Female-led firms make headway in accessing funding - but call for more progress

Leah Hutcheon, the boss of Edinburgh-based tech firm Appointedd, has added her voice to the call for female-led businesses to have access to crucial funding as a new report shines a light on the issue.

Ms Hutcheon is a member of the Female Founders Forum – a partnership by think tank The Entrepreneurs Network and Barclays – which has published the study titled Inspiring Innovation.

It has found that female-led green technology (greentech) businesses have narrowed the gender funding gap. Such firms have raised £2.8 billion in equity funding since 2018, equal to 42 per cent of all venture capital going towards companies in the sector – with female representation in greentech just over a third of all businesses, the report says.

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Furthermore, almost one in three Scottish high-growth businesses are female founded – higher the UK average.

Leah Hutcheon, CEO and founder of Appointedd, says 'all cutting-edge companies need to have the right backing to succeed'. Picture: contributed.

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However, the study also noted that across the UK, a shortfall of £1.6bn in funding for female entrepreneurs remains, with companies led by women raising only 15 per cent of all equity finance, dropping to just 13 per cent in Scotland.

Ms Hutcheon is chief executive and founder of smart scheduling system firm Appointedd, which has a team of 30 and has raised £2.5 million in investment. Having seen demand grow amid the pandemic, it works with clients – mainly in retail, finance, professional services, and healthcare – powering bookings in 100-plus countries.

Ms Hutcheon said: "Having built a technology company that has customers all over the world, it's easy to forget the challenges that we've faced during that journey – but unfortunately the stats don't lie.

"With only 1p in every £1 of venture capital funding going to all-female founder teams, the odds are stacked against us. Luckily, there's a lot of support out there, and I feel genuinely lucky to be party of the supportive network that organisations like The Entrepreneurs Network and Barclays offer. It's at times like this when innovation really thrives – but all cutting-edge companies need to have the right backing to succeed."

Aria Babu, head of the Female Founders Forum, said: “It’s encouraging to see the gender funding gap start to close, but there is still a way to go. We know women start businesses with on average half as much money as men do, so raising equity finance is critical.

Back foot

"However, due to unconscious bias, venture capitalists are more likely to invest in people just like them – and with half of firms not having any female investors, female founders are massively on the back foot.

“It’s incredibly important that female founders in all sectors are receiving proportional backing from investors, to ensure no opportunities are missed and the UK stays at the forefront of innovation.”

Katherine Morgan, head of high growth and entrepreneurs at Barclays, said it’s “inspiring” to see female entrepreneurs leading the charge in greentech, but overall progress “is stagnant – and we need investors to help women in all sectors succeed”.

She added: “I’m continually amazed by the innovative businesses we work with, such as Appointedd, and I know these female entrepreneurs will continue to inspire the next generation... However, we need a collective effort across the industry to ensure we’re doing everything we can to make the UK the best place in the world to be a female entrepreneur.”

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