In 2019, female-led companies received less than 5 percent of the global venture capital. Bringing it to Africa, only 10 percent of the West African startups that cumulatively raised $1 million had at least one female co-founder in the past decade.
There are many stats to back up the underrepresentation of women in starting a company, raising money and general involvement in technology where the global tech workforce comprises 28.8% women.
In a male-dominated space, programs geared toward supporting female entrepreneurs have emerged to close the gap on all fronts. However, for those centered around female founders, most are quick to offer mentorship and training but tend to ignore the importance of raising money.
FirstCheck Africa, a female-focused angel fund that launched yesterday, is hoping to address this challenge. According to the fund, “fixing capital access for female tech entrepreneurs in Africa needs an intentional, female-led approach.”
FirstCheck Africa was founded by Eloho Omame and Odunayo Eweniyi. Omame is the MD of Endeavor Nigeria, a program for high-impact entrepreneurs, and Eweniyi is the co-founder and COO of Piggyvest, a Nigerian fintech startup.
Omame’s experience working with founders and managing a VC firm (Amari Ventures) and Odunayo’s as a founder will prove vital to what FirstCheck Africa hopes to achieve: Making it easy for African women to raise capital and invest in tech.
The fund will provide between $15,000 to $25,000 in six women this year in exchange for modest equity. FirstCheck Africa plans to see each woman or female-led team through the ideation stage to a significant pre-seed round within 12 months.
“We know we can generate solid long-term returns by investing in women, so we’ll write female founders’ first checks and be their earliest believers. We’re not afraid to invest ridiculously early in great women,” an excerpt in the statement read.
The fund also specifies that it is open to investing in mixed co-founder teams, with at least one woman. But the caveat is “only where it’s clear that the woman is a true partner and decision-maker, with a significant, equitable split of the founder equity.”
Already, FirstCheck has received over 600 applications from African female-led startups, Omame told TechCrunch. But she iterates that while only six will be selected, FirstCheck is in no hurry to announce the deals when asked how soon the firm expects to write its first check.
“We’ve been transparent with our investment goal as we’re backing up to six women-led, technology-driven businesses this year,” she said. “Outside that, there’s little interest from Odun or me to rush to announce deals. The work we’re doing is important and necessary, but it will take time.”
When you think about it, backing six startups in its first year is an impressive goal. For context, Microtraction, an already established early-stage VC firm, invested in seven startups last year. To achieve that, FirstCheck will need to garner support from local and international investors that are intentional about closing the gender funding gap on the continent. Without providing specifics around how much the fund is looking to raise, Omame says this is already happening.
That said, FirstCheck will be building a female-led investor community for women interested in backing startups by writing smaller checks. The notion behind this is to create opportunities for women around the continent to invest at more comfortable levels. And for African female entrepreneurs who need pre-seed and seed funding, the launch of FirstCheck is a plus to their selection pool.
The firm now joins Rising Tide Africa and SA-based Dazzle Angels among others as one of the few angel funds targeted to African female-led startups.