Image caption Tessa Clarke and Sacha Celestial say venture capital needs more women Sacha Celestial stands out.
Not just for her unusual name, but because, along with her business partner Tessa Clarke, they have won a slice of the meagre 1% of UK venture capital funding that goes to female-run companies for their business, Olio. Olio aims to tackle the problem of food waste by connecting people who have food they dont want or need, with neighbours who do.
Ms Clarke and Ms Celestial believe that because their business is primarily targeted at women, it hasnt resonated as much with male investors. After three successful rounds of funding, they say that theyve done noticeably better when pitching to women. The trouble is, the venture capital industry is still overwhelmingly dominated by men.
Our conversion rate with women is north of 70%, compared to 5% or 10% for male investors, says Ms Celestial. There arent nearly enough women with cheque-writing abilities, so in our experience, we believe a lack of diversity at VC (venture capital) firm level is a real challenge for female founders.
The latest report from Diversity VC, which monitors the make-up of the industry, shows that 63% of UK venture capital firms have no women at all in senior investment positions.Why investors matter The UK venture capital industry is small, but packs a big punch. The 171 firms based here only employ an average of nine people each.
But the money they invest really talks. In 2018, venture investors in the UK committed £6.3bn to early-stage companies. The UK is the largest venture market in Europe and the fourth-largest in the world.As in the television programme Dragons Den, venture capital firms listen to hundreds of pitches from start-ups and try to pick the winners, giving them money and advice.
This can turbo-charge small businesses, enabling them to grow quickly and make a leap on to the global stage. I started a business accidentallyWomen half as likely as men to start a businessFrancesca Warner, the co-founder of Diversity VC, says these decisions can have an impact on society. VCs invest in early-stage technology companies, which have the potential to become influential powerbrokers in the future, she says.
As venture investors enter the fray so early on, they can make a huge impact on the make-up and culture of the organisations that they fund. Talking at cross-purposes The number of women in the industry is important because it influences where the money goes. As entrepreneurs such as Ms Clarke and Ms Celestial have found, investors are more likely to make investments in businesses that reflect their interests.
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