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Investing in Female-Led Teams in Male-Dominated Industries

The venture capital industry originated in Silicon Valley and remains heavily influenced by a male-dominated tech culture. Since the tech sector has traditionally been predominantly male, the majority of investors and entrepreneurs are men. As a result, women are significantly underrepresented among both venture-backed entrepreneurs and VC investors. At Big Sky Capital, our mission is to identify early and support promising startup founders from emerging markets and help them grow globally. One of the areas of our particular focus is impact investing in female-led teams in male-dominated B2B industries. This research publication aims to provide insights into the current landscape and highlight emerging trend. By leveraging data and expert analysis, we aim to underscore the potential and impact of female leadership in transforming industries traditionally dominated by men.

Women founders of U.S. companies achieved a record-high percentage of venture capital funding in 2023, even amid an overall decline in VC activity, according to a report by Pitchbook Data and Deloitte. Female founders and co-founders secured nearly 22.8% of all VC funding last year, an increase from 18.7% in 2022. In terms of deal count, women founders maintained a similar share to the previous year, securing just over 26% of VC deals. In absolute terms, the amount of capital raised by women founders declined along with the overall U.S. market. Women-founded companies raised $34.4 billion, a fall from $44.2 billion raised in 2022 and $61.5 billion raised in 2023. Companies with exclusively female founders have not performed as well as those with mixed-gender founding teams. In 2023, all-female-founded companies raised $3.2 billion from venture capitalists, representing a single-digit percentage of all U.S. VC activity. In contrast, all-male-founded companies secured $114 billion in 2023. 

Startups in Southeast Asia with at least one female founder raised $1.41 billion in equity funding in 2023, accounting for 18.3% of the total private capital secured that year, according to Deal Street Asia latest report. This represents an increase from the 12.6% share of funding that female-founded startups received in 2022. The top 50 startups from our local market, Kazakhstan, count 7 or 14% of female-founded companies. 

We want to highlight two companies from the Big Sky Capital portfolio founded by female entrepreneurs in very male-dominated sectors like Cyber Security and Agriculture. 

KeyCaliber, led by Roselle Safran, is a cutting-edge cybersecurity startup specializing in Continuous Threat Exposure Management. Operating in one of the most male-dominated industries, KeyCaliber leverages AI/ML to provide business context to cybersecurity programs, enhancing cyber resilience and resource optimization. Roselle’s extensive experience includes leading cybersecurity operations at the Executive Office of the President during the Obama Administration, co-founding Uplevel (acquired by McAfee), and managing forensics and malware analysis at the Department of Homeland Security.

Boom Grow, co-founded by Jay Desan, is an innovative agriculture technology startup revolutionizing food production and consumption through proprietary controlled environment vertical farming technology. Jay brings over 20 years of consulting experience in ESG, digital transformation, and innovation pathways, ensuring Boom Grow consistently delivers clean produce with data-driven, high-quality yields.

 

At Big Sky Capital, we are always seeking out and supporting exceptional women in tech, dedicated to backing their ventures and driving forward industry innovation. The IFC estimates that only 7% of total private equity and venture funding in emerging markets is focused on women-led businesses. Meanwhile, according to Pitchbook, women founded businesses generally exit faster for double the return. Female-led companies in developing and emerging economies are systematically overlooked, under-valued and under-financed, across all asset classes. Our pipeline of startups at Big Sky Capital consists of many great women entrepreneurs from Central Asia, Southeast Asia and United States, so if you are building a startup feel free to contact us. We hope female founders that we backed and will back in future become the next Coursera and Canva (both were founded by women).

“I wake up every morning and think to myself, ‘How far can I push the company forward in the next 24 hours?’” —Leah Busque, founder and CEO of TaskRabbit

Investing in female-led teams within male-dominated industries presents a compelling opportunity. By addressing funding disparities, leveraging the unique strengths of female leadership, and strategically targeting high-potential sectors, we can not only achieve substantial financial returns but also contribute to greater gender equity in entrepreneurship. Our commitment to supporting the female startup scene aligns with our broader goal of fostering innovation and scaling underrepresented founders. 

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