VC vows to back 1,000 women-led startups by 2030


Just 0.7% of all venture capital in Australia goes to 100% female-founded and led businesses. For US-owned VC fund, F5 Collective – which has invested in seven APAC, female-led businesses over the past year – it’s a huge opportunity. In fact, it wants to invest in 1,000 female founders by 2030.
(L-R) Levent Shevki, Divya Reddy, Tracey Warren, Kelly Kimball and Marquesa Finch.

It’s no secret that Australia has among the worst gender balance in the world when it comes to the distribution of VC funding. A study by SBE and Deloitte Access Economics found that just 0.7% of VC funding goes to businesses that are 100% female-founded and led. The founding partners of F5 Collective – a US-backed venture capital fund that invests solely in women-founded businesses from the Asia Pacific Region (APAC)– have met with Australian political, business and investment leaders this week to discuss the significant gender imbalance in the allocation of VC funding in Australia and the opportunities for economic growth.

It’s a problem that a growing number of female fund managers, and investors are determined to change – see Forbes Australia’s article, Meet Australia’s female VC leaders changing the world of funding, here, for a detailed overview. While a growing number of funds have recently committed to disclosing diversity data, much more still needs to be done to address gender inequality in VC.  

F5– led by founding partners Kelly Kimball (co-founder and executive chairman of Vitu), Tracey Warren (F5’s Australian-based CEO), Marquesa Finch (F5 CIO and co-founder of Pyrium), Divya Reddy (cofounder of Pyrium) and Levent Shevki (CEO of Cornwalls) – has made seven APAC investments in its $5 million proof of concept fund over the past year and plans to open a second round of investment next year.  Its ambitious plan is to invest in 1,000 female founders from APAC by 2030.

The F5 team – guided by Kimball’s extensive experience in US politics –has already had success on the global stage when it comes to campaigning for greater diversity disclosure by US VCs. It recently sponsored the world’s first diversity VC bill in the state of California, which if enacted, would require all VC firms to disclose diversity information on all deals in the state. It hopes similar legislation could be introduced in Australia around the disclosure of diversity data in VC deals.

Why Australia?

F5 CIO, Marquessa Finch, who has a background in public health and diversity and inclusion tech, says the APAC region appealed to her team because it is often overlooked by serious investors.

“When we talked about where to do it, this region was particularly exciting because Silicon Valley doesn’t really get out here,” she says. “Australia is often completely overlooked…and there are amazing founders that deserve more attention. It’s blown my mind, and I am from Silicon Valley so it’s hard to impress me”.

“We discovered that no matter how well we did with women in leadership [in politics], if we didn’t participate in lifting women in leadership in business, there would be no progress.”

F5 Founding Partner

F5 CEO Tracey Warren says its initial “proof of concept” was broad – but effective.  “It was ‘can you invest as women as a thesis’,” she says. “Our mandate was intentionally broad, the only thing we shied away from was biotech because the lead times are too long and we don’t have expertise in-house. Our mandate is split in two: tech shaping our future and social and environmental impact.”

She says the fact that women are significantly under-represented in funding markets, yet deliver “twice as much value” as their male counterparts makes them a compelling opportunity for investors.

There is no financial equality’

Kimball, who has had two significant business exits over his 45-year career, says he and his wife, who have extensive philanthropic interests, initially focused on supporting women in leadership, particularly politics. But he eventually realised supporting women as “financial decision makers” was a more effective way to enact change.

“We discovered that no matter how well we did with women in leadership [in politics], if we didn’t participate in lifting women in leadership in business, there would be no progress,” Kimball says.

“There is no equity and there no financial equality. We are condemning a generation of people of colour, of women, to be subservient from a capital perspective.  We [my wife and I] pivoted to supporting women as financial leaders and we found that this was a much greater need.”

The bill currently sits on Californian Governor Gavin Newsom’s desk where he is tasked with either signing, vetoing, or letting the bill pass without his signature by October 14.

Funds committed to disclosing diversity data in Australia
  • LaunchVic’s Alice Anderson Fund  
  • Artesian Female Leaders VC Fund  
  • Airtree  
  • Blackbird  
  • Scale Investors  
  • Alberts  
  • Giant Leap  
  • Euphemia  
  • Trawalla  
  • Female-Led Ventures  
  • Tractor  
  • Friday Club  
  • Climate Salad  
  • Birchal  

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