Mar 16, 2022 - Business

Colorado's women-founded startups make huge strides

Illustration of a woman's hand holding a lightbulb with a dollar sign for the filament

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

In a record year for venture capital in Colorado, firms founded by women saw sizable gains, too.

Why it matters: The VC world remains a boys' club — and despite talk of more equity, progress for funding women-founded companies has plateaued nationwide in recent years, Axios' Lucia Shen writes, citing data from Pitchbook.

Driving the news: Last year marked a "vast improvement" in venture financing for women-led startups, according to a report released this month by Westminster-based Access Venture Partners.

By the numbers: Colorado companies co-founded by women raised more than $1 billion in 2021, up significantly from $146 million the year prior, per the study.

  • Three of the top 10 largest deals in the state were made by businesses with female founders, including: Inscripta ($150M, Series E), Guild Education ($150M, Series E) and AgentSync ($74.9M, Series B).
  • Women-only led startups raised $91 million in 2021, with biotech companies bringing more money in than any other industry.

Yes, but: Solely women-founded Colorado companies raised just 1.3% of all venture dollars in the state in 2021, while those with male co-founders generated nearly 15% of the total.

What they're saying: "What we've seen in this space … is people invest in people [who] look like them," Elle Bruno, an investor and advisor at Boulder-based startup accelerator Techstars, noted during a panel discussion in early March.

  • "But as we see more females joining the VC community, there seems to be a natural progression into more money invested in female companies," she said.

The big picture: Venture capitalists in Colorado raised a record-breaking $6.8 billion in 2021, with some of the best-funded industries being software services, aerospace and health care, according to the Access Venture Partners report.

  • The biggest deal, at $1.4 billion, increased by 155% compared to 2020, while the median size swelled by nearly two-thirds year over year.

This story first appeared in the Axios Denver newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard. Subscribe here.


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