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On the Rise: 2019 Set a Record for New Female-Led Unicorns

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The Briefing

  • In 2019, just 9% of total VC investment dollars went to startups with at least one female founder
  • While there’s still a long way to go to narrow the gender gap in VC funding, progress is being made—last year, 21 female-led businesses achieved unicorn status, compared to just 4 in 2013

On the Rise: 2019 Set a Record for New Female-Led Unicorns

In 2019, more female-led start-ups achieved unicorn status than ever before.

A unicorn is a privately held company that’s valued at $1 billion or more. Last year, 21 new female-led companies hit that valuation mark—a 40% increase compared to 2018.

Within the last decade, the number of female-led unicorns has grown steadily:

YearUnicorns with at least one female founder
20134
20148
20159
20165
20178
201815
201921

One of the startups to achieve unicorn status in 2019 was Away, a travel and lifestyle brand based in New York. After launching in 2016, Away made $12 million in sales in its first 12 months, and in 2019, the company closed $100 million in Series D funding.

Glossier, a direct-to-consumer beauty company, also made the new unicorn list in 2019. Like Away, the New York-based beauty brand raised $100 million in Series D funding—almost double the amount garnered in its $52 million Series C round.

There’s Still Work to Do

While it’s clear that the number of female-led unicorns is increasing, there’s still a wide gender gap in the venture capital and startup landscape.

In 2019, only 9% of VC investment dollars went to companies with at least one female founder. And this proportion of dollars to female/male co-founded companies hasn’t changed much over the years:

YearProportion
20138%
20148%
20159%
20168%
201710%
20189%
20199%

Why does this gap persist? One reason could be the lack of female representation in venture capital leadership. As of 2019, less than 10% of decision-makers at U.S. venture capital firms are women.

In short—things are looking up, but there’s still a ton of progress to be made.

»Interested in learning more about female founders and the VC landscape? Read our full article on The Top Female Founder in Each Country

Where does this data come from?

Source: Crunchbase report, titled “Funding to the Female Founders”.
Notes: The analysis was based on announced funding to companies with founders associated. Crunchbase included private company fundings from seed through latestage venture; excluding private equity rounds.

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