More female-led billion dollar startups wanted: Millions raised for VC fund for women

‘We want more female-led billion dollar startups’: Robyn Denholm and Carol Schwartz back female-led VC

Aliavia backed founders.

The VC fund ALIAVIA only invests in companies with at least one female co founder, a rule that runs against the trend of VCs distributing capital overwhelmingly to men.

Incredibly, just 2 per cent of US$238 billion allocated by VCs in 2022 went to all-female founded teams, according to PitchBook. The figures rise slightly for those with a least one female co founder — accounting for 17 per cent of funds receiving such backing.

In Australia, the figures follow the international trends, with just three per cent of total VC capital going to all-women-founded startups in 2022, and just 10 per cent to those with at least one woman in their co founding teams, according to the latest State of Australian Startup Funding report.

ALIAVIA aims to change that, and isn’t shy about wanting to see more female-led businesses hitting unicorn status. The female founded and female led firm has just closed a US$8.7 million fund (AU$13.5 million) round, thanks to high profile Australian investors including Carol Schwartz, Robyn Denholm and Cynthia Scott, supporting a US$8.7 million fund that will invest exclusively in female tech founded startups across Australia and the United States.

Based in California, ALIAVIA launched in 2021 with a mission to support more female founders build world-changing tech companies, and aims to address the massive shortfall in funding going to female founders. The tiny proportion of money going to teams with female founders flies well against the face of the recorded success of female founded companies, which deliver an average 35 per cent higher ROI than their all-male counterparts.

ALIAVIA has so far invested $8.4 million into nine female-founded tech companies, including Eugene, an at-home genetic testing startup, as well as HowToo, an online training platform. They have also backed the culture AI startup, Othelia, and the US-based art-streaming startup, Loupe.

Tesla Chair Robyn Denholm is backing the fund with Victoria Denholm, CEO and Director of Wollemi Capital Group (WCG). Also joining is Tattarang, the Forrest Family Office, as well as Up Bank founder Dom Pym. Cynthia Scott is the Group CEO of Zip Co.

Carol Schwartz AO is an anchor investor with ALIAVIA, and noted the pioneering work it is doing as the first and only pre-series VC in Australia, established by, and exclusively for women.

“ALIAVIA is well on the way to proving up the thesis that investing in female founders results not only in the creation of companies that solve real problems, but are also profitable, producing strong returns for their investors,” Schwartz said.

Marisa Warren and Kate Vale founded ALIAVIA based on their first-hand experience with the gender imbalance in VC and tech. Both Australian-Americans, they have held senior positions across Google, YouTube, Spotify, SAP, Microsoft and Workday.

As managing partner of ALIAVIA, Warren shares concerns about the lack of industry-wide progress on investing in women.

“The gender imbalance is appalling, and while there is a lot of talk that the inequality is shifting, we’re still a long way from parity,” she said in a release on the funding round announcement.

“We want to see more billion dollar startups funded and led by women. As investors, we have the power to change the world through what we invest in. We want to make our dollars count by investing in gender-diverse teams that are having a real positive impact on the world, whilst also delivering superior returns.

“We have a concentrated portfolio approach to allow us to go deep and help our founders in every way possible to grow and build successful companies. This includes Aussie startups looking to expand into the US. We act as a bridge by investing in an Australian company, where most US based investors won’t, and help them successfully launch and accelerate growth in the US. The US market is significantly different to Australia and we help our founders navigate the nuances, connect to our network of co-investors, corporates and individuals to get the US-traction required.

Pictured above: From left to right: Kate Vale, Alexis Versandi, Marisa Warren, Sheetal Singh, Levi Aron


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