Microsoft’s venture fund, M12, announced yesterday the launch of the international Female Founders Competition, put on in partnership with the EQT Ventures fund and Silicon Valley Bank Financial Group. The competition aims to increase funding for female-run startup companies and to highlight the widespread lack of funding for women-owned businesses.
The contest’s two winners will split $4 million in venture funding plus mentoring and other resources.
“We formed M12 to make smart bets on innovative people and their ideas, and the Female Founders Competition is an extension of that mandate,” Peggy Johnson, executive vice president of Business Development at Microsoft, said in a statement. “This isn’t about checking a box; it’s an opportunity to remind the VC community that investing in women is more than just good values, it’s good business.”
According to recent Pitchbook data, in 2017 companies started by women received just 2.2 percent of all venture capital money in the U.S.
“The EQT Ventures team is all about backing founders with the ambition, drive, and vision to build a global success story,” said Alastair Mitchell, partner and investment advisor at EQT Ventures. “This competition reflects this and offers women entrepreneurs a great platform from which to launch their business, providing them with access to capital and mentorship. It also raises awareness of the funding gap between male and female founders, and the EQT Ventures team wants to play an active role in bridging that gap.”
Submissions from applicants in North America, Europe, and Israel will be accepted from now until September 30. Eligible companies must have at least one female founder and have raised less than $4 million in combined equity funding, and offer or intend to offer a specific product, service, or platform that helps solve a “critical business problem.”
“Research tells us diverse teams are more successful. We believe this is true for our business, our clients’ businesses and the innovation economy at large,” said Tracy Isacke, head of corporate venture at Silicon Valley Bank. “Our partnership with Microsoft has created a great opportunity for SVB to engage in this competition and is one of the many ways we are supporting diverse representation in the global innovation ecosystem.”
As many as 10 finalists will be chosen to make in-person pitches for a chance to win one of the two $2 million funding packages. The competition will likely drive awareness for all participants, however, even for those who don’t take home a grand prize.