Although there are various reasons for this, I suggest focusing on what can be done by you:
Have a team/co-founder(s), as investors tend to choose teams over solopreneurs.
Investors provide financial support when there are metrics showing clients and growth (or at least validated ideas). Validate your impact business idea first.
Work not only on the idea but also the way you present it. By making your pitch deck succinct and easy to understand you increase your prospects for getting funded. And ”easy to understand” doesn’t mean ”oversimplified”. It does mean providing essential details for investors to make a decision.
Do not overlook angels/individual funders – there are higher chances they back the very early-stage startups.
Start with sector-specific funds (experts in your specific field). You will not only speak the same language. Expert support will be offered.
All in all, prior to searching for external investment, you need to invest in yourself and your impact business idea. Be your first investor (both time and funding-wise).
External funding is optional, external expertise is essential. As paradoxical as it may seem, sometimes you need to slow down to get results faster. And here are dozens of growth opportunities for your impact venture: online programs, fellowships, challenges, pitch competitions, bootcamps, incubators, accelerators, funding opportunities. These are mostly global opportunities unless otherwise specified.
Stay tuned on Linkedin and Twitter for more useful resources and updates on online programs, fellowships, awards, competitions, incubators, accelerators.
Global platforms and tools connecting impact founders with impact funders:
ImpactSpace: an open data platform powering the global impact marketplace. (things to note: outdated information, some links do not work)
Dealroom: Impact & Innovation database – mapping impact startups and investment around the world. (possibility to sign up with business emails only)
Impact Finance: a review of 150 impact investing platforms, networks, and organizations that promote, support, or convene investors in the impact finance area. (things to note: some of the listed organisations are not impact investors, outdated information, some links do not work)
Impact Agora: a new platform for the impact investing ecosystem which enables deal sharing between accelerators, fund managers, investor networks, corporates, family offices, foundations and wealth managers.
Global Innovation Exchange: a list of foundations and funding initiatives providing funding for social entrepreneurs. (things to note: most of the listed organizations only provide funding to nonprofits or international development projects, outdated information on some of the organizations, oil&gaz companies are on the list – serving as a central repository for key resources as of September 2021)
Social Sector Network: knowledge repository (things to note: 28 impact investors listed, some links do not work).
Abaca: helping more impact-driven founders connect with investors and other supporters who can help them scale. (things to note: no investors or entrepreneurs listed on the website)
Zebras Unite: a community of entrepreneurs, investors, and allies dedicated to building companies that balance both profit and purpose. (things to note: no investors and companies listed on the website)
Founders for Change: Diverse Investors List, a resource for founders and the tech community to more easily find VC investors from diverse backgrounds. (things to note: some links do not work as Crunchbase has outdated information on many funders)
Refugee Investment Network: connecting investors and refugee ventures for an inclusive future. (things to note: not a user-friendly tool, no investors listed,ventures listed on the platform)
Women Effect: Women Effect Landscape Map. (things to note: outdated information, some of the listed organisations are not impact investors, some links do not work)
Global Health Impact Fund: a Strategic Venture Capital Investment Network connecting clinician and healthcare professional investors with early-stage healthcare technology companies. (things to note: no investors listed)
Future Planet Capital: a co-investment platform giving the world’s largest investors scale-efficient access to technology and life science firms; the focus areas include health, climate change, education, sustainable growth & security. (things to note: no investors listed, the portfolio is available on the website)
Investor Flow: an online tool for impact investors to share their deals. (things to note: sign-up is only available for investors)
GREENBACKERS: a by-invitation program offering to selected entrepreneurs exposure to active, pre-qualified investors with a proven interest in climate, cleantech, and the circular economy. (things to note: three types of programs for ventures)
Impact Investing Network Map: Network Map, demonstrating the publicly available transactions between investors and companies within Impact Investing. (things to note: no investors&ventures listed)
KapVista: impact startups&funds listings (things to note: 5 funds&less than 100 ventures listed)
LSP VC: connecting investors to inventors in the healthcare sector in the EU and US.
