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Key crowdfunding strategies for women entrepreneurs to raise more money

Ramy Elitzur, Associate Professor of Financial Analysis at University of Toronto, shares how women-led businesses can use crowdfunding to launch their startups. 

For a new venture to get off the ground, entrepreneurs require resources and support that greatly enhance the likelihood of its success. Unfortunately, there is still a gender gap in entrepreneurship that means women don’t get the same access to those resources.

In fact, while women make up 51 per cent of the global workforce, their representation as entrepreneurs, according to global crowdfunding statistics, is only 39.5 per cent.

To address this gap, entrepreneurship researcher Eliran Solodoha of Ben Gurion University and I conducted a study in which we analyzed 2,275 rewards-based crowdfunding projects to investigate the impact of the presence of women entrepreneurs and the effects of social validation on their fundraising efforts.

Social validation is a psychological phenomenon in which passive people follow or conform to the actions of others within a group. For example, people are more likely to stop at restaurants with many cars parked outside than those with few cars. Extending this idea to crowdfunding, investors are more likely to commit funds to projects with large numbers of backers and shy away from those with few.

Startups are increasingly turning to crowdfunding to raise financing for their companies. In rewards-based crowdfunding, entrepreneurs seek financing from investors in return for a product or service.

Social validation, crowdfunding success

Social validation is powerful and provides insights into the every-day behaviour of people. For example, research shows that because of social validation, people will often pick an incorrect answer on a vision test — even whey though they know it’s wrong — to conform to the others who publicly picked it.

Additional research shows that participants who read a blog post with fake comments supporting a volunteer activity agree to volunteer for more hours than those who read the same blog with fictitious comments rejecting it.

In a similar manner, potential investors may consider a business venture more attractive when they see others reacting favourably to it.

One of the problems facing women entrepreneurs is that that the entrepreneur’s role is stereotypically viewed as masculine. Consequently, women-led firms face more financing barriers compared to those helmed by men. The question we focused on is whether social validation — specifically, the number of crowdfunding supporters — can reduce the gender gap as companies helmed by women try to raise funds.

We conducted our analysis using standard statistical methods as well as machine learning algorithms that provided a clearer picture of the behaviour of crowdfunding investors.

The importance of crowdfunding backers

Our results showed that, as expected, the fact that a company is led by a woman works against it when it comes to raising financing through crowdfunding. However, our results demonstrated that women-helmed companies can overcome this obstacle and obtain crowdfunding support using social validation.

In other words, if they attract supporters, they can obtain even more supporters. The practical implication is that female entrepreneurs should strive to generate initial support, for example, by raising as much financing as possible at first from their own networks.

Another form of social validation involves the number of comments on a crowdfunding campaign, which can demonstrate the size and scope of an entrepreneur’s social networks — again a positive sign for potential investors.

Our machine learning algorithms also demonstrated that while social validation helps women entrepreneurs obtain financing, it peaks at a certain level. The results show that social validation will increase the probability of crowdfunding success by 14.5 per cent overall in combination with all other variables that include geographic location, the category the venture is in (health, music or food, for example) and prior entrepreneurial experience.

The lack of resources and support for women entrepreneurs lowers their chances of success, and ultimately leads to the under-representation of companies led by women. As we show in our study, this problem can be partially overcome in crowdfunding initiatives by socially validating female-led ventures.The Conversation

You might be interested: Why more minority founders aren’t backed by venture capital funding


Ramy Elitzur, Associate Professor, Financial Analysis, University of Toronto

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

funding genderization

Funding “genderization” makes Latinas, minority women-owned businesses, big losers in 2021 revenue and funding

The message is loud and clear for Latinas and other minority women-owned businesses. Despite the continuous big announcements from traditional to alternative funders that diversification of funding and access to capital for minority female founders is on the way, we have not moved an inch, not a centimeter! 

We are not getting it, and I’m tired of funding “genderization.”

Many can blame the pandemic or that women had to become caregivers of parents and children, and still try to save their businesses. They can argue they had to leave or close their businesses because of the lockdown and criticize government pandemic measures. They can also find excuses for operating raising costs or the supply chain disruptions but haven’t these been the same conditions for all small businesses operating during a challenging year? 

According to a Biz2Credit study that reviewed 100,000 credit inquiries, “women-owned business profits averaged $88,995, much less than 2020’s figure of $119,654, and $47,152 less than the average for male-owned firms ($136,147) in 2021.”

The study also found that “profits for female business-owners dropped 26% in 2021 from 2020, while average annual revenues dipped 4%.”

  • Average Annual Revenue dropped from $493,401 in 2020 to $475,707 in 2021.
  • Average Profits (annual revenue – operating expenses) of women-owned businesses fell to $88,995 in 2021 from $119,654 in 2020
  • Average Expenses increased from $373,748 in 2020 to $386,712 in 2021.
  • Average Credit Score for female business owners dropped from 588 in 2020 to 580 in 2021.
  • Top Industry: Services (except public administration) represented 31.9% of the women-owned companies in 2021.

