-seed stages in Finland, Estonia and Sweden. We also commit to even out the gender funding gap and invest in at least 10 teams (50%) with female founders. We want to be more transparent in terms of our portfolio’s gender diversity and will report it on a regular basis to keep ourselves accountable. In terms of diversity we are also looking to meet more international teams and founders with different cultural backgrounds and nationalities. If that sounds like your company, please reach out to our deal team — Rasmus, Ying-Ying, Tunde, Lukas and Caroline are waiting to hear from you!

Like everyone else, we are eagerly waiting for the pandemic to end so that we can properly kick off the Icebreaker community events again. So you better leave some space in your calendar!

Finally, as we plan to go full steam ahead in 2022, we are looking to strengthen our team with new talents. Keep your eyes open for our open positions!

P.P.S For all next category-defining tech startups out there, reach out to our dealteam (Rasmus, Ying-Ying, Tunde, Lukas & Caroline) or send us your funding application online!

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An early-stage VC focused on idea-stage and pre-seed teams in Finland, Sweden and Estonia. This is where we share our latest news, portfolio insights and tips and trick on fueling your startup’s growth. Find out more on icebreaker.vc.

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