Who is really addressing “Glaring Gaps” in the VC world?

Any way you slice the numbers, there is certainly a “glaring gap” in the venture capital community.

On the founder side of the table, women-founded startups received just 2.3% of all VC dollars invested in 2020 (down from a record 2.8% in 2019), according to available Crunchbase data. Less than 20% of 2019’s total global venture deal volume went to startups with at least one woman founder n the executive team.

Start breaking down those numbers by ethnic background and those funding numbers are even smaller. 

It isn’t all the much better on the other side of the investor table. Well over half of all VC firms lack even a single female partner. 

Embarc Collective, the heart of Tampa’s startup scene and Florida’s fastest-growing startup hub, is addressing this gap head on. Its third annual Glaring Gap Summit was hosted last week and brought together upwards of 50 women in the area looking to change the narrative and numbers around women VC investors. 

Their goal is to change the nature of female funders and investors in the state of Florida. Embarc’s research found that women-led startups secured only 12% of all early-stage VC dollars earned in the state over the last decade. 

“We started the Glaring Gap Summit because, simply put, research shows that when more women investors are at the table, more women get funded. Our goal was to create a training to give women the tools to thoroughly evaluate a startup investment opportunity, in order to both grow and diversify the investor base in Florida,” the Embarc team told Hypepotamus. 


Addressing Glaring Gaps 

Hypepotamus had a chance to hear first-hand how the Embarc team is tackling the investing gap during the Glaring Gap Summit. Those in attendance for last week’s summit were first greeted by Tampa’s own Mayor Jane Castor, who kicked off the event by highlighting why Tampa is a natural place to host such an event. 

As the city’s police chief-turned-mayor, Castor said she intentionally hired the best people to fill roles in her administration. That led to women taking over positions as the city attorney, the police chief, the fire chief, as well as 50% of all senior staff positions in the city. 

“Women have to help each other,” she added. 

That help came in the form of networking and program curriculum designed specifically to help up-and-coming investors. The event, supported by local cybersecurity firm ReliaQuest, brought in heavy hitters from the tech and VC scene, including Angela Lee (Professor of VC at Columbia Business School and Founder of 37 Angels), Deborah Ellinger (board director of several public companies), Caitlin Szikszai (Republic’s Senior Investment Associate),  Yasmine Morrison (Venture Capital Director at Florida Funders), and Kristina Barrett (Investor at Cultivation Capital). 

Unlike a typical conference – which is typically underpinned by endless panel discussions – Glaring Gaps focused on taking action steps. Attendees were given tangible deep dives on conducting due diligence, understanding different capital structures, and practical tips on what to look for when making startup investments. 

Those in attendance ranged from college students to mid-level professionals to accredited investors looking to better understand the Florida investment landscape. 

Since starting the summit 3 years ago, Embarc Collective has provided investment training to over 150 women across Florida. That has looked like helping attendees dive in as an LP and land a job in VC/PE as part of a career pivot.  


Closing The Gap

VC’s glaring gap looks like a bit of a paradox to those that dig into the VC startup outcomes. Even with the general lack of funding, female-led executives consistently outperform their male counterparts, according to research from Illuminate Ventures. A recent white paper from the firm suggests that privately held tech companies headed up by women “are more capital-efficient, achieve 35% higher return on investment, and, when venture-backed, bring in 12% higher revenue than male-owned tech companies.” 

Embarc Collective itself works with 20 women-founded startups, though that number is growing. Some of those startups might be familiar to avid Hypepotamus readers, including InsurTech startup Actuology and EventTech platform FayVen.

Across the Southeast, women-run startups have recently been making moves to change the VC narrative. 

Orlando-based fintech Stax, led by CEO and founder Suneera Madhani, reached unicorn status this summer and secured a massive $245 million Series D round. 

Over in New Orleans, Sevetri Wilson recently led her startup Resilia to a $35 million Series B – the largest single VC raise ever by a solo Black female-founded tech company.

Women looking to jump into the VC space can check out the Embarc Collective’s ecosystem or its available online resources. Alongside #BuiltInSE, Embarc launched the first Investor Directory that highlights all those women working across the region. Check it out here to see who else is working to change the narrative in the Southeast.