Only 3% of investment dollars and 7% of deals out of 8,000 agriculture and food-tech investments from 2015-2018 went to female-founded startups.
“Money Where Our Mouths Are” (MWOMA), a report conducted by AgFunder, The New Food Economy and Karen Karp & Partners, revealed the dire reality for female founders in agri-tech – it’s much harder for them to raise money for their ventures than it is for their male counterparts.
“There is a structural bias against female founders and CEOs,” said Karen Karp, one of the three food system leaders behind MWOMA. “I have had several male investors say to me: I want to be comfortable, so I want to invest in someone that looks like me.”
The report showed a 37% decline in dollar funding for agritech startups with at least one female founder between 2017 and 2018. Women are being given less capital even though their businesses deliver higher revenue and are the fastest-growing.
Women, in all likelihood, are even more equipped to lead in the food and agriculture sectors because they are closer to the issues, Karp pointed out. “Women make 85-90% of purchasing decisions in their households – decisions around food, health, family care, etc… It just seems silly not the leverage that.”
Karp and her fellow MWOMA contributors, Louisa Burwood-Taylor (a fellow Forbes.com contributor) and Kate Cox, want investors to recognize that they would, in effect, be leaving money on the table by not investing in these women – these great business owners and founders. But not only is money being lost when investors pass on female-run ventures, time slips away as well.
“We just think that there’s no time to waste. We need solutions for agriculture and food and we need them quickly,” said Karp. In order to advance our food system, there needs to be backing for the female entrepreneurs trying to answer the demands of climate change and to make contributions towards sustainability.
The regular consumer can aid by putting more thought into their purchases and into the ownership structure of their products’ companies. They can look to buy from female-owned businesses in ad-food tech.
But to even up the investment dollars given to men and women in this field, the ladies behind MWOMA are calling for a champion for change. “And we want a male champion for change,” Karp said. “A man is going to get more notice for doing it. Women investors can also be marginalized in the conversation.”
What is needed is a top U.S. VC firm or partner that has what it takes to be an industry leader. Someone or some group needs to go to bat for this cause.
People are finally talking about systemic gender inequality. Yesterday, Melinda Gates shared with TIME magazine her fear that “all of this energy and attention has amounted to a temporary swell instead of a sea change.” Accordingly, she pledged $1 billion for driving women-led enterprises and the mobilization of women to positions of power and influence.
But Gates can’t be the only defendant for equality between females and males in venture funding. Male investors need to chip in. Moreover, male investors in agri-tech need to put their money where our mouths are.