Day Zero: the easiest way to vary funding ranges for ladies founders is to again them from the beginning

As a girl founder and investor, I’ve thought rather a lot about how finest to extend the variety of ladies founders who elevate capital and scale companies.

Antler is uniquely positioned to affect the gender mixture of founders by advantage of our funding quantity and stage on the very prime of the funnel as a day zero investor.

Whereas VCs aspire to put money into extra ladies founders, they are usually constrained by their top-of-funnel (the proportion of founding groups they see with a girl founder).

Positioned on the very prime of the founder funnel, Antler can affect the gender mixture of founders who start an entrepreneurial journey. We do that by headhunting and screening current and potential entrepreneurs into an Antler cohort, the place they will construct a co-founding staff and validate their enterprise mannequin on the trail to securing funding.

By scouting, investing in and supporting extra ladies founders, we may also help form a extra gender-diverse top-of-funnel for later-stage VCs and, collectively, shift the gender combine throughout the Australian startup ecosystem.

Antler by the numbers

Every year, Antler Australia selects greater than 200 founders to work with us, from ~ 2,000 candidates. We put money into round 30 groups and 80% of those founding groups go on to boost exterior capital, typically inside 12 months of our preliminary funding.

Over time our cohorts have been 25% ladies founders and 37% of investees in Antler Fund I’ve a minimum of one girl founder. These companies have accounted for 39% of Antler’s follow-on rounds however account for simply $24m of the $100m in exterior capital raised throughout the Fund I portfolio.

Why gender?

It’s now broadly accepted that variety amongst founders and decision-makers will not be solely fairer and extra equitable but in addition results in higher financial and funding outcomes.

The 2022 State of Australian Startup Funding exhibits ladies founders accounted for 23% of deal quantity however solely 10% of invested capital. The determine that sticks most in my thoughts is from the Global Gender Gap Report launched by the World Financial Discussion board; on the present tempo of change, it is going to take 132 years to succeed in gender parity. This is just too gradual and clear proof that rather more must be finished.

Range, after all, goes far past gender and Antler’s Diversity & Inclusion Policy talks about a few of our ideas and strategy to broader variety themes equivalent to ethnicity, nationality and LGBTQI+. The info exhibits that whereas a lot stays to be finished, we are likely to carry out higher on different measures of variety equivalent to nationality and ethnicity, whereas gender metrics lag. We count on that improved gender stability amongst leaders and decision-makers will positively affect variety, fairness and inclusion throughout a broad vary of measures.

Antler’s strategy

We recognise that expertise is all over the place however alternative will not be. And so, like our founders, we continually check, be taught and quickly iterate on our strategy to assist ladies founders to launch game-changing firms.

Listed here are 10 ideas which have helped inform our strategy.

1. Finest Thought Wins

As a worldwide investor, Antler advantages from collective thought and experimentation throughout our 25 areas. I just lately spoke with some Nordic colleagues who, as in lots of areas of DE&I, are market-leading. In Australia, we leverage these insights and learnings in our Girls of Antler initiative.

We additionally hope that by sharing our strategy and welcoming enter, the trade of concepts and finest observe throughout the ecosystem will assist us all transfer quicker in direction of gender fairness.

2. Goal-Pushed

Particular, measurable goals present a signpost for evaluating competing priorities based mostly on affect.

For instance, we’ve thought-about whether or not the Girls of Antler group needs to be for ladies solely or open to all. Girls founders are after all heterogeneous and Antler has noticed ranging views between those that worth a protected house for many who determine as ladies and others who imagine that in the event you don’t actively embody males as a part of the method it defeats the aim of agitating for change.

In evaluating these paths, we’ve prioritised the target of attaining extra and quicker change and chosen to maintain classes open for all.

3. Function Fashions 

The need to see what we might be is highly effective. Whereas we’ve got a protracted technique to go, there was a substantial constructive change over the previous decade within the illustration of ladies buyers, together with on the Associate degree (Elicia McDonald, Jackie Vullinghs, Sam Wong, Rachel Yang, Andrea Gardiner), distinguished angel buyers (Cheryl Mack) and profitable ladies founders from Canva (Melanie Perkins) to Mr Yum (Kim Teo), Airwallex (Lucy Liu), Modibodi (Kristy Chong), Crimson Balloon (Naomi Simson), Adore Magnificence (Kate Morris) and plenty of others.

Antler Australia is proud to have invested in formidable ladies founders equivalent to Skye Theodorou (Upcover), Helena (Flow of Work), Joyce Ong (Tax Nuggets Academy) and Cat Lengthy and Joanna Auburn (Trace).

