Report by Gabrielle Munzer, Principal at Main Sequence
When it comes to building a diverse startup ecosystem, at Main Sequence, we’ve observed something especially unique about female founders – they are magnets for talented women. Looking at the teams across our portfolio where there is a female founder at the helm, they tend to be beautifully diverse – and not just in terms of gender, but also in background, ethnicity and age.
It’s no surprise, however, that we’ve still got a long way to go in providing women in Australia with the opportunities to unlock their full potential. While the startup ecosystem in Australia continues to grow, businesses founded by women are still underrepresented. In 2021, only 5% of capital went to startups with all-women founding teams.
To improve the situation and create a fairer and more thriving, female-empowered startup ecosystem, we need to look at how we can help architect the pathway for more women to become founders of the next generation of valuable companies we are creating — but there’s work to do. In order to see more inclusive ventures thrive, scale, succeed and improve gender parity, we need to start at the very beginning.
Make diversity a priority from day dot of a company’s life. Timing is a crucial and often overlooked factor when it comes to building diverse teams. Founders and entrepreneurs, in particular, may place it low on their list of early priorities, viewing it as a concern that can be addressed once their firms have grown. But it is far easier to build a diverse organisation from the ground up.
When we identify diversity issues within the teams of prospective investee companies, we ask the founders to commit to improving the imbalance and work closely with them to address these gaps at the earliest opportunity.
Empowering future leaders
At Main Sequence, we’re passionate about engaging at very early stages with our potential founders, typically when they are still in research roles, as coaches and mentors and holding office hours to provide advice to the deep tech community.
Recently, we have also trialled a new model where we identify diverse talent and place these individuals in senior roles within our existing portfolio companies. The objective is to give them direct leadership experience in deep technology, and venture-backed business environments. This, in turn, helps create a pathway that offers certain experiences and opportunities for them to lead their own company in the future.
As investors, we are excited to find so much potential in our portfolio and, as citizens, we believe these measures are our path to a more equitable world.