In Bulgaria, only 2% of the startups are founded entirely by women, and 20% have a female co-founder, states the latest report by EDIT. It’s a widely spread thesis that women-led startups are also finding it difficult to close funding rounds. Why? One possible reason is the fact that the venture capital industry is even more male-dominated than the startup scene itself. And this is not a local but a global phenomenon.
A global initiative called “Global Women in VC Directory” working on the issue. The directory aims to connect venture capitalists worldwide. Female VCs can register, the database is only accessible to members. The list was initiated by Sutian Dong, a partner in the Female Founders Fund, and Jessica Peltz-Zatulove, a partner at MDC Ventures.
10 European countries
Even if the “Global Women in VC Directory” remains closed to outsiders, the initiative gives interesting insights into the community. The more than 1,000 investors come from 29 countries and 74 cities and work for 590 VC funds. Although the directory is still very US-centric – 77% of women are American – are investors from all continents. In Europe, VCs from the UK, Sweden, Portugal, Spain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Austria, and Poland have already registered.
Enterprise, Healthcare or FinTech
Close to 90% of registered VCs are part of institutional funds and only 11% do corporate venturing. More than a third of women are partners in their funds. The collected data shows that only a few women appear to be moving from Associates (16%) to Senior Associates (4%). Few women are investment managers (2%) or vice-president (4%). With almost half of all women in VC holding roles below the partner level, there appears to be a growing pipeline of junior talent in VC firms that would benefit from being nurtured for partner-tracking roles or other opportunities.
Most of the female investors are part of Seed and Series A focused funds.
The mythos that women tend to invest in consumer goods does and social entrepreneurship is not confirmed by the data generated in the directory – most investors are in the Enterprise, Healthcare or FinTech sectors. Consumer goods follow. With 16%, the topic of Artificial intelligence/machine learning seems to be an interesting topic also with 16% of the VCs investing in it, edtech accounts for 10% of the deals. Overall, about 1 in 5 women investors consider themselves sector agnostic.
The purpose of the started in 2015 platforms is to give members the opportunity to find co-investors, share deal flows, or network for their own region. An important note – there are no female business angels or LPs included. Everyone interested in joining the community could register.
Female VCs in Bulgaria
So far, there are no Eastern European and Bulgarian in particular representatives in the global directory. One possible reason is that the venture capital industry is still very young in the region. We’ve counted several female VCs in Bulgaria, not all of them, however, are part of the institutional or corporate funds.
One of the first publicly visible figures was Zlatolina Mukova, who joined one of the first local funds NEVEQ as managing partner in 2012. Prior to that Mukova has taken C-level corporate roles in the IT and financial sector.
“I think it’s important to promote the investment culture among women”, says Sasha Bezuhanova. She moved on to diverse activities supporting the innovation and digital economy after a long international corporate career in HP. Bezuhanova is an active mentor, angel investor in seven startups, a limited partner in four funds.
Elina Halatcheva, together with Diana Stefanova, are partners in one of the newest funds in Bulgaria BrightCap.
There’s a potential that one new fund called Innovation Accelerator Bulgaria, led by design thinking coach Leona Aslanova and consultant Venetsia Netsova, emerges soon. Some months ago, we also spotted Dessy Kovatcheva, who backed the local waste management startup CozZo, as an angel investor. To be honest, we haven’t heard of other female investors. Maria Marinova, even though not an investor herself, is leading the Bulgarian Private Equity and Venture Capital Association.