After all, it’s not sufficient although to showcase ladies founders in women-focused classes, we have to be conscious of an appropriately various illustration throughout our organisations usually. For Antler, this implies contemplating applicable illustration throughout all touchpoints equivalent to founder interviews, masterclasses, teaching, concepts validation classes, funding committees, hearth chats (Felicity McVay, former World Head of Leisure at Tik Tok) and in our public and social media presence.

4. Instruments & Actionable Insights

Sensible solutions and examples assist present founders and staff members with a “how-to” information for navigating and overcoming obstacles. These embody:

  • Recognising and responding to prevention questions: ladies founders are sometimes requested prevention questions by a ratio of two to 1, in comparison with their male counterparts. Antler runs classes on strategies to recognise, reframe, reposition and overcome these questions.
  • Overcoming bias in fundraising – a workshop for underrepresented founders to beat bias facilitated by AWS startups
  • Pitching to shoppers and buyers. In some circumstances, ladies are usually much less forthright in pitching themselves and their merchandise and companies which might be perceived as a insecurity or ambition. Pitching and training classes encourage ladies founders to strike applicable notes of ambition and potential when pitching and consciousness of tone, phrase selection and physique language.
5. Recognising the Function of Males

Girls can’t and shouldn’t must be solely chargeable for making needed modifications to attain gender fairness.

As a Board Member at not-for-profit Heads Over Heels (now Apropela), which empowers ladies founders via game-changing connections, we at all times strived for a minimum of 40% male occasion attendance. This united attendees in a typical, sensible trigger, broadened the chances for high-impact introductions and gave weight to the significance of the initiative for everybody.

6. Language and Unintended Penalties

Mockingly, generally the push for inclusiveness can inadvertently exclude. The absence of mal intent is inadequate as a result of even when unintended, language has the facility to hurt. Some fundamentals embody mindfulness when utilizing phrases equivalent to gender vs intercourse, feminine vs ladies and male vs males and use of most well-liked pronouns. We will all critically consider our personal lexicon and whether or not it may do with a refresh and respectfully nudge these round us to do the identical when needed.

One instance is referring to feminine founders (quite than the popular ladies founders), which can infer a organic view of gender quite than one linked to id. In an analogous vein, we’ve questioned whether or not Girls of Antler needs to be Womxn of Antler or certainly People of Antler.

The tone can also be necessary. I just lately attended an occasion with a bunch of extremely credentialed buyers and wealth managers. I discovered myself bristling when incisive, authoritative panellist feedback had been described as “stunning” or “pretty” by the moderator (a girl) and when a senior member of a significant household workplace was referred to as “sweetie” when asking a probing, forthright query of the panel. It felt minimising. Though the intent was past reproach, the affect was nonetheless felt.

7. The On a regular basis issues

Excessive-minded coverage and intent don’t imply a lot if, in on a regular basis interactions, persons are made to really feel remoted and “othered”.

At a current occasion, after a number of break occasions spent as the one girl in a bunch, I occurred to take a seat with a desk of ladies over lunch. We noticed one after the other males consciously avoiding our desk as they veered off carrying their plates to different, generally empty, tables, both with an averted gaze or a “no means am I sitting there!” gag. Ultimately, a few males did be part of us however the hit price was woefully low and we had been all quite appalled. As one girl famous, “I’m continually the one girl at a desk of males, I may by no means behave that means!”

In an Antler cohort context, we search to coach, inform and equip and staff and our founders to contemplate and navigate on a regular basis interactions. For instance, via obligatory unconscious bias coaching inside the Antler staff and considerate setup and guidelines of engagement for cohort design sprints which might generally be dominated by extra vocal and assertive members on the expense of others.

8. Gather and Share Knowledge

Antler Australia will develop and measure our progress in opposition to key metrics equivalent to the share of ladies founders in any respect levels in our software and funding funnel and the efficiency of ladies founders post-investment. By capturing self-assigned founder information on gender and different variety measures on the very starting of our interplay (software stage) we might be more and more granular and correct in our methodology and reporting.

9. Equip founding groups

At Antler, a give attention to ESG, variety, fairness and inclusion is a basic a part of our DNA and we attempt to authentically embed these ideas in all that we do, passing on this basis to the groups we put money into. Even earlier than funding, we encourage groups to contemplate ESG dangers, alternatives and approaches for his or her companies together with equitable hiring and inclusive tradition.

10. Senior Purchase In

Range and fairness initiatives received’t be efficient in the event that they’re not owned and championed by essentially the most senior members of an organisation.

At Antler, our Range & Inclusion Council contains the CEO and a gender various group of leaders throughout operate and geography. Girls of Antler classes are prioritised and attended by each senior women and men throughout the staff together with the Companions.


  • Cath Rogers is a associate at Antler Australia.