The Billion Dollar Fund for Women (TBDF), a global consortium that aims to fight the gender funding gap, has secured $70 million to be invested by 2020, in pledges from venture capital firms including Mindshift Capital and Global Ventures in Dubai as well as Flat6labs in Cairo.
This Middle East and North Africa (Mena) based venture fund comes at a time when TBDF wants to expand its global footprint and be a part of the ecosystem that is changing the paradigm for women in the region, according to Shelly Porges, co-founder and managing partner at TBDF.
“We are investing in women-led tech companies in the Mena region because they deliver high financial returns and are often undervalued,” said Heather Henyon, founding general partner of Mindshift Capital. “Arab women entrepreneurs represent an integral part of founders in the region and tend to build businesses around problems that they face in their lives.”
In general, women-owned startups receive 23 per cent less funding than men-owned businesses, leading to gender-biased financing, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. Even more, in the Arab world, structural and societal pressures might put women at a bigger disadvantage.
According to Forbes, women make only up to 14 per cent of the entrepreneurs in the Mena region, compared to a global average of 17 per cent.
“This lower rate of female founders in the region could be attributed to the lower percentage of women in the finance and investment space, but also to a subconscious bias that women-led companies might not be able to keep up with male-run startups and teams,” said Nadereh Chamlou, co-founder at TBDF.
Since its launch in October 2018, TBDF has secured more than $500 million in pledges from global investors. Founded and managed by five women, TBDF’s target is to mobilise $1 billion in funding into women-founded companies over the next decade.