Microsoft’s venture fund M12 announces $6 million global competition for women-led enterprise startups
Back in July of last year, Microsoft’s M12 announced its first global competition for women entrepreneurs. The competition was carried out in collaboration with the EQT Ventures fund and SVB Financial Group. The mission of Female Founders Competition is to accelerate funding for top women-led startups focused on enterprise technology solutions. At the end of the competition, two winners shared $4 million in venture funding
Now, Microsoft’s M12, in partnership with Mayfield and Pivotal Ventures on Thursday announced the second global Female Founders Competition to accelerate funding for women entrepreneurs developing business-to-business software-as-a-service and deeptech solutions. Eligible women-led startups developing enterprise tech solutions in the United States, Europe, Israel and India are encouraged to submit applications beginning Oct. 17, 2019. Four winning companies will receive a total of $6 million in venture funding, along with access to technology, resources, mentoring and other benefits.
M12, formerly Microsoft Ventures, is the corporate venture arm of Microsoft, the leader of digital transformation in the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge. M12 partners with visionary entrepreneurs looking to drive digital transformation. As part of its promise to portfolio companies, M12 offers unrivaled access to go-to-market resources and strategic relationships globally. M12 currently operates in London, New York, San Francisco, Seattle and Tel Aviv.
“Last year’s competition helped highlight that there are innovative female entrepreneurs developing enterprise tech solutions, and they just aren’t getting equal access to capital,” said Peggy Johnson, executive vice president, Business Development, Microsoft Corp. “The tech industry can’t afford to keep leaving women’s good ideas on the table. We need to level the playing field for female entrepreneurs, and together with Mayfield and Pivotal Ventures, we aim to do just that with our second Female Founders Competition.”
Venture capital funding, particularly for seed-stage companies, is critical to power ideas from incubation to go-to-market. Venture funding for female-founded companies continues to be nominal in comparison with dollars invested in male-only-led teams. Last year, companies founded solely by women garnered 2.3% of the total capital invested in venture-backed startups, according to PitchBook.1
Regardless of this disadvantage, female founders continue to deliver outsized returns. In a study conducted by MassChallenge and Boston Consulting Group (BCG), women-founded businesses delivered more than two times as much revenue per dollar invested than their male counterparts. If women entrepreneurs received funding on par with their male colleagues, BCG estimates the global economy could experience up to a $5 trillion boost. According to Gartner, “The enterprise software market will experience the strongest growth in 2019, reaching $457 billion, up 9% from $419 billion in 2018.”2 Investing in women-led enterprise companies is essential to economic growth and to closing the gender funding gap.
“As a firm with a 50-year history of people-first investing, we are always looking for new ways to discover bold entrepreneurs,” said Navin Chaddha, managing director, Mayfield. “We are thrilled to partner with M12 and Pivotal Ventures on this innovative Female Founders Competition, through which we will find and invest in women creating built-to-last enterprise companies. In addition to providing funding, we plan to share our playbook with competition winners on how to accelerate their journey from idea to iconic company.”
“I am delighted to partner with M12 and Mayfield on this important competition,” said Melinda Gates, philanthropist and founder of Pivotal Ventures. “Enterprise technology is shaping our world in countless ways, but it will never reach its full potential unless women and their ideas are equally represented within the field.”
Submissions will be accepted from Oct. 17, 2019, to Dec. 15, 2019, and are open across Europe, India, Israel, Canada (excluding Quebec) and the United States. Companies will be eligible to apply if they have at least one female founder, have raised no more than $5 million in combined equity funding and/or debt loans upon date of application, and offer or intend to release a product, service or platform addressing a critical business problem for a global market.
A live finals pitch competition will take place March 18-19, 2020, with the announcement of winners to follow shortly thereafter. Two enterprise software startups will earn investment awards of $2 million each, and two deeptech startups innovating through substantial scientific and research advances will earn investment awards of $1 million each. Full guidelines and contest information can be found at www.FemaleFoundersComp.com.