Europe’s Impact Investing Database: a country-based database; the categories include accelerators, business angels, deal platforms, ethical banks, foundations, etc. (things to note: not a user-friendly tool with outdated information on some of the accelerators and funds)
WEAR Sustain: an online platform for the Europe-wide wearable technology, smart and electronic textiles network, for collaborations and innovations between artists, designers, technologists, and engineers working on ethical and sustainable solutions and technologies for a better future. (things to note: most of the listed investors do not seem to invest in impact ventures, some of the listed organizations are not investors or accelerators, outdated information on some of the listed organizations)
+impact: a digital platform connecting startups with investors propelling positive impact in the Nordics. (things to note: most of the investors do not seem to be impact investors and the information on some of them is outdated, some links do not work)
The Vinetta Project: A Capital Platform for top female founders across North America. (things to note: only a few startups and no investors listed on the platform)
RENEW: an impact investment firm that manages and serves the Impact Angel Network, a global network of investors that seeks to realize both social impact and financial returns on their investments in small and medium enterprises (SMEs) in Africa. (things to note: sign-up is only available for investors, the portfolio is available on the website)
Other platforms and tools:
F6S: a free network where founders get deals, apply for funding (Accelerators, Funds, Angels) & Investors find startups. (things to note: there is no possibility to sort results by sector, only 100+ funds listed)
Crunchbase: a list of impact investing companies. (things to note: there is no possibility to check investors by sector or type of organization (advisers, management firms, etc.), some links do not work, oil&gaz companies are on the list)
Flipidea: a Data-as-a-Service platform offering analytical information about business failures (things to note: the website doesn’t always work properly, no search by category, categories are not mentioned for most of the funders, the websites of some of the VCs and accelerators do not work)
SIGNAL: an online tool for founders to find the right investors; the focus sectors include education, energy, agtech, health, biotech, cleantech, impact. (things to note: the websites of some of the VCs do not work, misleading information on the sectors for some of the listed investors)
Global Invest Her: a global platform for women entrepreneurs and investors. (things to note: no companies and investors listed)
GAN: a community of accelerators, partners, and investors, helping startups build businesses & make a meaningful impact, wherever they call home. (things to note: no investors listed)
Hamster Connect: a global social networking platform that helps start-ups and founders to match, connect and communicate with investors, incubators, and service providers. (things to note: only startups are listed on the website)
VC4A: an ecosystem builder that leverages its infrastructure, network, and expertise for the programs that contribute to Africa’s startup movement. (things to note: upcoming deadlines for accelerators in Africa listed on the platform)
Stay tuned on Linkedin and Twitter for more useful resources and updates on online programs, fellowships, awards, competitions, incubators, accelerators, and funding opportunities for impactpreneurs.
The PitchBook‘s All In reports state, that only 1-2% of global venture capital has been invested in women-led initiatives over the past few years globally. Although in accordance with BCG analysis (performed in partnership with MassChallenge) startups founded and co-founded by women have fewer chances to be funded (mainly because of lack of credibility), their financial performance rates are higher (MassChallenge; BCG analysis (of the 350 companies included in the analysis, 258 were founded by men, and 92 were founded or co-foundedby women).
Other sources of funding for women changemakers include crowdfunding platforms, business grants, guarantees&loans, impact investing options. These funding solutions not only provide female impact entrepreneurs with financial resources but also encourage other women to start building their innovative startups.
All in all, there are higher chances for women impact entrepreneurs to get funding, if a certain fund/foundation has a strong record of investing in women. You will find below an overview of financial opportunities that primarily or exclusively target female-led teams and women business owners.
IFundWomen: a crowdfunding platform for female founders and creators.
Women You Should Fund: rewards-based crowdfunding helping women and women-led teams make their innovative products, projects, and business ventures a reality.
Visa Everywhere Initiative: Women’s Global Edition, a competition for women founders and co-founders who are changing the world by solving business and social challenges.
Eileen-Fisher Foundation: Women-Owned Business Grant, awarding $200,000 annually in amounts ranging from $10,000 to $40,000 for programs increasing women’s participation in decision-making; training women and girls in climate change adaptation, mitigation, and advocacy; engaging women in the sustainable economy.
Women Working Wonders Fund: awarding grants to programs and projects that assist women in transition, provide leadership development in girls and women, and/or contribute to the beautification of the environment.
MCE Social Capital: providing a loan guarantee model to generate economic opportunities for women and families in underserved communities throughout the developing world.
SheEO: bringing together women from all different backgrounds and ages, who contribute to a Perpetual Fund that is loaned out at zero percent interest to women-led ventures working on the World’s To-Do List.
