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Women-Founded Companies Outperform Male-Founded Companies in Central & Eastern Europe

Newly released data shows that women-founded startups raised just 1% of investment in Central and Eastern Europe. 5% went to mixed-gender founding teams, while all-men teams raised 94%. Commissioned by European Women in VC, Experior VC, and Unconventional VC, Funding in the CEE region – through the lens of gender diversity and impact highlights venture capital allocations and leadership, as well as performance of women-led startups in CEE.

“As a young and dynamic ecosystem, CEE has the opportunity to learn from the successes and slip ups of established hubs, and leverage the untapped potential and returns of building diverse and inclusive founder communities. There’s a very long way to go, but we hope that with transparency, open conversation and radical action, we can reach it together. These findings give us the starting point, and the first step on the journey,” says Thea Messel and Nora Bavey, General Partners at Unconventional Ventures.

The report brings a fresh perspective on the venture capital market in the CEE region, with a gender lens. While female founders are still a minority, and they get just a fraction of the capital men get, women founders perform much better when looking at the revenue to funding ratio. In capital productivity, women outperform men by as much as 96%

“The numbers and size of female led VC funds, companies and projects have stayed flat at its same low single digit percentage. Central Europe, in particular, is at a low starting point with only 1% of VC money invested in female-led businesses in 2020 and female (co-)led VCs having one-fifth of the fire power of male-led ones,” reports Kinga Stanislawska, General Partner at Experior VC, who co-founded European Women in VC with her fund partner Marzena Bielecka. “The gap is immense. Only by discussing facts, figures and taking a real leadership role can we drive change for the benefit of the whole society.”

All women teams in the CEE region raise far less capital per round compared to all men and mixed gender teams. Even though between 2016-2020 all women teams landed 4.2% of the deals, they only raised 2.2% of the capital. Women need to raise more frequently. One reason for the lack of funding to females was a correlation with the lack of female decision makers in VC. Male only led VCs headquartered in the CEE region make up 81% of the VC pool and women led and managed VCs are heavily underrepresented accounting for only 3%

According to the report, funders/investors and decision makers are predominantly men. Of funds active in CEE, 85% of Venture Capital investment roles at any level are held by men, rising to 93% at Partner level and even higher at General Partner level. Women managed VCs are only 3% of all VC funds in CEE. VC funds with all-men General Partner (GP) teams have 5X the firepower (AUM) to invest in companies compared to all women GPs of venture funds.

Additional findings include:

  • 2020 was not an outlier. Since 2016, all-women founding teams have received on average 2% of startup investment. Progress is flat.
  • Investors sign bigger cheques for men. Average round sizes at Seed and Series A are smaller for all-women teams in CEE than for mixed and all-men teams.
  • 92% of the GPs are rarely asked about their fund’s diversity and inclusion strategy when fundraising from Limited Partners (LPs).
  • Only 2% of VC funds meet women LPs as frequently as men LPs, when fundraising.


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