Forbes - Billionaires

Melinda French Gates Pumps More Money Into Female Founders Fund

Melinda French Gates has invested in the Female Founders Fund’s latest $57 million fund. The investment, which French Gates made through her company Pivotal Ventures, will provide seed funding for early-stage tech and lifestyle companies founded by women. 

“I firmly believe we are missing out on transformational ideas by not putting resources behind women,” French Gates said in a statement on Tuesday. 

This is French Gates’ second investment in the Female Founders Fund (FFF), which has raised a total of $95 million over three different funds. Through Pivotal Ventures, she was also an investor in its $25 million fund in 2016. Other investors in the new fund include Anne Wojcicki, the cofounder and CEO of 23andMe, Susan Wojcicki, the CEO of YouTube and Sima Sistani, the cofounder and CEO of social network Houseparty. 

The Female Founders Fund was created in 2014 by entrepreneur Anu Duggal, whose mission is to financially support women-led businesses that are driving change for the future. 

After starting her own e-commerce company in India, Duggal realized how challenging it is for women to navigate the white male-dominated venture capital world. She raised $20 million for her tech startup Exclusively.in from VC firms Tiger Capital and Accel Partners before she decided to address the VC gender disparity by starting FFF. 

Women-led startups received only 2.3 percent of VC funding in 2020, according to Crunchbase. The pandemic has exaggerated the situation and disproportionately affected women-led companies, according to the Crunchbase report. 

“There’s a white space in terms of starting a fund that really, really focuses on this demographic,” Duggal tells Forbes.

Over the past eight years, FFF has backed more than 50 female-led companies, including bridal company Zola.com, virtual health startup Maven Clinic, and fintech company Tala. The organization has also created a network of more than 50,000 female founders and investors who provide portfolio companies with expertise on business strategies. 

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The $57 million Fund III announced Tuesday is the largest seed fund for female entrepreneurs, according to FFF. Duggal is looking to invest in sectors of the economy that have grown during the pandemic, including digital health startups and workplace efficiency tools. “The other two areas that we’re excited about are education, including better online experiences, as well as businesses that are targeting climate issues,” Duggal says.

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