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Embarc’s Glaring Gap report details gender differences among Florida tech startups

Margie Manning

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Photo by Christina @ wocintechchat.com on Unsplash

It’s hard not to be discouraged by the data in a new report on tech entrepreneurship for women in Florida, said Lakshmi Shenoy, CEO of Embarc Collective.

Lakshmi Shenoy, CEO, Embarc Collective

The Glaring Gap Report found that startups founded by women received just 12 percent of early stage venture capital funding over the past decade, and only 15 percent of venture capital firms in Florida have a woman on their team.

The Covid-19 pandemic has made the situation more pressing. Although overall venture capital funding has held steady since the pandemic began, it has dropped to three-year low for women founders, the report said. But there’s also been a flip side to the pandemic for startups in general, with Florida being viewed in a more positive light as a tech startup destination.

While national trends are similar, Embarc Collective wanted to measure the extent of the issue, specifically in Florida, and was able to do so with the help of a grant from JPMorgan Chase, Shenoy wrote in a blog post. Embarc researched the issue for a year, reviewing data from Crunchbase for Florida companies that were founded between 2010 and 2019.

Here are some key findings.

Women founders. Startups with a woman on the founding team account for a larger percentage of all Florida startups than they did a decade ago — from 12 percent in 2010 to 23 percent in 2019.

At the same time, the number of startups overall is shrinking. In 2010, 26 out of 209 new startups in Florida had a woman founder, compared to 25 out of 108 in 2019.

Credit: Embarc Collective

Capital raises. There were 18 early-stage funding rounds for Florida startups in 2010. None of those companies had a woman on the founding team. That’s changed over the past decade. In 2019, 19 percent of the Florida startups that received early-stage funding were women-led companies.

Credit: Embarc Collective

Show me the money. While women-led companies are involved in more deals now than in 2010, funding amounts still remain low. In 2019, less than $8 out of every $100 invested in a Florida startup went to a startup led by a woman.  

Credit: Embarc Collective

In the Tampa-St. Petersburg area, women-led companies were involved in 22 percent  of the funding rounds but only 4.4 percent of the total capital raised in those rounds went to women-led companies.

Investors. Nationally, 65 percent of venture firms don’t have any women partners and only 13 percent have a woman decision-maker, or someone who writes a check.

Of the 271 investment firms based in Florida and listed on Crunchbase with at least one investment, only 40 firms, or 15 percent, had at least one woman on the team and just 23 of those companies, or 8 percent had a woman in a leadership role.

Women also made up a small minority among the individual investors in Florida-based startups over the past decade.

Credit: Embarc Collective

Women investors tended to invest equally in men- and women-founded companies, while men investors invested in five times more men-founded companies than women-founded companies, the report said.

Funding is only the second-biggest challenge women entrepreneurs said they face. Marketing and storytelling was listed as the largest challenge by 57 percent of women founders.

The report helps shape potential solutions to the gap, Shenoy said, outlining a three-point plan.

• Increase support for women-led startups. For example, Tampa Bay Wave is currently offering an accelerator, TechWomen Rising, with 13 women-led startups, with a pitch night scheduled for Thursday evening.

• Increase the number of women investors in startups. The IN-AWE event last week, co-sponsored by Embarc, included advice from several women funders on how to get involved in startup investing. In addition, Embarc is hosting a Glaring Gap summit next month that will be an intensive three-day training event to learn how to evaluate startup opportunities.

• Create commitment. Embarc is asking people to sign a pledge to eliminate the glaring gap to hold the community accountable.

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