Two dozen women-led funds defy the odds

We crunched the data we’ve been collecting about women-led firms and found that they have closed on a combined $1.8bn for 24 funds so far this year.

Black Opal Ventures’ close for its first fund this week piqued our curiosity about how other women-led venture funds are faring in this tough fundraising environment.

We crunched the data we’ve been collecting and found that 24 women-led funds have closed on a combined $1.8 billion so far this year (see the table below). The average size of the funds is $74 million, while the median is $50 million.

The largest fundraiser is Pear VC, co-founded by Mar Hershenson, which closed on $432 million for its fourth flagship fund. The smallest fund on the list is Altari Ventures, a solo GP headed by longtime Merrill Lynch executive Anna Garcia, which raised a little over $5 million.

We were pleased to see that five firms on our list have raised three or more funds. But the vast majority (15) have raised just a single fund, having been founded in the past two or three years.

We hesitate to read too much into the numbers, since we only started keeping track of women-led funds at the start of last year. For all of last year, 37 women-led funds closed on around $2.2 billion, our research shows.

In the context of overall fundraising, women-led funds are a tiny sliver of the pie, making up about 2 percent of the $76.3 billion raised overall by VCs in the first three quarters of 2023, per our Q3 Fundraising Report.

Photo of Eileen Tanghal, co-founder of Black Opal Ventures
Eileen Tanghal, Black Opal Ventures

We asked Black Opal co-founder Eileen Tanghal to answer a few questions about women-led funds and the challenges they face.

What does this year’s fundraising total for women-led funds say to you?

It tells me we are just getting started.

Why is it so important for women to lead their own venture funds?

Women make up more than half the population and at least half of consumer spending. It therefore just makes sense for them to be at least half of the decision-makers in terms of what next generation companies and products get funded. Unfortunately, the percentage of venture capital dollars controlled by women is less than 1 percent. Women led VC firms will help diversify which companies get funded and bring in more women into the innovation ecosystem. I became a venture capitalist 21 years ago because of the efforts and mentorship of one of the first female venture capitalists, Anne Glover from Amadeus Capital Partners.

What is the biggest challenge for women-led funds and how can they overcome it?

I think the biggest challenge perhaps may be self-doubt during the fundraising process – though I believe this is probably true for anyone raising a venture capital fund. I believe writing down and remembering the small or even big wins that got you to where you are will help propel you forward in the face of uncertainty and self-doubt. I also recommend to all founders: do what helps you build up your personal reserve of resilience.

What advice would share with women who are trying to secure commitments from institutional investors?

Stay optimistic and patient. Sometimes it will not work out. There will be others that will be a better fit for your fund. Take the time to celebrate. And then, build up that personal reserve of resilience again.