Latinas and other minority women-owned businesses stall big time

Since the frenzy reported by American Express, The 2019 State of Women-Owned Business Report,, between 2014 and 2019, the number of women-owned businesses climbed 21% to nearly 13 million (12,943,400). Employment grew by 8% to 9.4 million. Revenue rose 21% to $1.9 trillion. 

women owned business

2014 – 2019 Growth Rates for Women-Owned Businesses VS. All Firms. (Source: The 2019 State of Women-Owned Business Report)

While the number of women-owned businesses grew 21% from 2014 to 2019:

  • Firms owned by women of color doubled that rate (43%). 
  • Numbers for African American/Black women grew even faster at 50%. 
  • Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander (41%), 
  • Latina/Hispanic (40%), 
  • Asian American (37%) and 
  • Native American/Alaska Native (26%) businesses grew more slowly than for women of color in general but faster than overall women-owned businesses and all businesses. 
women owned business

Trends in the Growth Rate of the Number of Women-Owned Businesses VS. All Firms (Source: The 2019 State of Women-Owned Business Report)

As of 2019, women of color accounted for 50% of all women-owned businesses. Today, they are up to 54% (estimated). 

However, the disparity between minority and non-minority women is increasing. 

  • In 2014, minority-owned businesses averaged $67,800 in revenue; 
  • By 2019, the average had dropped to $65,800. 
  • In 2014, non-minority women-owned businesses averaged $198,500 in revenue; 
  • By 2019, the average had jumped to $218,800. 

From 2014 to 2019, the average revenue for women-of-color-owned businesses shrank, except for Asian women-owned businesses. As the number of minority-women-owned businesses surges, the entry of smaller, younger companies into the pool could be lowering average revenue figures for these businesses. 

women owned business

Closing the Revenue Gap for Minority-Women-Owned Businesses would have a huge impact on the economy. (Source: The 2019 State of Women-Owned Business Report)

We need funding, and we need it NOW!

The culprit of these gaps is the missed opportunity for female founders -especially Latinas and other minority women entrepreneurs- to secure funding.

According to a report by research firm PitchBook, “female founders secured only 2% of venture capital in the U.S. in 2021, the smallest share since 2016 and a sign that efforts to diversify the famously male-dominated industry are struggling.”

The report stated that “U.S. startups founded solely by women raised nearly $6.4 billion of venture funding in 2021, 83% higher than the total raised in 2020. The accelerated pace of funding is part of an exceptionally strong year for V.C. investment across the U.S., which eclipsed its previous record and topped nearly $330 billion in 2021.”

Although it was the second year in a row that women’s percentage of V.C. funding decreased, the overall dollar value of female funding rose because total funding levels in 2021 hit all-time highs, according to the report. 

economic equality,

funding “genderization” prevents women, especially Latinas and other minority women entrepreneurs, from expanding their businesses.  (Photo created by freepik)

It’s funding “genderization,” and this information proves it! 

“When women teamed up with a male co-founder, they tended to raise more,” says the report. Aggh… it makes me so mad! The mixed-gender female-male founder teams secured 15.6% of total venture cash in 2021, the highest amount since 2017! 

The truth is, these numbers have been almost steady for female founders, especially Latina entrepreneurs and other minority women-owned businesses, for quite some time. “Black female startup founders have received just 0.34 percent of the total venture capital spent in the U.S. in 2021; however, the dollars invested in their companies are on the rise,” an analysis of Crunchbase data shows.

“The dollar amount received in angel, pre-seed, and seed rounds for venture-backed Latinx-owned startups in the U.S. had barely budged since 2018 when $185 million went to Latinx-owned companies raising those earliest rounds,” Crunchbase data shows

In 2021, Latinx startups raising angel, pre-seed, and seed rounds only received $205 million, a mere $20 million increase from three years earlier. Almost all of the growth in funding that Latinx founders have seen in recent years went primarily to later-stage startups.

Female founders secured only 2% of venture capital in the U.S. in 2021, the smallest share since 2016, a sign that efforts to diversify funding in this male-dominated industry are failing. The statistic may sound familiar; it’s the exact same portion of capital startups founded by a solo female founder or an all-female team secured last year, too, according to PitchBook.

According to a DocSend data report , potential investors spent 50 percent more time scrutinizing the slide that details milestones and growth metrics of the company of all-female teams’ pitch decks than they do of all-male teams’ pitch decks. 

In a male-dominated industry, V.C. firms with female decision-makers represent less than 10% of all firms, and 74% of U.S. V.C. firms have zero female investors. 

But do we need women sitting on those seats to give to women? Isn’t it enough for women to be talented and solid in their business proposition to receive the funding they need? 

What does a male founder’s presence guarantee that a female founder doesn’t in the views of funders? 

At the end of the day, venture capital is still a relationship-driven industry. What are “people with money” networks not offering to women that they are contributing to men? Why are they not opening doors for them?

Funding “genderization” prevents women, especially Latinas and other minority women entrepreneurs, from expanding their businesses. But it is also hurting an economy that could grow exponentially, and it has been proven ten times over. 

Women need to understand that funding “genderization” in business is a serious discrimination and civil rights issue – a matter of “Sex and Gender Discrimination Law” as much as it is in the workplace. Until we do, we will keep making coffee and updating calendar schedules. 

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