Olin leads world in share of female startup founders and average funding

  • September 19, 2019
  • By Kurt Greenbaum
  • 3 minute read

New entrepreneurs are inspired daily at WashU Olin and we are inspired as well from them. I can tell you many, many more are on the way.

—Doug Villhard, director of Olin’s entrepreneurship platform

WashU Olin had the world’s highest percentage of female startup founders among its alumni, and their firms drew the highest average funding among any business school globally, according to an analysis done for business banking app Tide.

A review of the backgrounds of nearly 80,000 entrepreneurs found that 26.1% of startup founders from WashU Olin were women. In second place, 16.8% of startup founders with a Harvard Business School credential were women.

Women-led startups with an Olin credential have secured an average of $71.2 million in funding—more than any other school in the world—followed by female grads from Canada’s York University, who attracted an average of $54.5 million for their firms.

The analysis for the UK-based banking application provider was part of a “Pioneering Women” marketing campaign distributed this month. The analysis used the backgrounds of 72,200 men and 6,940 women in the Crunchbase directory of public and private company data, finding that female-founded companies received 17% or $8 billion of all venture dollars in the first quarter of 2019.

“While that might seem low, there’s a different record of success when it comes to the making of female founders,” the firm said on its Pioneering Women website. The analysis looked at firms that received more than $1 million in funding using Crunchbase data that was current as of July 3, 2019.

WashU officials noted that Olin and the university have a variety of programs that encourage and reward entrepreneurship. They credit the persistence of female students and the existence of a strong culture of entrepreneurship education and preparation for pitch competitions for drawing motivated students—both male and female.

“New entrepreneurs are inspired daily at WashU Olin and we are inspired as well from them,” said Doug Villhard, director of Olin’s entrepreneurship platform. “I can tell you many, many more are on the way.”

Percent of female startup founders

Percent of female startup founders

Source: Analysis of Crunchbase data for business banking app Tide.

Through the Skandalaris Center for Interdisciplinary Education and Entrepreneurship, WashU hosts a number of pitch competitions and women-focused entrepreneurship events such as the Helping Entrepreneurs Rise (HER) Summit in November 2018. The second year of that summit will be on campus October 2019 and is part of the Skandalaris Center’s Simon Initiative for Women Entrepreneurs. Skandalaris also recently hosted Ascend 2020 IdeaBounce, a pitch competition targeting women and minority innovators.

“While we don’t have separate prizes for women founders, we provide guidance to our judging pool to ensure unconscious bias is set aside during our competitions,” said II Luscri, WashU assistant vice provost for innovation and entrepreneurship and managing director of Skandalaris. “Diversity exists across the board and across all efforts, in not only the entrepreneurs, but also our speakers, judges, mentors and more.”

The report confirms an earlier analysis from several years ago showing WashU women had founded more than 40% of successful companies started through the university’s business entrepreneurship courses.

The analysis included female founders receiving 5,670 degrees from 1,447 higher education institutions. In raw numbers, Harvard led the pack: 160 female startup founders had an HBS degree. Harvard also led in terms of raw dollars invested into women-owned startups: a total of $4.6 billion was invested in startups led by women from Harvard.

Average investment among women-led startup firms

Average investment among women-led startup firms

Source: Analysis of Crunchbase data for business banking app Tide.

But WashU Olin was the leader in terms of the proportion of women entrepreneurs and the average dollar amount invested in women-led firms. The research was designed to quantify the role of women in founding startups, but also to “discover their paths to success.”

A few other noteworthy numbers from the analysis of Crunchbase data:

  • Vietnam had the highest percentage of female founders (17.1%), but women-led US firms drew the most investment internationally, totaling $85.5 billion.
  • China had the highest average investment globally among women-led firms at $127.2 million.
  • In the United States, Hawaii had the highest percentage of female founders (19.4%).
  • California startups led by women drew the most investment ($38.6 billion) while Georgia saw an average of $82.2 million poured into women-led firms.

About the Author

Kurt Greenbaum

Kurt Greenbaum

As communications director for WashU Olin Business School, my job is to find and share great stories about our students, faculty, staff, and alumni. I've worked for the Consortium for Graduate Study in Management as communications director and as a journalist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Sun-Sentinel in South Florida and the Chicago Tribune.

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