Female Founders On An Upward Trend, According To CrunchBase


Image Credits: lculig (opens in a new window) / Shutterstock (opens in a new window)

Editor’s note: Gené Teare (@geneteare) a past female founder, heads up the venture program and content for CrunchBase. Ned Desmond (@neddesmond) is the COO of TechCrunch and CrunchBase. This report is the first in a series looking at female founders.

Anyone working in the startup world knows intuitively that women are not well represented in technical or founder roles — and that quantifying the issue is difficult because data is so scarce.

In 2013, Pinterest technologist Tracy Chou famously highlighted the issue in her post, “Where are the numbers?, which exposed the lack of published data from startups and mainstream tech companies on the number of women in technical roles.

Subsequently startups like Etsy and Dropbox, and giants like Google, Facebook, and Microsoft, began reporting those numbers. They were low, but at least some technology companies had a baseline from which to measure progress.

When it comes to startup founders, however, the picture is still limited. Earlier this year, veteran tech executive Sukhinder Singh Cassidy began a project called Choose Possibility to collect data on women founders –getting their perspectives on the challenges and opportunities facing women in the startup arena. The results of the #ChoosePossibility survey reveal much about the challenges women entrepreneurs face.

A comprehensive study of women startup founders, however, was still missing. In recent years, we know of two studies that tackled the issue, but their data sets were limited or dated (1). At CrunchBase, where Gene heads up the content team, we are embarrassed to say that we only began asking for data on founders’ gender in March. It’s a step in the right direction, but it left us with years of missing data about founders’ genders.

Given CrunchBase’s role as the open data platform for the startup community, we recognized that this data problem was ours to solve. So this spring we asked our research team to look at the period of 2009-2014 and find every U.S.-based startup that had an initial funding during that period and do two things: identify the founders for each startup as well as their genders.

Where a name could belong to a male or a female, we did some additional work to resolve the ambiguity. The results are not perfect, but we believe the error rate is not statistically significant. (We know people are not a statistic, so please let us know about any mistakes.)

As a result, we now have a data set for the past five years to analyze the participation rate of women as founders of U.S.-based, funded startups!

Funded Startups With A Female Founder: 2009-2014

And here is the top line: In the period from 2009 to 2014, CrunchBase records 14,341 U.S.-based startups that received funding. Of those, 15.5%, or 2,226, have at least one female founder.

In 2009, 9.5% startups had at least one woman founder, but by 2014 that rate had almost doubled to 18%.

Next, we asked how picture changed, if at all, from 2009 to 2014, and we uncovered an interesting shift.  In 2009, 9.5% startups had at least one woman founder, but by 2014 that rate had almost doubled to 18%. At the same time, the absolute number of companies (along with the total number of startups) with a female founder more than quadrupled from 117 in 2009 to 555 in 2014.  Based on those numbers, it seems reasonable to conclude that there has been a steady increase in the number of women founders in the past five years.

Companies with a Female Founder grouped by initial investment year

That news should be encouraging to the startup and technology community, as well as aspiring female founders.

We’re only beginning to crunch the numbers, and we welcome suggestions. To get started, we decided to look at three questions. What cities appear most favorable for female founders? How do female founders fare at early versus later stages? And how likely are women to launch companies alone as opposed to with co-founders?

Where The Female Founders Are

Using Crunchbase location data, we looked at where women entrepreneurs appear to be doing well. We limited our analysis to markets where CrunchBase shows at least 15 companies with a female founder.

Teeny Las Vegas, with 58 startups in total, has the highest percentage of funded companies with at least one female founder: 26% (15 in total) of all companies founded and funded there from 2009 to 2014 were launched with at least one woman on the founding team.

New York City, on the other hand, has produced the largest number of companies with a female founder: 374, or 21% of all startups.

New York City, on the other hand, has produced the largest number of companies with a female founder: 374, or 21% of all startups. It turns out that the Big Apple beats out San Francisco (338 startups and 16%) on both fronts.  And while we are on the subject of New York City, it’s worth noting that Brooklyn, considered on its own, is the national frontrunner with 28% of startups, 33 in total, reporting at least one woman founder.

There are also notable metros lagging the overall national average of 15.4% for the years 2009 – 2014, including the well-known Silicon Valley cities of Palo Alto and San Jose.

