Save the date!

Earlier this year I was speaking about fundraising at a business event in Reading. A woman attending came up to me and asked: “Why is it that so little funding goes to female entrepreneurs?” I didn’t know the answer and said I would look into it. What I found was shocking.

The following week, I was in a meeting with the CEO of the British Business Bank. I had met Catherine at an event at the Institute of Directors a few week weeks previously, and this was a follow up meeting with no agenda other than to get to know each other better and see if there was anything we could help each other with. A classic follow up after networking. Nothing more, or so I thought.

During the course of our meeting, I mentioned the question about funding for female entrepreneurs. I was somewhat taken aback when she replied: “Oh yes, the British Business Bank undertook that study. Let me get you the full report.”

It turns out that former Chancellor of the Exchequer Philip Hammond commissioned the research as part of the 2017 Budget. The British Business Bank prepared the report in collaboration with the British Venture Capital Association and a non-profit partnership called Diversity VC. The key findings from the report were staggering:

  • for every £1 of venture capital (VC) investment in the UK, all-female founder teams get less than 1p, all-male founder teams get 89p, and mixed-gender teams 10p.
  • venture capital investment in start-ups with female founders is increasing but progress is very slow. At current rates, it will take 25 years (2015) for all-female teams to reach even 10% of all deals.
  • 83% of deals that UK VCs made last year had no women at all on the founding teams.

This is unbelievable, and just plain wrong!

Right there and then I decided something needed to be done to raise awareness of this. So why, you may be asking, is a bloke doing this? There are two key things in my life that made it what we Canadians like to call a “no-brainer” decision:

  1. Whilst she might not like me calling her this, my Mum was an early feminist in the 1960s and 1970s. She’s still alive and well at the age of 90, so I hope she’ll be ok with this now. When I was 7 or 8 years old, I told Mum that I really loved chocolate chip cookies and wanted more. Her response? Let me teach you how to bake cookies. By the time I was 12, I was making dinner for the whole family at least once a week. At the age of 15, when I met my first girlfriend, I told Mum that I thought I looked much smarter wearing shirts that had been ironed. “Simple,” she said. “I’ll teach you how to iron.” I still bake, cook and iron today, although I don’t eat as many chocolate chip cookies as I used to! I’m thankful to my Mum for bringing me up in an environment where gender made no difference. We are all the same.
  2. My wife and I have two wonderful daughters. They are now 26 and 29 years old and making their own way in the world. They both followed their Mum and entered the teaching profession. As such they might not ever need to raise funds to grow a business, but if that ever changed, I would want them to be on a level playing field. As I said, we are all the same.

In the moment the CEO of the Bank shared that report with me, I knew I had to do something about it. For the last six months I have been working with a small team of people from several prestigious organisations (sponsors London Stock Exchange Group, Four Communications and Reed Smith LLP, as well as PricewaterhouseCoopers, British Business Bank and World Business Angels Forum) and am delighted to announce that we will be holding our first event:

Funding Focus – the fight for fairer funding on Monday 26 November at 13.00-17.00 at the London Stock Exchange.


And watch this space for more information.

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