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Why Diverse VC Funding is Crucial for Supporting Women and LGBTQIA+ Owned Businesses



In venture capital, an undeniable disparity persists, a stark contrast between potential and investment; innovation beats fervently within women-owned and LGBTQ+-owned businesses, yet the funding stream trickles at a disproportionate rate, hindering their full potential.


Venture capital, the lifeblood of early-stage businesses, has shown a concerning trend. The National Venture Capital Association’s data for 2022 reveals an alarming reality: a mere 2.3% of VC-backed companies were founded by all-women teams, with a meagre 2.1% of VC dollars flowing towards these ventures. This disparity further deepens at the seed stage, where only 0.9% of investments nourish women-led companies.


This isn't very reassuring in that privately held technology companies led by women are more capital-efficient, achieve 35% higher ROI, and, when venture-backed, 12% higher revenue than startups run by men (Kauffman Foundation research)


Similarly, LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs find themselves knocking on closed doors, receiving less than 1% of VC funding. Astonishingly, this figure remains stagnant, an unwavering testament to the funding gap that stifles their potential.


The lack of funding for LGBTQ+-owned businesses is particularly concerning, given their impressive track record of success. Studies have shown that these businesses are more likely to outperform non-LGBTQ+ counterparts. For instance, a 2020 report by the Kauffman Foundation revealed that LGBTQ+-owned businesses achieve a higher median revenue growth rate than all other businesses.


Several factors contribute to the funding gap for women-owned and LGBTQ+-owned businesses. These include:


  • Network Bias: VCs often rely on personal networks to identify and invest in promising startups. This can inadvertently lead to a bias towards businesses that are already well-connected, which often excludes women and LGBTQ+ founders due to underrepresentation in these networks.


  • Stereotypes and Misperceptions: Some VCs may hold stereotypes about women and LGBTQ+ entrepreneurs, perceiving them as less competent or less likely to succeed. These unconscious biases can hinder their investment decisions.


  • Lack of Mentorship and Access: Women-owned and LGBTQ+-owned businesses often lack access to mentorship, professional networks, and industry knowledge, which are crucial for securing VC funding. This lack of support can perpetuate the funding gap.


The Untold Value of Diverse Ventures

Diversity in leadership isn’t just a social aspiration; it’s a strategic imperative. Early-stage businesses flourish on innovation, and diversity ignites the spark of ingenuity. Varied perspectives birth unique solutions, widen market reach, and resonate with an ever-evolving consumer landscape.


Moreover, these businesses represent a treasure trove of market potential. Consumer trends increasingly favour brands that champion diversity and social responsibility. Early-stage investment in these ventures positions investors at the cusp of burgeoning markets and evolving consumer preferences.


The existing funding gap presents an unparalleled opportunity for early-stage investors. Overlooked by many, these businesses hold the promise of substantial growth. Research substantiates this claim, showcasing higher returns on investment and revenue from women-led and LGBTQ+ ventures.


Investing at this nascent stage isn’t merely a financial venture; it’s a commitment to societal change. By bridging the funding gap, investors foster a culture of inclusivity, setting a precedent for future generations of entrepreneurs from diverse backgrounds.


Shining Beacons of Success

Stories of triumph often lie within the realms of early-stage investment in diverse businesses. Their achievements reverberate across industries, showcasing the power of support received at the embryonic stages. They are business successes and beacons of empowerment, inspiring a generation and dismantling barriers.


Organisations like Backstage Capital and Out & Proud Capital are working to connect women-owned and LGBTQ+-owned businesses with VCs, providing mentorship and resources to enhance their chances of securing funding.


Embracing the Imperative

In a landscape marred by disparity, concerted efforts are underway. Specialised VC funds champion the cause, intentionally targeting underrepresented groups. Funds like Chasing Rainbows are focused on specifically early-stage investing in LGBTQ-owned businesses. Supportive organisations serve as conduits, bridging the gap between diverse businesses and investors and offering mentorship and resources.


Education remains pivotal. Efforts to enlighten VCs about the benefits of diverse startups, promoting inclusive practices, and challenging unconscious biases are paving the way for a more equitable investment landscape.


The time has come to unveil the hidden potential to embrace the imperative of early-stage investment in women-owned and LGBTQ+-owned businesses. Beyond financial returns lie societal change, innovation, and empowerment.


As investors, advocates, and changemakers, it’s our responsibility to nourish these budding ventures, water the seeds of diversity, and forge a future where the investment landscape thrives on inclusivity, innovation, and shared success.

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With over 25 years of dedicated leadership in the corporate, feminist, and LGBTQ+ realms, with a profound commitment to LGBTQ+ and women’s rights, I’m thrilled to be recognised by the British Diversity Awards. I stand ready to support, consult, educate, and advise on your next diversity challenge. Your journey towards inclusivity begins with a conversation. Reach out to me at cynthiafortlage@cynthiafortlage.com with any inquiries.

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