The Puget Sound region’s fast-growing technology industry is full of companies hungry for funding, but much of those investments will not go to women entrepreneurs.
All-women teams received just $22.1 million of the $1.79 billion of venture capital dollars invested in Washington state last year, according to data from PitchBook Inc. That’s 1.2 percent of the venture capital dollars invested in the state.
Nationally, all-women founded companies received $1.9 billion of the $82.4 billion invested in the U.S. in 2017, or about 2 percent of the investments, according to PitchBook.
Without early-stage backing, women-led companies are less likely to get off the ground and their founders unable to make big returns on their investments, returns that they would be able to invest in the next generation of entrepreneurs.
Consider the 10 largest deals landed by women and the 10 largest raised by men in Washington state. The largest round invested in an all-woman startup in Washington state was $43.7 million to Ador, while the largest to a male-founded company was $900 million to ClearWire.
The tenth-largest deal for male-founded companies came in at $105 million, more than double the largest round by an all-women founded company, according to PitchBook.
Companies with at least one female founder have closed larger rounds in Washington state. Juno Therapeutics, whose founders include Isabelle Riviere, tops the list of largest funding rounds with $176 million closed in April 2014. Other companies with women among the founders have closed large funding rounds every year since 2012.
Riveter announced the most recent deal Monday, a $4.75 million round led by Madrona Venture Group. The startup provides a membership-driven co-working space to women professionals.
“We live in a world where women are starting businesses at a rate five times that of men and yet women receive only $1 in $23 of small business loans,” Riveter CEO Amy Nelson said.
Colette Courtion is the CEO and founder of Joylux, the first all-woman founded company to close a VC funding round in Washington state since Nohla Therapeutics’ $43.5 million round closed in November 2016.
Joylux’s $5 million Series A deal closed in January as the largest all-woman deal so far this year. Seavest Investment Group led the round.
Joylux develops and markets home-use intravaginal products for pelvic floor health. Raising capital for a women’s intimate health product had its challenges, but once they found the right investors, the raise came together quickly, Courtion said.
“As you can imagine most investors are male, so it’s hard for them to relate to the issues women face,” she said. “The first reaction I usually get is, ‘Huh? Women have this issue?’ … Saying the word vagina makes men uncomfortable.”
Courtion said the company seeks to align itself with investors who share the passion for their mission — women’s health and quality of life. She said she felt at a disadvantage for securing funding, although she said statistics show otherwise.
“The key is don’t give up,” she said. “You’re going to get a lot of rejection. Don’t take it personally. Just keep persisting. … I had my share of rejection, but you just keep marching forward.”