How Women Investors, Founders + Operators are Moving the Needle

2023 has been a wild…er, “winding” ride for venture and startups.

Champions of Equity for Women Founders
(Clockwise, from top left): Linnea Roberts (r) with Lisa Blau of Able Ventures + Amy Griffin of G9 Ventures at the G9 Ventures Summer Summit in East Hampton, NY; Ita Ekpoudom with actress/activist/investor Alysia Reiner + Lisa Dyson, Ph.D., of Air Protein at the Bentonville Film Festival in Bentonville, AR; Katherine Rice with Linnea at golf fundraiser for the Child Mind Institute in Palo Alto, CA; and Ita with Natasha Funk of Kauffman Fellows + Jesse Draper of Halogen Ventures at Movers & Shakers VC Happy Hour in NYC.

"The Age of Disruption"

By Jeanie M. Barnett

We were thrilled to wake up one morning last August to learn that GingerBread Capital Founder + CEO Linnea Roberts was named to the Forbes 50 Over 50 list.

Linnea is among 50 high-impact, high-achieving, world-changing women in the Investment category who are transforming the landscape for women and diverse founders, and future leaders in business and finance.

The 50 Over 50 list, now in its third year, is aptly entitled, “The Age of Disruption.” It’s interesting to note that, for the first time, nearly half of the total 200 women (50 women in each of four categories of achievement) are founders and business owners—underscoring the critical role entrepreneurship plays in building wealth, communities and jobs, and solving big problems in the world.

But, as Pitchbook noted, this year’s been a “winding ride for venture and startups,” as the sharp correction of the last three quarters has driven down valuations and runways, and a dramatic drop-off in deal count, especially for startups raising growth rounds.

For female founders, the narrative has stubbornly not changed. Their share of VC investments remains dismally low, at every stage. And glaringly so for women of color at the seed stage.

As Fortune Senior Writer Emma Hinchliffe, editor of The Broadsheet observed, seed-stage investments “arguably produce more progress for female founders than growth-stage investing.”

Emma was referring to a new report from our friends at BBG Ventures. The lion’s share of seed investments in “diverse” founders—which reached a record high in June of $3.17B, according to Crunchbase—goes to white women (who themselves get short shrift of VC investments at every stage), the report found.

Changing the narrative for all female founders starts at the seed stage, noted the report’s author and numbers-cruncher, Amber Quiñones.

“We can’t meaningfully change the outcomes of venture capital at the exits if we’re not meaningfully changing the inputs at the early stages.”

What we really love about the BBG report are the specific calls to action. We in the ecosystem—that is, GPs, LPs, and even founders—can help  move the funding needle for women building startups that have the potential to massively scale, if only they had the same access to early-stage venture capital as their (white) male counterparts.

Massive Transfer of Wealth to Women Underway

We ourselves have been actively exploring solutions for narrowing the VC gap for women with the help of our two summer associates, Shivangi Khanna and Srishti Kawatra, both second-year MBA students at Harvard and Stanford, respectively.

With the massive transfer of generational wealth that will occur over the next 5-6 years, it’s estimated women will control $30 trillion by 2030. We aim to tap into that pool to catalyze more investments in female founders by:

  • demonstrating the outsized returns this asset class can produce;
  • building the business case for high-net-worth women (and men) and wealth managers to invest in women founders as a smart portfolio strategy; and
  • encouraging investors to join forces, target more capital to more women founders, and narrow the funding gap at both the seed and growth stages.

This has been our mantra since Linnea founded GingerBread Capital in 2016. Seven years in, a growing body of evidence bears out our thesis: Empowering women with the capital they need to scale their businesses is a great strategy for building wealth and a better future for us all.

Parting Shot

GBC Partner Ita Ekpoudom (holding mic) took to the stage at the 9th Annual Bentonville Film Festival, in Bentonville, AR on 6/14 to talk about (natch!) women investing in women. The Festival, co-founded by Oscar-winning actress Geena Davis, is an annual event that champions inclusion in media and the entertainment industry.

Panelists included GBC portfolio co. founder Lisa Dyson, PhD of Air Protein (3rd from l) and our favorite “artivist,” the actress / activist / investor Alysia Reiner (4th from l).

Fun fact: Alysia starred in the 2016 film, “Equity,” which was one of GBC Founder Linnea Roberts’ first angel investments.


This post was originally published on August 25, 2023.