Often, when people ask me how the venture and startup market is doing, I have to take a moment. The easy answer is that we’re seeing a downturn. The correct answer is more nuanced: There is indeed a downturn, but it is impacting some much more than others.
One example of this as clear as day is Mistral AI’s recent $113 million seed fundraise. The company, founded by three French white men, was started just four weeks ago and doesn’t even have a product yet. That round, which values the company at $260 million, is being hailed as Europe’s largest seed round to date.
Mistral AI’s fundraise is, in some ways, unique to this point in time. There is much frenzy around AI right now, and this round did see some U.S. and international investors participating, which you don’t often see happening for many French startups.
But there are some things that don’t change, regardless of what’s hyped. The market may be improving for AI startups, but we’ve yet to see much money going to women or people of color. Don’t get me wrong, women are receiving money for building in AI (Black founders, not so much), but not at the rates at which men appear to be. Of course, these three French men fit the profile of those who are likely to receive a $113 million pre-seed check: ambitious Google’s Deep Mind and Meta alums, two of whom have diplomas from the École Polytechnique, practically the MIT of France.
Sure, there is more of an effort to back women in France today, but the fundraising environment for some French Black founders remains both obviously and discreetly discriminatory, which is unsurprising given the overall treatment of Black individuals in the country. There isn’t enough data on how many women and people of color are even looking for funding in France (tracking minority metrics in France is illegal, so such data does not exist), making it hard to gauge how much underrepresented founders raise.