New DocSend data shows that while investors battle for equity in startups, female and minority founders still struggle for equity in funding
SAN FRANCISCO, March 16, 2022 /PRNewswire/ -- DocSend, a secure document sharing platform and Dropbox (NASDAQ: DBX) company, released a new comprehensive research report analyzing how race and gender can impact a startup founding team's ability to successfully raise VC funding. The new report revealed that different segments of underrepresented founders, such as women and underrepresented minorities, experienced higher VC engagement and increased funding, but not all groups increased their funding equally.
Yet in a record-setting year of dollars allocated into startup funding, with investment totals for 2021 exceeding $600B, the new data shows that not all founding teams are benefiting equally. Founder teams with minority members raised 29% less than all-white teams. All-female teams with minority members averaged 57% more meetings than other teams, but raised the least amount of money – an average of only $830,000 – and were the only demographic to not reach at least $1 million.
While data on all-female teams shows they are raising less money on average and averaging fewer dollars per meeting than their male counterparts, certain founder team compositions are gaining ground in early fundraising rounds. For example, all-female teams with no minority raised the same amount as all-male teams with minority, each bringing in an average of $2.8M across pre-seed and seed rounds in 2021.
The positive momentum is also evident when comparing to 2020: all-female teams raised 70% less than their all-male counterparts, yet in 2021 they raised only 25% less. All-female teams also had the most investor meetings last year, averaging 46 meetings, after averaging the fewest in 2020.
"After a banner year of startup fundraising, one would hope that VCs in Silicon Valley and beyond had made gains in addressing the bias in fundraising. While underrepresented founders are seeing gains, it's still a mere fraction of the mass volume of money VCs have poured into startups overall," explained Russ Heddleston, Head of Commercial, DocSend at Dropbox. "There appears to be a disconnect between the importance that VCs place on creating equity and inclusion, and the funding that would actually signal meaningful change."
The uneven allocation of efficiency (dollars raised per meeting held)
Women are still putting in more work for less funding when looking at the number of meetings and the amount of money raised. All-female teams raised the least amount of money per meeting ($32,600) when compared to all-male ($46,500) and mixed-gender ($39,500) teams.
All-male teams benefited from the buoyant year of startup funding dollars by shaving seven weeks off their average total fundraising time, going from 20 weeks in 2020 to 13 weeks in 2021. And while all-female teams also reduced their fundraising time from 16 weeks to 14 weeks, all-female teams with minority members in fact added another week on average for their raise.
"The early stages of fundraising are where we're seeing most of the bias, and my analysis is that there's a missing trust factor towards underrepresented founders," said Darrel Frater, Founder and CEO of TheClub App, and investor at Visible Hands VC. "When it comes to trusting founders of color, VCs are having a harder time investing because they didn't go to the same schools, and they don't come from the same networks. When you get to later stages of fundraising, a company can stand on its own merit supported by traction data and doesn't need to rely so much on trust at the individual level. But underrepresented and underserved founders are not getting a chance at the earliest stages to even get them to a point of significant traction. I think that's where the biggest issue lies and why we focus on providing resources for founders at the pre-seed stage at Visible Hands."
Deck scrutiny shows unequally distributed attention
On average, an investor will spend just under three minutes reviewing a pitch deck. Investor time spent on decks varies per slide and the amount of time a VC spends on certain sections can be linked to successful (or unsuccessful) fundraising and is highly contextual.
Some key findings from investor time spent on pre-seed and seed stage decks across founder team compositions include:
In a year that investors are speeding through pitch decks faster than ever, they are still scrutinizing certain sections more for underrepresented founders.
More time spent on certain sections like product and business model is often correlated with successful fundraising outcomes.
"For female founders, especially those starting companies in traditionally male-dominated industries, there is clearly still a big problem with implicit bias. For some, it's easy to believe a female founder is capable of creating a beauty startup or offering a direct-to-consumer product, but we do not see that same level of confidence extended to female founders in other areas, like building software or anything in the frontier technologies," said Adrianna Samaniego, investor at Female Founders Fund. "There is so much more that they have to prove, which is why I believe we are seeing VCs spending double the time scrutinizing the business model of female-led startups."
The report, The Funding Divide 2022, is the third annual analysis of early-stage startup fundraising, looking at how founder team demographics like gender and race can affect the productivity and success of their fundraising. DocSend gathered data by surveying over 200 startups at the pre-seed and seed stage and analyzed pitch decks slide-by-slide to understand how VCs scrutinized pitch decks across 2021. The team compositions covered in the analysis are:
All-male, no minority
All-female, no minority
Mixed-gender, no minority
All-male, has minority
All-female, has minority
Mixed-gender, no minority
DocSend enables companies to share business-critical documents with ease and get real-time actionable feedback. With DocSend's security and control, startup founders, investors, executives, and business development professionals can build business partnerships that have a lasting impact. Over 27,000 customers of all sizes use DocSend. Learn more at docsend.com.
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