Grameen Foundation: granting loans or guarantees to companies with social impact (serving primarily women and rural populations) in Africa, Asia, and Europe.
Angel Academe: an angel network securing investment for innovative solutions to important global problems in areas including health, finance, education, security and climate change with a female founder/co-founder based in UK.
We-Fi: funding women-owned SMEs in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa, and Latin America, and the Caribbean.
Solar Sister: investing in women’s clean energy businesses in off-grid communities in Africa.
Impact Investment Funds:
Women’s World Banking Capital Partners: investing in financial solutions in emerging markets to create greater economic stability and prosperity for women, their families, and their communities.
Mindshift Capital: global, women-run venture firm investing in amazing women-led companies solving big problems with sophisticated solutions.
A-Force Ventures: an early-stage fund that invests in female-led consumer internet and mobile startups.
Rhia Ventures: a women-led social investment company financially supporting female entrepreneurs in reproductive health.
Astia Fund: investing in early-stage companies with women leaders.
Amplifyher: investing in visionary founders with women in decision-making roles.
University Impact: funding ventures and businesses that are solving complex, vexing social problems (no poverty, zero hunger, good health & well-being, quality education, gender equality, clean water & sanitation) with strong management teams, passion for change, and innovative business models.
Rivet Ventures: investing in US-based companies in women-led markets where female usage, decision-making, and purchasing are crucial to company growth.
Plum Alley: investing in forward leaning technology and healthcare companies with women founders or women and men founders that will improve our lives and the planet.
Portfolia: designing investment funds for women backing the US-based innovative companies they want to see in the world, for returns and impact.
True Wealth Ventures: an early-stage venture capital fund run by women investing in US-based women-led companies with products and technologies in the sustainable consumer and consumer health sectors that more efficiently solve the next generation of challenges.
The 22 Fund: investing in US-based tech-based, export-oriented manufacturing companies, to create clean jobs of the future in underserved and LMI communities, intentionally including women and BIPOC led firms to deliver both high ROI and social/economic impact.
Pipeline Ventures: investing and creating capital for trans women, cis women, nonbinary, two-spirit, agender, and gender-nonconforming founders within US.
BELLE Capital USA: investing in companies with female founders or owners and/or committing to recruiting top female talent to C-Suite and Board in the US.
The Jump Fund: a women-led micro VC firm investing in female-led ventures across the Southeast U.S.
Minority Business Development Agency: Enterprising Women of Color Initiative, focusing on the fast-expanding minority women entrepreneur population as a revenue generator for families, communities, and the nation.
ICA: accelerating great businesses through investments to grow Bay Area businesses and closing the gender and racial wealth gap.
InvestHer Ventures: the first venture capital fund in Chicago that promotes, supports, and invests in early-stage tech companies built by female founders.
Elevate Capital: investing early in underserved and overlooked entrepreneurs (such as women and ethnic minorities, or those with limited access regionally to capital and opportunities) in Oregon.
Disruption Ventures: funding women-led companies as high value and high potential investment projects in North America
January Ventures: investing in female, more diverse and more distributed founders in US and Europe.
Female Funders Fund: investing exclusively in female-founded early-stage companies in US and Europe.
Merian Ventures: investing in women founded and co-founded innovation in cyber, blockchain, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and consumer-facing companies; geographical coverage: US and UK.
Investing Women: investing in Scottish-based companies and we are particularly interested in companies with one or more female founders.
Borski Fund: investing in Netherlands-based companies that reduce the gender gap.
Marigold Capital: investing in in Canada-based underrepresented founders with technology-enabled products and services that deliver value to women, BIPOC, and underserved groups.
Scale Investors: a female-focused member-based Angel Investor network that invests in exceptional female founders in Australia.
Enygma Ventures: investing in women-led businesses that have an established track record, a proven revenue model and demonstrated growth in SADC.
This is the first blog post in the series “Resources for impact entrepreneurs”: Opportunities for Women Impact Entrepreneurs. Part 1.
Part 2 “Funding Solutions for Women Impact Entrepreneurs” can be found here.
