Female founders face more difficulties securing funding than male counterparts; investors tend to question women about risk and losses, while men are asked about ambitions and achievements.
But despite often having to fight for funding and equal respect as an entrepreneur, female founders have been hugely successful globally, according to data from Crunchbase, analysed by BusinessFinancing.co.uk.
From online games to solar energy, female founders have innovated and created some of the most extraordinary businesses across the world, beating the odds to lift their businesses off the ground.
Taking up four spaces in the top ten female founders who secured the most funding, Asia has produced some of the most successful founders in the world. Lucy Peng, founder of Ant Financial Services and based in China tops the list, while Tan Hooi Ling of Grab in Singapore, Frances Kang of WeLab in Hong Kong and Sophie Kim of Market Kurly in South Korea also make the top ten.
As the sole founder of Ant Financial Services – Alibaba’s online finance outfit – Lucy Peng raised $22 billion, including a world record $4.5 billion funding round in 2016. Peng has been a part of Alibaba from the beginning, too, as one of the Chinese e-commerce company’s six female founders.
Another successful female founder from Asia is Miku Hirano from Japan, a millennial tech founder and “serial entrepreneur”. As a computer science graduate, Hirano raised $30 million to launch Cinnamon AI, an AI automation company. Japan is credited as being one of the most technologically advanced countries in the world, making it no surprise that a young computer science graduate would go on to launch an AI automation company and become one of the top female founders in the world.
Having launched several tech start-ups in her life, she has shared advice for those wanting to follow suit: “The most difficult thing for entrepreneurs is to find PMF (product-market fit),” says Hirano. “Even if you have a good idea, you cannot sell it if there is no need in the market.”
Coming in as the female founder who secured the fifth most funding in the world, Victoria van Lennep made it to the Forbes 30 under 30 in 2018 after raising over $250 million in lending capital for her UK company, Lendable. The total raised now stands at over $1 billion. Lendable uses machine-learning tech to automate credit decisions, offering customers fairer loan rates.
As the world moves online, people are looking for new ways to communicate and spend time with those they may not be able to see. Luckily, Finland’s Stella Wang raised nearly $7 million to create Minecraft-inspired sandbox game Dazzle Rocks for the online generation, giving them a platform to have fun and communicate with each other.
Despite preconceived notions that Africa is underdeveloped compared to the western world, Africa’s tech start-up scene is alive and well. According to venture capital firm Partech Africa, African tech start-ups raised $2.02 billion in funding in 2019 and raised $1.163 billion the year before.
Audrey Desiderato is the female founder who has raised the most funding in Africa, currently standing at $139 million. Her Kenyan company, SunFunder, funds solar energy companies in sub-Saharan Africa to provide power to areas without reliable electricity access. Having now brought solar energy to over seven million people, SunFunder is leading the way in making sustainability a successful business model.
Over in West Africa, Omolere Omotayo raised nearly $9.5 million to found Foodstock Farmers Market in Nigeria. Farmstock connects farmers with retail and wholesale customers and has become Lagos’ largest B2B market. Having over 10 years’ experience working in the business world, it comes as no surprise that her expertise has led to her recognition as one of the most successful female founders in the world. Omolere says: “I am so proud of moving a simple idea to life in less than four months, and positioning the company to be a disruptive force in the agricultural retail space.”
When thinking of the America’s, you may think of North America and its technological and corporate epicentres like San Francisco or New York. However, female founders from across the continent have launched some of the most successful, socially conscious start-ups in the world.
Crunchbase’s research reveals that American female founders often find success with e-commerce and business software companies. One stand-out example is Kemly Camacho, who founded Sulá Batsú in 2005 as a socially-oriented co-operative, to strengthen Central American networks and social movements. Camacho has raised $350,000 to support development in Haitian communities through digital technology, art and culture, and knowledge-sharing.
When speaking to Bridge, she said: “It’s impossible at this moment to imagine development without tech. I think tech has to be a tool for people to be really informed about the most important topics, the tool for people to know other experiences and practices and improve the way that they live.”
South America’s top female founder Brazilian Cristina Junqueira has raised over $1.1 billion for Nubank, and is just as interested in raising female representation in technology and banking. Nubank is a neo bank and the largest Fintech in Latin America, having also reached Mexico and Argentina.
Cristina Junqueira’s waters broke in the company office during the first months of Nubank’s existence yet continued answering calls on the way to the hospital. Her experience as a woman in tech and a working mother has helped make her a champion for diversity and inclusion.
“Many of the structural choices we’ve made in terms of gender equality and inclusion are reflective of the fact that I have been here from the beginning,” Junqueira says. “Traditional companies are uncomfortable because they are losing talent directly to us as they are less able to attract younger professionals to whom things like diversity and inclusion are very important.”
The Middle East & Central Asia
Another female founder making waves in the socially conscious tech start-up scene is Miri Ratner from Israel. Ratner has raised $188 million for Vayyar, an Israeli company that initially designed their ‘4D imaging’ technology to detect breast cancer. Their cost-effective technology and has led to it being used across the world for various reasons. Vayyar’s sensors are now being touted to make autonomous cars safer, to give vision to robots, and for use in homeland security.
In Jordan, Rama Kayyali and Lamia Tabbaa continue the trend of creating socially-conscious tech start-ups, having together raised $3.1 million for Little Thinking Minds, a start-up that develops digital education resources primarily for Arabic children who do not have the same access to education that the co-founders do. Kayyali acknowledges her economic privilege, stressing that work is a passion and not a necessity. “I started out working as a choice, but I became an entrepreneur in education because I am driven to making a change.”
Little Thinking Minds has brought educational resources, social initiative programs and apps to 200,000 students in the Middle East and North Africa, including 20,000 refugee and low-income and refugee students in Jordan through UNICEF.