Irish tech firms foun ded by women raised €230m in funding last year, over twice as much as in 2020.
However, women still make up just a small percentage of the venture capital decision-making ecosystem in Ireland with “significantly” lower average rounds raised, according to the figures collated by TechIreland.
Last year, €1.3bn was raised by Irish tech and life sciences companies, a record haul amid a global boom in venture capital finance.
TechIreland tracked 55 Irish tech and biotech firms with at least one female co-founder, which raised €230m through a combination of venture capital, grants and ‘angel investments’.
That amounts to almost one in five of the more-than-300 companies that raised funding here last year.
Eight of those 55 firms accounted for the bulk of the cash raised by women founders, each raising over €10m. They included Nuritas (€39m), founded by CEO Dr Norah Khaldi, and Altada (€10m), co-founded by Niamh Parker.
Healthtech and life sciences remains the most lucrative funding sector among women founders, amounting to 51pc (€117m) of the total raised last year.
The sector with the highest number of women founders is enterprise solutions amounting to 19 of the 55 companies cited by TechIreland.
Sectors such as cleantech and fintech saw marginal increases in investment activity, while agritech, education and consumer products saw a marginal decline.
The report also shows that Dublin-based female-founded companies received two- thirds (€152m) of the total raised. That is higher than the 46pc share recorded in the capital by women founders in 2020. Funding into female-founded companies in Northern Ireland represents less than 1pc of the total funding raised, down on their 4pc share in 2020.
Despite Enterprise Ireland schemes aimed at boosting support for female funding, the report shows a drop in the number of early-stage rounds of between €100,000 and €1m to firms founded by women.
However, Enterprise Ireland bosses say the overall ratio has improved.
‘‘Back in 2011 only 7pc of EI backed high-potential startups included a woman founder,” said Sheelagh Daly, entrepreneurship manager of Enterprise Ireland. “By putting a spotlight on this and providing capability and funding supports specifically targeting women, this has now tripled to over 21pc.’’
The report also found just 20pc of partners in Irish venture firms are women, with “mid level” teams having 30pc female participation.
“Despite the huge jump in funding, companies with a female founder still raise less than the general population of tech companies,” says the report. “While female founders on average doubled their investment to €4.1m last year, that was still significantly less than the average of €5.3m for all companies.”
The figures have been described by female executives in the industry as hopeful, but not totally satisfactory.
“We can be confident that the investment climate for female-founded companies in Ireland is improving,” said Sarah Jane Larkin, of the Irish Venture Capital Association.
“However, none of us can be happy with a world where women secure only 13pc of all funding, and we must now focus on efforts to accelerate the funding of female-founded startups.’’
Jennifer McMahon, a partner at Seroba Life Sciences, agreed. ‘‘Change is under way and great strides are being made, such as the €117m invested in the healthtech sector alone,” she said.
“But numerous studies indicate that female founders face challenges in accessing capital and in closing the confidence gap. We need more female-led start-ups and various initiatives have created a nurturing environment for founders to start.’’
Altada Technologies co-founder Niamh Parker said she believes the Government now “has a clear focus” on growing the indigenous tech startup sector and is “supportive” of female entrepreneurship.
None of Ireland’s six ‘unicorns’ – private firms valued at over €1bn – have a female founder.
“Diversity is really important as all the research shows that diverse teams perform better,” said TechIreland’s chief executive, John O’Dea. “These are great results, but they are not grounds for complacency – female-led tech businesses still only get 13pc of the investment into Irish tech. We can and must do better .”