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Promising increase of women led unicorns

Female-founded and female-led startups are becoming more common and the global number of women led unicorns has increased 400% in seven years.  Central and Eastern Europe have more female founders than any other region in Europe, according to statistics from research and marketing firm Statista. Funding is generally an issue for startups founded by women but there are exceptions: In Finland, women startups last year raised 300 per cent more than male founded startups.

The share of global startups with at least one female founding member doubled between 2009 and 2019. In 2019, 20% of startups were female-led, the same proportion as the previous year but up from 10% in 2009.

The number of female-led startups that became unicorns grew between 2013 and 2019. A unicorn is a privately held startup company that is valued at over one billion US dollars. There were 21 new female-led unicorns reported worldwide in 2019, six more than the previous year. In 2013, there were only four new female-led unicorns reported, so unicorn numbers increased by over 400% during this time period.


In 2020, Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) had the largest number of female founders of startups in the European tech community. CEE reported 919 female founders, followed by the Mediterranean region 601 and Nordic-Baltic with 557 female founders. The non-EU regions in Europe reported an aggregate of 219 female founders.

According to a study comprising 40 countries by the Global Entrepreneurship Research Association, female entrepreneurs are especially common in developing nations like Angola, as well as in developed countries Chile and the US. Many developed nations in Europe have low rates of female entrepreneurs, according to the study.


Share of women in the country´s population active as entrepreneurs:

  • Angola 40%
  • Chile 32.4%
  • US 16.6%
  • India 12.7%
  • United Arab Emirates 12,6%
  • South Korea 11.4%
  • Germany 5.7%
  • Egypt 4.1%
  • Italy 2.1%

There is a gender financing gap when it comes to both debt financing and equity financing. Statista data shows that share of venture capital funding invested in startups with at least one woman founder hos been around 12% every year since 2011.


Despite that 2020 saw the European tech sector raise a record amount of funding, the amount of funding going to all-female founding teams in CEE dropped from a high of 4.1% in 2018 to 1% in 2020, according to a report from from community platform European Women in VC. Around 13% of the region’s startups are founded by women.

However, in 2020 there are countries where women-led startups where able to outperform their male counterparts. The largest margin was in Finland where women raised 300% of the funds men raised. This was followed by Ireland, where female-founded startups raised 246% of funds that male-founded startups did. In Iceland, the funds raised by female founders matched the median funds raised by male founders.


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