Male-owned businesses get seven times more funding than those owned by women

Does a woman need a man to succeed? Exclusive data from Startups reveals that when it comes to funding, the answer is yes.

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Written and reviewed by:
Helena Young

Businesses with male founders or co-founders receive nearly seven times more funding on average than female owned businesses, despite women-led businesses starting to outperform mens, can exclusively reveal.

We collected data from over 200 small businesses as part of our 2021 Startups 100 index, an annual ranking of the 100 most disruptive UK small companies.

Our results show that, on average, a female-founded business receives £644,000 in total funding, compared to a staggering £4.34 million for a solely male-owned organisation.

The importance of a right-hand man

Almost exactly one month after International Women’s Day, our findings paint a depressing picture of sexism within the UK’s venture capital community.

But the disparity is even more shocking when compared to businesses with both male and female founders.

The Startups data found that the average amount of funding received is £4.2m – almost the same average amount raised by a solely male-founded company.

This suggests that, while progress has been made towards gender diversity in business, a male founder is still required for female entrepreneurs to secure significant early-stage investment.

Average initial funding
Female-owned startups£643,863
Male-owned startups£4,340,252
Male/female-owned startups£4,270,708

Independent women

As well as looking at the amount of funding received based on gender, Startups also investigated the percentage of businesses that were started without any external investment.

We discovered that over half of female founded businesses are bootstrapped – or self-funded – compared to just 26% of male organisations.

This is likely a consequence of the gender funding gap, with women more likely to encounter obstacles to obtaining capital.

Bootstrapping is a common entry route for new businesses. However, there are a lot of disadvantages to self-financing.

Not receiving upfront money from venture capitalists may give you more business control, but it can quickly cause cash flow issues if your sales numbers don’t meet expectations.

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Many startup owners who are bootstrapping also forgo a salary in the beginning months.

Female entrepreneurs having to bankroll their business themselves not only brings personal financial risk, but also increases the chance of startup failure.

Andrea Berchowitz, co-founder of Vira Health, a digital health platform to support women during menopause, told Startups:

“I think structurally the lack of diversity in the investor community is a bigger problem. Take an investor, they see 50 companies, look for their traditional pattern and then invest in the same things with the same type of people.

“They need to hold themselves accountable to invest in x many black founders, x many female founders. Unless they set these goals, equal funding is never going to happen.”

If you are a female entrepreneur looking to start a new business venture, it would be easy to feel put off by our research. But don't worry – the team at Startups is here to help.

We are the UK's number one independent small business online resource. You can read any of our thousands of guides for information on everything from the best business grants for women, how to write a business plan, and even inspirational entrepreneur success stories. is reader-supported. If you make a purchase through the links on our site, we may earn a commission from the retailers of the products we have reviewed. This helps to provide free reviews for our readers. It has no additional cost to you, and never affects the editorial independence of our reviews.

Written by:
Helena Young
Helena is Lead Writer at Startups. As resident people and premises expert, she's an authority on topics such as business energy, office and coworking spaces, and project management software. With a background in PR and marketing, Helena also manages the Startups 100 Index and is passionate about giving early-stage startups a platform to boost their brands. From interviewing Wetherspoon's boss Tim Martin to spotting data-led working from home trends, her insight has been featured by major trade publications including the ICAEW, and news outlets like the BBC, ITV News, Daily Express, and HuffPost UK.

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