Women Entrepreneurship Breakfast 2023

Women-founded European scaleups grow 1.2 times faster than the rest

The landscape of women founded scaleups and investors in Europe’ has been revealed today by a study conducted by Supernovas, a programme of the EIT (European Institute of Innovation and Technology), together with Dealroom, a leading global entrepreneurship data consultancy.

It has analysed more than 7,550 high-potential start-ups, of which more than 600 were founded by women; they represent 8% of the continent’s scaleups and their growth is higher than average.  

Women-founded companies have also increased their overall value more than the European average over the past five years: 6.5 times between 2017 and 2023 compared to 5.5. However, in terms of venture capital funding, they still receive a tiny proportion: 9-11% of the total in Europe.  

Spain is the third country in the EU with the highest number of this type of companies founded by women.

Scaleups led by women are growing more and faster in the European entrepreneurship market than the average. Today, the study ‘Supernovas. The landscape of women founded scaleups and investors in Europe‘ has been presented, which lists the most outstanding achievements of those that have evolved most strongly. It was unveiled at an online event organised by the Supernovas programme of the EIT (European Institute of Innovation and Technology) and three of its communities (EIT Food, EIT Manufacturing and EIT Urban Mobility); as well as Dealroom, one of the largest global providers of data and intelligence on startups and technology ecosystems. 

The study has been driven by Supernovas, a programme of the EIT (European Institute of Innovation and Technology) that aspires to promote an entrepreneurial ecosystem with more women to shape the available innovations in the market.  

The study presented today already includes some data that show that the path is the right one: scaleups founded by women in Europe have increased their value almost 6.5 times in the last five years (from €11 billion in 2017 to €70 billion in the first quarter of 2023), while the European average is 5.5 (€154 billion compared to €844 billion). In other words, in that period, they have grown 1.2 times faster than other scaleups

The study identified more than 600 European scaleups founded by women, representing around 8% of the more than 7,550 analysed. Despite representing a minority, the study shows that they are growing faster than the average rate compared to this market segment. Moreover, they employ more than 75,000 people worldwide

As for the sectors with the most scaleups founded by women, the most active sectors are fashion and wellness, health and education, with an average of 7 years of activity. In terms of countries with more companies of this type, France (105), Germany (80), Spain (37), Sweden (29) and Italy (24) are at the top, while in terms of business value Austria (56%), Finland (51%) and Norway (35%) are the ones that have grown the most in the last five years. 

Women-led scaleups are more focused on impact activities and sectors than others. According to the study, one in four of them addresses Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 13, which aims to take urgent action to combat climate change and its effects. Meanwhile, 13% focus on SDG 12 on sustainable consumption and production, and 12% on SDG 3 on health and well-being. Venture capital has particularly targeted these types of companies. In fact, more than 30% of the funding raised by women-led scaleups went to those prioritising the SDGs (compared to 24% of the European average).

Funding challenges 

In the last two years, women-led scaleups have raised more venture capital funding. Specifically, in 2022, such firms raised €4.1 billion, the second-largest amount raised after an all-time peak in 2021. However, they still receive a tiny proportion of the funding raised in Europe: women-led firms remain at around 9-11%. They are also less likely to raise late-stage investment rounds.  

These results confirm the need for programmes such as Supernovas, which focus on improving the gender balance in entrepreneurship and innovation. In the case of the Supernovas programme, it works with start-ups founded by women who want to promote their arrival in new markets and boost their sales (Rocket Up) or seeks to train and incorporate women with high scientific and technological knowledge in venture capital funds and continue to support their professional growth (Women 2 Invest), among others. A new feature this year is its Investment Forums, where investors seeking to increase the presence of start-ups led by women in their investment portfolios will find start-ups looking for funding and with a female or mixed entrepreneurial team at the helm. 

The full study is available for download at: Supernovas | The Landscape of Women Founded Scaleups study