The European Study “Women-led social enterprises” and Ashoka’s recent report ”Celebrating ChangemakHERS” show that women are deservedly called genuine social entrepreneurs, as they tend to be more engaged in tackling social and environmental issues. It partially explains a lesser gap between men and women impactpreneurs. However, female social entrepreneurs encounter the same challenges as mainstream businesswomen: lack of business skills and visibility, difficulties with acquiring external funding, and other gender-based constraints. Thus, this blog post will be split into two parts:
Opportunities to Learn and Grow
The below programs and accelerators equip women social entrepreneurs with the necessary skills and knowledge in order to support them on their mission to uplift the lives of other women, families, communities, and also promote ecosystem building for female impactrepreneurs.
General and sector-specific opportunities/programsdesigned exclusively for women impactpreneurs
Programs launched with the aim to empower women:
AWE Partners: an online training program that teaches an intentional and strategic approach to women who want to effectively share their gifts, talents, and resources to co-create the better world they dream of.
SoGal Foundation: SoGal Academy with a mission to close the global diversity gap in entrepreneurship and investing. Creating accessible education about investing, founder wellness, breaking into VC, and scaling a startup – brings us one step closer to bridging that gap.
Cartier Women’s Initiative: providing women entrepreneurs with the necessary skills to grow their business and to build their leadership capacity by drawing upon the experience and expertise of academics, practitioners, industry experts, and entrepreneurs and by enabling peer learning.
Inspiring Capital: Return with Purpose Fellowship, a year-long experiential learning program in a cohort of like-minded women with exposure to Inspiring Capital’s broader social impact network.
Ogunte: offering several programs designed for impact women: growing leadership, increased sustainability, sense of connectedness, growth of confidence, enhanced sense of learning.
Women Moving Millions: Philanthropic Leadership Program, for anyone seeking to learn how to be supportive leaders for women and girls’ movement (influence, impact, investment), and a community of peers and leaders for a gender-equal world.
FEM-START: an intentionally inclusive program that seeks to empower women techpreneurs to change the world; supporting women-led startups, based in Europe, that focus on tech or social impact.
IIX Foundation: equipping women with education and knowledge to gain better livelihoods, to start and grow businesses, and to become investors and inclusive businesses that in turn, impact more underserved women.
Girls Who Venture: exploring and expanding knowledge of women entrepreneurship through education, research, knowledge dissemination, and facilitated collaboration, particularly in developing and underdeveloped countries.
Girls in Tech: providing training and resources, experiences and community with a mission to eliminate the gender gap in tech.
She Entrepreneurs: a leadership program for highly motivated women entrepreneurs in the Middle East and North Africa region who are building successful and sustainable businesses with the potential to make a difference in their societies.
High Water Women: virtual events on investing in gender, diversity, and inclusion.
Networking, matchmaking,and mentorship support for women social entrepreneurs:
How Women Lead: a platform for women to connect, learn, find purpose and make an impact.
The Hawthorn Club: an international network for executive women in the energy industry.
Women in Solar Energy: a non-profit network advocating for JEDI principles of justice, equality, diversity and inclusion in all aspects of the solar energy industry.
Women in Cleantech and Sustainability: an influential network of professionals to further the roles of women in growing the green economy and making a positive impact on the environment.
Women’s Energy Network: an international organization of professionals who work across the energy value chain.
50/50 Women on Boards: educating, advocating and collaborating to increase the number of women on corporate boards and drive business imperative for corporate action in the US.
Invest For Better: a nonprofit campaign that provides resources for women to become effective impact investors in US.
Solar Sister: recruiting, training women entrepreneurs to build businesses and bring clean energy to their communities in Africa.
LadyAgri: a network of International and African professionals linking agri-businesses with the finance community, social impact funds, through which women-agri- entrepreneurs can develop and upscale their businesses in Africa and Small Island Developing States.
She Loves Tech: an accelerator and bootcamps for diverse founders and startups with transformative impact for women; sectors: health&wellbeing, education, cleantech&sustainability, food&agritech, women’s issues.
Girl Effect Accelerator: a two-week program for entrepreneurs leading wildly innovative startups that are positioned to benefit millions of girls in poverty (in partnership with The Nike Foundation (co-founders of the Girl Effect) and Unreasonable Group).
F-Lane: a 5-week virtual accelerator for impact-driven entrepreneurs who have developed an innovative digital solution that has the potential to impact millions of girls and women around the globe.
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