Melinda French Gates has invested $57 million in the latest Female Founders Fund. The investment, which French Gates made through her company Pivotal Ventures, will provide seed funding for early-stage technology and lifestyle companies founded by women.
“I firmly believe that we are missing out on transformative ideas by not directing resources to support women,” French Gates said in a statement Tuesday.
This is French Gates’ second investment in the Female Founders Fund (FFF), which has raised a total of $95 million in three different funds. Through Pivotal Ventures, she was also a $25 million fund investor in 2016. Other investors in the new fund include Ann Wojcicki, co-founder and CEO of 23andMe, Susan Wojcicki, CEO of YouTube, and Sima Sistani, co-founder and CEO of social networking site Houseparty.
The Female Founders Fund was created in 2014 by entrepreneur Anu Duggal, whose mission is to financially support businesses led by women who are bringing change to the future.
After starting her own e-commerce company in India, Duggal realized how difficult it was for women to navigate the world of venture capital, which is dominated by white men. She raised $20 million for her tech startup Exclusively.in from venture capital firms Tiger Capital and Accel Partners, then decided to address the gender disparity in the venture capital business by creating FFF.
According to Crunchbase, female-led startups received only 2.3 percent of venture capital funding in 2020. The pandemic has exacerbated the situation and disproportionately affected women-led companies, according to the Crunchbase report.
“There is a ‘white space’ in terms of creating a fund that really targets this demographic,” Duggal tells Forbes.
Over the past eight years, FFF has supported more than 50 women-led companies, including wedding company Zola.com, virtual health startup Maven Clinic and fintech company Tala. The organization has also created a network of more than 50,000 women founders and investors who provide portfolio companies with expertise on business strategies.
The $57 million Fund III announced Tuesday is the largest seed fund for women entrepreneurs, according to FFF. Duggal intends to invest in sectors of the economy that grew during the pandemic, including startups in digital health and workplace efficiency tools. “Two other areas we care about are education, including better online experiences, and climate ventures,” Duggal says.