Data in The VC Female Founders Dashboard recently published by PitchBook show a continuing low, if not declining, number of women-led VC-backed startups in the Orlando-Kissimmee Metropolitan Statistical Area. According to PitchBook, only 1 women-led startup (Fattmerchant) in Orlando raised capital ($11M) in 2018. This contrasts with the Tampa MSA where 8 startups raised $37M and the Miami MSA where 18 startups raised $31M. While the capital raised by women in the Orlando MSA increased from $1.5M in 2013, the number of startups receiving investment decreased from 5. This decline in funded women-led startups over the last 5 years is concerning. The long-term data show that this decline is part of an ongoing problem here where we have had less than 3 women-led startups funded annually over the past 11 years. Clearly we have a problem and action is needed to stem this decline and increase our women-led funded startups.
We had a major women entrepreneurs support organization when FIT’s weVenture opened in downtown Orlando in early 2015. Support for women entrepreneurs all but disappeared when FIT shuttered its Orlando weVenture location in the summer of 2016. Had weVenture continued its mission perhaps the number of women-led VC-funded startups would not have declined from 5 to 1 today. While there remain programs supporting women student entrepreneurs at our local academic institutions, most women that found startups that receive VC funding have graduated and are working in the enterprise.
To address this problem I believe at least three actions should be taken:
- Assemble community stakeholders to understand women’s entrepreneurial needs here and strategize how to revitalize women entrepreneurial support in Orlando.
- Encourage government and economic development organizations to focus efforts on providing support to advance women entrepreneurs.
- Broaden the entrepreneurial programs at our local educational institutions to support women throughout the community.
The Pitchbook dashboard was released in honor of Women’s History month in March as well as International Women’s Day on March 8. What better time than this month of March to begin a community discussion on how to encourage and support women entrepreneurs starting and scaling startups in Orlando.