PitchBook Reports Show Female Founded Companies Secured Record High Proportion of Deal Value In 2023

SEATTLE--()--PitchBook, the premier data provider for the private and public equity markets, today released 2023 All In: Female Founders in the United States (US) and European Venture Capital (VC) Ecosystems. This is PitchBook’s fifth annual report on the US market and its first European edition, both examining how female founders and investors are stacking up in the broader VC industry. The US report is published with support from Deloitte, Pivotal Ventures, and Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati. The European report is published with support from UBS Wealth Management, Shoosmiths, and Enterprise Ireland.

Across the VC industry, venture dealmaking declined for the second year in a row and an economic downturn proved that 2023 was a turbulent year for many. Despite these challenges, female founders and investors fared well in the market. Notably, US female founders secured record-high proportion of total US deal value and their European counterparts raised the third-highest capital totals on record. However, with these bright spots, female founders were not without challenges and saw those play out across venture stages and regions in different ways. Aligned with exit activity across the venture ecosystem in the US, cumulative exit value for female-founded companies declined by more than one-third since 2022 to the lowest amount since 2016. Whereas in Europe, female founders’ proportion of all European exit value rose to 20.8 percent, the highest level since 2017. Unicorn activity grew in the US especially in areas like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) and IT but declined in Europe even though there has been growth in the total population of European female-founded unicorns. Angel investment into female-founded companies fell in the US by more than half, and, in Europe, angel investment saw the lowest amount of total deal value since 2018. Fewer than 20 percent of US decision-makers and just over 15 percent of European decision makers at venture firms are women as the General Partner (GP) landscape continues to be male-dominated.

To download the full US report, click here.
To download the full European report, click here.

The VC ecosystem has seen a major pullback since it peaked in 2021, but female founders have shown tremendous resilience amid market turbulence. Female founders made significant strides in 2023 by securing a record-high proportion of VC capital in the US and near-record levels in Europe, but there continues to be a wide gap between investment in female-founding teams and male-founding teams,” said Annemarie Donegan, research analyst at PitchBook. “We know that angel investors play an integral role in offering initial opportunities for founders, especially during market turbulence. With many female investors taking a step back last year, we will continue to see the impacts on female founded companies over the next few years. It has never been more important for female representation in the VC ecosystem and the industry has a long way to go to see true equity.”

Following the methodology of the first four All In reports, PitchBook analyzed investment activity in US- and Europe-based startups with at least one female founder. The reports also include spotlights on all-female founding teams, female angel investors and GPs, and breaks down funding activity within specific US regions and European countries.

PitchBook tracks female founder data throughout the year in their US Female Founder and Europe Female Founder data dashboards.

US Key Takeaways:

Deal value declines but reaches record high proportion of total US deal value.

  • Female-founded companies, defined as including at least one female founder, secured a record 27.8 percent of total US VC deal value in 2023 - a notable increase from last year’s 18.7 percent. Total VC deal value was $34.4 billion, down from 2022’s $44.2 billion.
  • All-female founded companies, on the other hand, represent a single-digit percentage of total US VC activity. Although they have closed more than $3 billion each year since 2018, deal value declined year-over-year from $5.1 billion in 2022 to $3.2 billion in 2023.

Representation at the GP level grows for women.

  • For firms with AUM of at least $50 million, the proportion of female decision-makers experienced slight growth in 2023, reaching 17.4 percent compared to 16.1 percent in 2022. Among smaller firms with AUM under $50 million, the share of female decision-makers is 18.8 percent.

Female angel investment stalled.

  • Due to the current state of the larger dealmaking environment, many female angel investors took a step back in 2023 and stats dropped by more than half. VC deal activity for female-founded companies with female angel investor participation totaled $1.2 billion in 2023 down from $3.7 billion in 2022.
  • Similarly, deal count in female-founded companies with female angel participation as a proportion of all deals with angel participation dropped from 34.4 percent in 2022 to 29.8 percent in 2023.

Female-founded unicorns grow, especially in AI/ML and IT.

  • The cumulative number of female-founded unicorns grew 4.7 percent in 2023, with more than 100 companies in the mix.
  • 2023 was a big year for companies within AI and ML and this was also the case for top female-founded unicorns.

Exit activity declined to the lowest amount since 2016.

  • Exit strategies remain on pause for most companies, and the cumulative exit value for female-founded companies declined by more than one-third year-over-year to the lowest amount since 2016.
  • With fewer companies successfully exiting in 2023 overall, female-founded companies accounted for a larger share of those that did. They reached a record 23.3 percent of total exit activity and demonstrated a third straight year of growth in that metric.

