Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.
There’s no denying the realities of starting a business are nothing short of challenging. You’ve got rapidly evolving tech to keep up with, increasing competition, higher operating costs, and not to mention, the overall uncertainty that always comes with founding a new business — “Will my idea even succeed?” Yet, despite what seems like a never-ending list of obstacles, three key shifts happening now could mean female founders stand more of a chance to make it to that pipe-dream “unicorn” status.
Read on to learn of three ways the female start-up landscape is changing and how you can take advantage of it:
Shift 1: The Venture Capital space is becoming more women-inclusive
For female founders, the mere mention of venture capital feels almost like a taboo topic, with women-led companies securing only 2% of VC funding in 2021. But change to this long-standing disappointingly low figure could finally be on the horizon.
Findings from the newly released 2021 Annual Review of Funding for Female Founders show revolutionary breakthroughs for female-led companies across IPOs, growth rounds and acquisitions.
In terms of overall funding in 2021, female-founded startups in the US raised $54.6 billion from 3,871 capital-funded deals, representing a staggering 146% YoY increase when compared to 2020 figures of $22.6 billion across 2,641 deals.
Another major takeaway from the Female Founders Fund report is the rapid rise of female founded unicorn businesses, with 2021 data showcasing a 4x increase in the number of female-led companies reaching unicorn status when compared to 2020. That’s a lot of privately owned female startups with evaluations exceeding 1 billion now circulating within our global economy.
Highly influential tennis star, Serena Williams, has also aided this encouragement of women in the Venture Capital space with her early-stage VC firm, Serena Ventures, raising initial funds of $111 million and vowing to implement a diverse team in charge when it comes to allocating investment. “The only way that people can get funding is if people like me, women and people of color, are actually writing the checks,” said Williams in a recent interview with Insider. So far, out of the 60+ companies Serena Ventures has invested in, 53% of the founders are women, and 47% are Black. A great start out of the gate for the relatively new VC firm.
While the Venture Capital space still has a long way to go before we begin to see a more equal playing field, there’s no denying this kind of rapid momentum is helping pave the way, creating more funding opportunities for female founders than ever before in the entire history of VC funding. But will this female funding momentum continue? This brings us to our next shift in the female startup space.
Related: Challenges Women Face When Raising Venture Capital
Shift 2: Women founders are thriving after the economic disaster and lifestyle changes brought on by the pandemic
When the pandemic hit, women were severely impacted when it came to job loss. An Australian report by the Grattan Institute states that at the peak of Covid-19 in April 2020, almost 8% of Australian women had lost their jobs, and women’s total hours worked were down 12%. The figures in comparison for men were 4% and 7%. This is largely due to women dominating some of the hardest-hit sectors, including the service industry, retail, hospitality and the travel industry — all of which are disproportionately occupied by women and jobs where working at home is generally not an option.
Despite the devastating setbacks for women’s employment, the pandemic fueled a fresh wave of female entrepreneurs determined to take back control and gain an income through starting their own small businesses at home. A Gusto research survey found that a staggering 40% of female entrepreneurs launched their businesses as a direct result of the pandemic.
LinkedIn mirrored these findings, providing the The Washington Post with data that shows female members on the platform who had changed their title to “founder” during the pandemic had more than DOUBLED when compared to the pre-pandemic average. But will this fresh boom of female founders last now that the height of the pandemic is over?
A 2021 survey by U.S. job search company, Jobflex, found that 68% of U.S. women preferred to continue working 100% remotely once the pandemic ended with 60% of women surveyed stating they would leave their current position if they couldn’t continue to work fully remotely.
This clearly shows the dramatic shift in work-lifestyle norms brought on by the pandemic, meaning more than ever, women are prioritizing work-from-home opportunities, and if not found, many will turn to entrepreneurship to create their own opportunities.
In other words, female founders are rapidly on the rise now that women have had a taste of that working from home-life balance — and because of this, they’re even more determined to succeed.
So, how does this help female entrepreneurs just starting out? This brings us to the third and most important shift in the female startup landscape.
Related: How to Accelerate Your Success as a Female Founder
Shift 3: Women-in-progress now have accelerated access to renowned female founders at the tip of their fingers
With more female founders rapidly entering the world of entrepreneurship (and dominating the space while they’re at it) the more common it will become for established female entrepreneurs to share their founder experience.
Every week, I have the luxury of talking to some of the most inspiring women in the female entrepreneurial space through the Female Startup Club podcast. One of the main struggles that comes up a lot even amongst the most successful of female founders is the sense of loneliness when starting a company. For this reason, they’re always eager to share their stories and genuinely bear it all if it means they can help others to avoid costly mistakes as well as benefit from their proven successes.
For female founders just starting out, being able to listen to, learn from and then implement direct advice from esteemed industry leaders who have been in the same position before and successfully made it through, is extremely powerful.
Women-in-progress essentially now have the means to learn faster and smarter than ever before, and with the podcast industry expected to grow to $94.88 billion USD by 2028, according to Grand View Research’s Industry Report 2021, it’s a given that this platform will continue to become a key source of education for future entrepreneurs.
Not only does this make the entire entrepreneurial experience a little less lonely, but it’s also giving newcomers the tools, insights and confidence they need to get to that next level, and perhaps one day, unicorn status.
Related: 10 Inspiring Women Entrepreneurs on Overcoming Self-Doubt and Launching Your Dream