Lugano, Switzerland-based venture capital fund Privilège Ventures has launched its fourth fund. The CHF 20 million (just over $20 million) fund is earmarked for early stage women-led startups across Europe.
“We don’t just want to support women,” said Jacqueline Ruedin Rüsch, founding general partner at Privilège Ventures in an interview with TechCrunch. “Data shows that women in the driver’s seat produce better ROI.”
The firm says its investment thesis is based on statistical evidence that women perform better than men in leadership roles.
“The numbers are surprising. 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, Privilège Ventures founding general partner in a press release.
The firm’s thesis is backed up by research from the Boston Consulting Group on investment and earnings data over five years. The study also showed that startups founded and co-founded by women received less than half of the average investments made in companies led by men, even women-led startups has generated 10% more revenue over time.
“There are very few funds worldwide dedicated to supporting female founders, and despite the rapid growth in the VC industry, the percentage of female-led or gender-diverse teams is decreasing,” says Rüsch. “I started my professional life in the banking sector in Switzerland: it was, and still is partially, a male-driven sector. I got used to being one of the few women in big conference rooms and I didn’t mind it anymore. But when I got pregnant the first reaction of my senior colleagues was, ‘When are you going to stop working?’ It was quite surprising, I must admit.
As Alex reported in July, PitchBook data suggests that the percentage of venture capital deals that include at least one female founder dropped from 19.4% to 18.2%. In Europe, the numbers are even more dire. Privilège suggests that in Europe, female founders receive about 1% of total VC investments.
Privilège Ventures’ LPs are mainly high-net-worth individuals and family offices, the firm said, and the fund aims to write 15-20 early-stage checks, with initial investments in range of $250,000.
“I like to invest in founders at the very beginning of their journey. We often meet them before they even incorporate their company and we follow them, mentor them and see how they take their first steps on their entrepreneurial journey .Due to our focus on the seed stage, we think it is key to be as close as possible to our companies and for this reason we have a preference for our local market, Switzerland, and the surrounding countries in Europe,” explains Rüsch. “We are not specialized in a specific sector but we have some preferences, especially in med\tech, deep tech and in general for the digital economy. We want to enter as soon as possible, even pre-seed, and we are happy keep investing in the best companies all the way to Series A.”
The firm says it wants to see more companies trying to solve “real” problems — solutions that save lives, protect the planet and products that aren’t just “nice to haves” but “must haves.”
“Our overall portfolio already counts more than 30% of companies with a female co-founder. Since we aim to invest only in top-performing teams, we need to guarantee a strong deal flow and in for this reason, we will look not only at Switzerland but also at Europe with a higher focus on certain countries such as Italy, France and Germany, which are closer to us,” said Rüsch, explaining why the investment particularly among women continues to make sense for the fund. “Some will point to the simple fact that having different perspectives in the room leads to more thoughtful decision-making – some will point to women who have fought through a lot of adversity to get to where they are. Seen we ourselves that women are driven to tackle problems that are overlooked 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 the use of neurotech to improve sleep, fungicides to improve food and biomarkers to continuously measure proteins and hormones to prevent and monitor health conditions, just to name a few.”