Europe Key Takeaways:

Deal activity remains male dominated, but female founders represent a growing fraction.

  • European female-founded companies with at least one female founder generated a record high proportion of total VC deal value at 20.5 percent and deal count at 25.8 percent. Their proportion of total deal value grew 36.2 percent from 2022 - the sharpest year-over-year uptick since 2012.
  • All-female founded companies have seen significant growth and consistency over the past several years with at least 400 deals closed each year since 2018.

Female-founded companies collectively exhibit solid investment opportunities.

  • Pre-money valuations for female-founded companies have grown markedly over the past decade, with additional momentum provided by the venture surge in 2021.
  • More than three-quarters of all venture rounds closed by female founders in 2023 were based on a higher valuation than the previous round.

At the GP level, most decision-makers are male.

  • Among larger venture firms with AUM of at least €50 million, 15.2 percent of all decisionmakers are women. For smaller firms with AUM under €50 million, the percentage of female decision-makers fell to 11.4 percent.

Angel investors are key early drivers of VC activity.

  • The number of female angel investors active in Europe grew materially over the past few years, though it declined by almost half in 2023, which contributed to a drop in deal flow for female-founded companies receiving angel investments.
  • For the past three years, female angel investors have participated in more than a quarter of all VC deals that involved both a female founder and any angel participation.

Cumulative exit value for female-founders declined for second year in a row.

  • Female founders generated approximately €2 billion in total exit value each year between 2019 and 2022, but the 2023 figure fell just short of that threshold alongside a material drop in the number of exiting companies.
  • Female-founded companies demonstrated the ability to exit efficiently with a median time to exit of 7.9 years, six months faster than the broader pool of companies.

About PitchBook

PitchBook is a financial data and software company that provides transparency into the capital markets to help professionals discover and execute opportunities with confidence and efficiency. PitchBook collects and analyzes detailed data on the entire venture capital, private equity and M&A landscape—including public and private companies, investors, funds, investments, exits and people. The company's data and analysis are available through the PitchBook Platform, industry news and in-depth reports. Founded in 2007, PitchBook operates globally with more than 3,000 team members. Its platform, data and research serve over 100,000 professionals around the world. In 2016, Morningstar acquired PitchBook, which now operates as an independent subsidiary.

Quote Sheet

Helen Burnell, Corporate Partner at Shoosmiths

A key factor in understanding and addressing the funding gap for female founded and led companies is the data and insight that sits behind the marketplace, which is why Shoosmiths is proud to partner with PitchBook and this report. Raising awareness of the inequality between male and female led businesses is the first and most important step in order to start a dialogue to action real change. It is more crucial than ever that women can access better networking, growth and finance on their journey that is building a business, as we remain steadfast on the goal of bridging this gender venture investment gap in efforts that will, ultimately, benefit everyone.”

Emma Wheeler, Head, Women’s Wealth, UBS Global Wealth Management

The increase in total deal value for female-founded companies is significant and a positive indication that, despite economic uncertainties and global disruption making investors more cautious, there is recognition of how these companies make good investments. We all have a part to play in driving this significant economic opportunity, knowing that if female entrepreneurs were invested in equally to male counterparts, global GDP could grow by up to USD 5 trillion, according to research. We must not be complacent about this good news but continue to mentor, build networks and support with investor readiness and introductions where we can.”

Jenny Melia, Executive Director of Enterprise Ireland

Supporting women entrepreneurs to scale and develop their start-ups and ventures is at the heart of Enterprise Ireland’s strategy. We strongly believe that the key to Ireland’s economic success is a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem which utilises the skills, ambition, and talent of a diverse population. We have been championing this agenda since 2011, when only 7 percent of the start-ups we invested in were led by women. By 2023, that figure rose to 30 percent, but our ambition is to continue to increase this. Also, by 2022, 70 percent of the Seed and Venture Capital funds we support, had women at partner or manager level. Despite the challenging investment landscape in Europe for start-ups and scaling companies, we are proud to see that the “All In” PitchBook report finds that Ireland is the 3rdcountry in Europe per deal count on a per capita basis for investment in women-led start-ups. This is a strong position for Ireland, and we remain committed to achieving an equal gender divide and fostering an environment and investment ecosystem, where women entrepreneurs thrive and deliver transformative innovations.”

Heather Gates, Audit & Assurance Private Growth Leader of Deloitte & Touche LLP

For women in VC, the future hasn’t yet arrived. The numbers show slow progress, however changing the VC ecosystem will take time. Funds work on 10-year cycles; turnover is low; entry into senior positions is limited. Only persistent, sustained effort will ensure that future female founders experience the benefits of today’s endeavors for improvement.”


Kendall Langis


Kendall Langis