Photo credit: VivaTech
Have you seen the Imagine poster campaign by CPB London? If not, let’s give it a go – imagine a CEO. Is it a man? Now imagine a nurse. Is it a woman? As much as we would like to think that gender bias doesn’t play a role in our everyday thoughts, it is more deeply rooted than we think. This campaign shed some light on career stereotypes that are in every industry. In the tech sphere, which is largely dominated by men, it can be hard for women to break into the scene, especially into high-level roles like CEO. For example, in 2020 only 1.7% of capital raised in Europe went to women founders – which is unfortunately a decline from 2017 when it was at 2.6%. The numbers are even worse for women of color – only 0.02% of funds in Europe went to black women founders.
For this exact reason, VivaTech launches the Female Founder Challenge (FFC) every year, in partnership with 50inTech. The goal of the challenge is to facilitate VC-startup meetings to accelerate the financing of women-led startups all around the world and to urge VC funds to commit to more gender equality at all levels.
Any self-identifying woman founder, co-founder, CEO or co-CEO of a global startup in the process of raising funds can apply for the FFC. This year, for the fourth edition of the challenge, over 500 women from 69 different countries applied to participate. A new record! The founders' exciting projects range from a variety of sectors including software development, healthtech, fintech, and many more. Every single applicant will get access to a special online Bootcamp with sessions on best fundraising practices from expert investors and founders. The speakers include Lubomila Jordanova, founder of Plan A (which just raised $10 million in its series A funding), who will share her key takeaways on how to conduct a roadshow; Nelly Lavielle, partner at BGV, who will talk about how to build a pitch deck; and Arthur Porré, Founding Partner at Avolta Partners, who will speak about how to prepare for fundraising.
Vivian Nwakah, 2019 FFC winner. Photo credit: VivaTech
The top five finalists will be invited to VivaTech in June to pitch their solution in front of a jury of top VCs and investors. They will also get the opportunity to talk one-on-one with a VC during their Office Hours at VivaTech – a unique moment where they can get specific feedback on their project, pitch, fundraising, and more.
After all five finalists have pitched their projects, the FFC jury will choose one winner. This year’s VC jury is made up of Nicolas Debock, Managing Director at Eurazeo; Didier Lallemand, Managing Director at Société Générale Ventures; Shikha Ahluwalia, Investor at Balderton; Candice de Fretay, Investor at Accel; and Aurore Falque-Pierrotin, Partner at Samaipata. The selection criteria for the FFC winner is based on four aspects: innovation, scalability, team profile, and business model of the startup. The winner gets private meetings with the VC jury and a startup booth at VivaTech 2023; an opportunity to show VivaTech how much they’ve been able to learn and grow in one year!
Investor Office Hours. Photo credit: VivaTech
Last year’s winner, Clarisse Hagège, co-founded DFNS, a start-up that provides banks and fintechs with an infrastructure to secure their cryptocurrencies. DFNS has just completed a seed round of 12.3 million euros coming from a dozen investors including White Star Capital, Coinbase, the Dutch bank ABN AMRO, Bpifrance and Xavier Niel. "VivaTech allowed me to not only meet my mentor, Claire Calmejane, who later put me in touch with the right people for my fundraising, but also to establish credibility with investors,” Hagège stated.
Clarisse Hagège, 2021 FFC winner. Photo credit: VivaTech
From the 504 applicants in 2022, 30 were chosen for the Top 30 FFC List, announced this week. The finalists come from twelve different countries and their projects extend beyond ten different sectors. We’ve compiled a highlight of the top finalists for this year’s challenge and more about each of their projects; discover it here.
With such an exciting line-up of female-led startups, we can’t wait to see which ones will come out on top. You’ll be able to catch the pitches of the five finalists on the stage at VivaTech on June 17th. By spotlighting self-identifying women founders through challenges like this one we get one step closer towards the larger goal of closing the gender gap in funding across the tech industry. Here’s to a future where we imagine CEOs as any gender!