These numbers will undoubtedly lead to speculation about why Brooklyn would have so many more companies with female founders than, say, Palo Alto. We will continue to study the data to try to answer that question by looking at a variety of factors, such as category, founder backgrounds and others.

Total Cities by Percent for Female Founded Companies

The threshold number of companies for this chart is 15+ female founded companies.

Female Founders and Funding Stages

We also looked at the data to see how startups with a female founder fare as they progress from early to later stages. It is no surprise that female founders are most heavily represented in seed and angel financed companies — 19% of that total — considering the recent growth in the number of female founders.

For the same reason, it’s no surprise to see participation rate dip to 13% for companies at the A or B stage of financing and further still to 11.7% for Series C or later. The elapsed time between a seed investment and a C stage can easily be 4-6 years, which means many of those later stage companies were founded several years ago, when there were many fewer women founders. On that basis, it seems reasonable to expect the numbers to improve for later stage companies with a female founder as the years advance.

Companies by Latest Funding Stage Attained

Early stage venture = A, B rounds. Late stage venture = series C and later.
Each company is only counted once based on the latest funding stage they have reached.

Female Founders And Founding Team Size

In the startup world, investors prefer more than one founder. Starting a company is hard and strong co-founders are a big benefit. Even so, in this CrunchBase data set, some 6,130 companies (43%) have only one founder and the average is 1.8 founders per startup. When it comes to women founders, the bigger the founding team the more likely there is to be a female co-founder. The chart below shows a more or less linear progression. Solo female founders make up 10% of all single-founder startups in our data set, and that percentage rises to 36% for companies with five or more founders. The fact that women make up only 10% of solo founders is an area that we will look at more carefully in the future.

Size of founding teams by company

We recognize that we’ve only scratched the surface of the data, and we’re already working on a next wave of questions. Which colleges and graduate schools, for example, produce the most female founders? What percentage of female founders are technical versus non-technical? Which venture and seed investing firms have the highest representation of women founders in their portfolios? Look for those reports in the coming weeks

If you have an interesting angle you wish us to explore tweet us @crunchbase.

Mark Lennon and Christine Magee contributed to this post.

  • 1) Two substantial reports have been released in recent years that focus on female executives. The Diana report (2014) found that over a 3 year span (2011 to 2013) there were over 15% of female executives at privately funded businesses (seed, early & late stage venture capital funded). The report looked at 6,793 unique companies and of these 985 companies had female executives. The Dow Jones Women at the Wheel report (2012), covered a span from 1997 to 2011 (15 years), reported that for privately held companies (all companies? startups? ) 1.3% have a female founder, 6.5% female CEO and 20% C-level executive. The analysis covered 20,194 VC backed companies for the report.

More TechCrunch

Founder-market fit is one of the most crucial factors in a startup’s success, and operators (someone involved in the day-to-day operations of a startup) turned founders have an almost unfair advantage…

OpenseedVC, which backs operators in Africa and Europe starting their companies, reaches first close of $10M fund

A Singapore High Court has effectively approved Pine Labs’ request to shift its operations to India.

Pine Labs gets Singapore court approval to shift base to India

The AI Safety Institute, a U.K. body that aims to assess and address risks in AI platforms, has said it will open a second location in San Francisco. 

UK opens office in San Francisco to tackle AI risk

Companies are always looking for an edge, and searching for ways to encourage their employees to innovate. One way to do that is by running an internal hackathon around a…

Why companies are turning to internal hackathons

Featured Article

I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Women in tech still face a shocking level of mistreatment at work. Melinda French Gates is one of the few working to change that.

17 hours ago
I’m rooting for Melinda French Gates to fix tech’s  broken ‘brilliant jerk’ culture

Blue Origin has successfully completed its NS-25 mission, resuming crewed flights for the first time in nearly two years. The mission brought six tourist crew members to the edge of…

Blue Origin successfully launches its first crewed mission since 2022

Creative Artists Agency (CAA), one of the top entertainment and sports talent agencies, is hoping to be at the forefront of AI protection services for celebrities in Hollywood. With many…

Hollywood agency CAA aims to help stars manage their own AI likenesses

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

Welcome back to TechCrunch’s Week in Review. This week had two major events from OpenAI and Google. OpenAI’s spring update event saw the reveal of its new model, GPT-4o, which…

OpenAI and Google lay out their competing AI visions

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

3 days ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

3 days ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies