Lugano, Switzerland-based venture capital fund Privilège Ventures, has launched its fourth fund. A fund of CHF 20 million (just over $20 million) has been earmarked for early-stage female-led startups across Europe.
“We don’t want to support only women,” said Jacqueline Ruedin Rüsch, founding general partner at Privilège Ventures in an interview with TechCrunch. “The data shows that women in the driver’s seat produce better ROI.”
The firm says its investment thesis is based on the statistical evidence that women outperform men in leadership roles.
“The numbers are overwhelming. It’s not just about being ethical and doing good: global GDP would grow by 6% if entrepreneurship rates were equal between men and women,” said Lucian Wagner, founding general partner at Privilège Ventures in a press release.
Boston Consulting Group research on investment and income data over a five-year period supports the firm’s thesis. The study also showed that startups founded and co-founded by women received less than half the average investments made in companies led by men, even though the startups led by women generated 10% more revenue over time.
“There are very few funds worldwide dedicated to supporting female founders, and despite the rapid growth of the VC industry the percentage of teams led by women or gender is falling,” said Rüsch. “I started my professional life in the banking sector in Switzerland: this is, and still is, a male-driven sector. I got so used to being one of the few females in big conference rooms that I didn’t even notice it anymore. But when I got pregnant the first reaction from my senior colleagues was: ‘When are you going to stop working?’ This was really terrifying, I have to admit.”
As Alex reported back in July, PitchBook data indicates that the percentage of venture capital deals that included at least one female founder fell from 19.4% to 18.2%. In Europe, the numbers are even worse. Privilège suggests that female founders receive barely 1% of total VC investments in Europe.
Privilège Ventures’ LPs are mostly high-net-worth individuals and family offices, the firm says, and the fund aims to write 15-20 early-stage checks, with initial investments in the $250,000 range.
“I love investing in founders at the beginning of their journey. Often we meet them even before they have incorporated their company and we track them, coach them and see how they take their first steps in the entrepreneurial journey. Given our focus in the seed stage, we feel it is essential to be as close as possible to our companies and for that reason we prefer our local market, Switzerland, and the surrounding European countries,” explains Rüsch. “We are not specialized in a specific sector but we have several priorities, namely in med\ technology, deep technology and in general for the digital economy. We like to get in as early as possible, even pre-seed, and we’re willing to continue investing in the best companies up to Series A.”
The firm says it would love to see more companies trying to solve “real” problems – solutions that can save lives, save the planet and make products that are not just “nice to have” but “necessary”.
“Our overall portfolio includes more than 30% of companies that already have a female co-founder. Since we aim to invest only in top performing teams, we have to guarantee a strong trade flow and for that reason, we will look not only at Switzerland but at Europe as well with a higher focus on certain countries like Italy, France and Germany, being closer to us,” says Rüsch, explaining why a specific investment in women continues to make sense for the fund. “Some will simply point out that having different perspectives in the room leads to more informed decision-making – some will point out that women have fought a lot of hassles to get where they are. We see firsthand that women are driven to tackle overlooked problems in technology – but can have a profound impact on the world. We already have startups in our portfolio with female founders or leaders working on using neurotechnology to improve sleep, fungicides to improve food and biomarkers to continuously measure proteins and hormones to prevent and monitor health conditions , to name just a few.”