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Good news for startup women: Austria’s Female Founders is raising a €20m fund

Fund F will back pre-seed and seed-stage companies with at least one female cofounder

By Miriam Partington in Berlin

Lisa-Marie Fassl (left) and Nina Wöss

For all the song and dance being made in the tech industry about supporting female founders, women are still only getting a smidgen of the total VC funding invested into startups.

That’s why Female Founders — an Austrian organisation supporting women entrepreneurs through accelerator and leadership programmes, events and networking — is today announcing the first close of its new €20m fund dedicated solely, you guessed it, to female founders.

Fund F, which has raised €12.5m so far, is the first ever fund specifically for female founders in Austria — and is also the first fund to be raised in the country by a female general partner team, according to Female Founders cofounders Lisa-Marie Fassl and Nina Wöss.

A handful of VC funds have cropped up in the last year to plug money into female-founded teams, such as Auxxo, a $15m fund based in Germany,  Sista, a €100m fund based in France, and Pink Salt Ventures from the UK. But Fassl believes there is still much to do to get women-owned companies backed in Europe. 

“We often get asked about competition in this space and if there aren’t already enough female-focused funds out there. The honest and super clear answer is: certainly not”

“We often get asked about competition in this space and if there aren’t already enough female-focused funds out there. The honest and super clear answer is: certainly not,” says Fassl. 

“Given the size of the opportunity, the market could definitely digest hundreds of millions going into gender-diverse teams.” 

The criteria

In the next four years, Fund F will invest in 25-30 pre-seed and seed stage companies that have at least one female cofounder who, importantly, has equal representation on the cap table. 

Initial ticket sizes will be between €100k-400k, depending on whether the fund leads rounds or not. Approximately 50% of the fund will be saved for follow-ons. 

Fassl says she expects the fund to lead the rounds of roughly 30% of its portfolio companies: she and the team have “seen in the past years that a lot of gender-diverse teams are struggling to find a lead investor” and they “definitely want to address this need in the market.”

Companies must have digital and scalable business models that not only have the ability to make money, but have a positive impact on the world too. 

Areas of focus include climate tech, femtech, healthtech, fintech, insurtech and HR tech, as these are the areas Fassl and Wöss specialise in — but they are open to backing companies in other areas too. 

While Female Founders’s investment approach is pan-European, it wants to give a big chunk of its money and attention to the companies on its “home turf” too, says Fassl. 

“We’ll definitely do a certain amount of investment in Austria as we know that the ecosystem has a lot to offer”

“We’ll definitely do a certain amount of investment in Austria as we know that the ecosystem has a lot to offer.”

The LPs

Fund F’s LP base is a mixture of entrepreneurs, angels and family offices. 

36% of the fund’s LPs are women, and more than 60% of the money invested in the fund is managed by women.  

The fund’s three cornerstone investors are the public investor Austria Wirtschaftsservice GmbH via its Venture Capital Initiative, the Austrian bank Raiffeisen Landesbank Steiermark and super angel Hansi Hansmann of the Hanswomen Group, whose investments include edtech startup Mimo and Tractive, which offers GPS tracking for pets.

Other investors in Fund F are the founders of running app Runtastic and language learning app Busuu, as well as Speedinvest, one of Europe’s most active seed-stage VC funds.

While €20m might not sound like much to the big dog funds out there, Fassl says that €20m suits the team’s aims perfectly. “The goal is to raise the fund quite fast and deploy the money to gender-diverse teams, with the goal of building traction for raising another fund subsequently.”

The fund has already made a few investments, the first one or two of which will be announced in the next few weeks. 

Miriam Partington is Sifted’s DACH correspondent. She also covers future of work, coauthors Sifted’s Startup Life newsletter and tweets from @mparts_

An earlier version of this article claimed that the UK has no funds focused on female founders, which has now been corrected to the contrary.

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