Ireland ranks third in Europe for investment in women-led start-ups

Research published as Enterprise Ireland launches new programme with IVCA

Venture capital companies invested €100 million in start-ups led by Irish women founders last year, a new report has found, ranking Ireland third in Europe.

The research, from financial data and research firm PitchBook, analysed VC investment in women founders across Europe, and coincided with the launch of anew programme from Enterprise Ireland and the Irish Venture Capital Association that aims to support access to finance for women entrepreneurs.

The Road to VC Investment programme is targeting an increased level of venture capital investment in women-led businesses in Ireland. It is the third partnership between Enterprise Ireland and the IVCA.

The programme includes mentorship, strategic workshops on tax governance and legal issues, and access to leading VCs in the Irish ecosystem to develop pitching skills and receive feedback.


“Government is committed to developing the Irish venture capital market to better help all entrepreneurs and high-growth SMEs access funding. It’s important that Enterprise Ireland and ICVA continue to run programmes like the ‘Road to VC’ to support women-led businesses access an increased shared of VC investment,” said Jenny Melia, executive director with Enterprise Ireland.

“We strongly believe that the key to Ireland’s economic success is a robust entrepreneurial ecosystem which utilises the skills, ambition, and talent of a diverse population. We are championing this agenda for over a decade. Last year 31% of the start-ups we invested in were led by women, and our continued ambition is to continue to increase this. Our Pre-seed Start Fund, Innovative HPSU Fund and our investment in VC funds though the €175 million Seed and Venture Capital Fund has been instrumental in providing funding to start-ups in Ireland.”

The agency welcomed the PitchBook ranking, which was calculated by deal count on a per capita basis, and placed Ireland behind Estonia and Iceland, and ahead of the UK and Switzerland.

“This is a strong position for Ireland, and we remain committed to achieving an equal gender divide and fostering an environment and investment ecosystem, where women entrepreneurs thrive and deliver transformative innovations,” said Ms Melia.

IVCA director general Sarah-Jane Larkin said the organisation’s aim was to increase both the number of women setting up companies that can be venture capital backed and increasing the proportion of women securing funding. “All of the activities that are part of the programme are all designed to demystify and smooth the path to VC funding for female founders, and to help female founded companies build a strong network with our investor community,” she said.

The new phase of the Road to VC programme was announced at an event ahead of Irish Women’s Day. Jennifer Carroll MacNeill, Minister of State for Financial Services, Credit Unions and Insurance, welcomed the developments and the gains Ireland had made.

“However, I look forward to when we don’t have to work specifically on supporting women founders – when women-led companies are achieving the same level of investment as men,” she said. “Encouraging more women to establish their own companies is key to this.”

Figures from Enterprise Ireland have indicated a growing level of support for female entrepreneurship in Ireland. In 2011, only 7 per cent of the start-ups the agency invested in were led by women. Last year, the figure had risen to 31 per cent.

A Tech Ireland review of funding in 2023, meanwhile, found one in four start-ups that raised funding in 2022 had a female founder or cofounder. However, the report also noted a disparity between average size of rounds into female led start-ups and the overall start-up population, causing concern.

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist