Female -founded Irish tech companies raise record €105m

Largest investment round was Shirley O’Dea’s Avectas, which raised €18.5m

Female-founded tech companies in Ireland raised more than €100 million in funding last year for the first time.

New figures published to coincide with International Women’s Day show 50 start-up and scaling companies with a female founder or co-founder secured €105 million through a mixture of venture capital, grants, equity finance and angel investments.

The achievement was particularly significant given that, globally, female founder funding fell 27 per cent last year versus 2019.

The 2020 figure marks a big increase in funding on the prior year when just €63 million was raised by female-founded tech companies. Female founders came close to hitting the €100 million milestone in 2018 when a combined €97.7 million was raised. However, €51 million of that year’s total came from just two deals.

John O'Dea, chief executive of TechIreland, which compiled the figures, described surpassing the €100 million mark as an important milestone.

“Ireland is on par with the UK and is performing better than most EU countries in terms of funding for female tech businesses,” he said.

Mr O’Dea noted, however, that female-founded tech companies are still underrepresented generally, accounting for just 10 per cent of the total funding secured last year. In addition, just 18 per cent of the tech companies that raised funding had a female founder.

Overall, while the average sum raised by Irish tech companies was €4.5 million last year, for female-founded ones, it was less than half that – at €2.1 million.

The largest round raised by a female founder in 2020 was Shirley O'Dea's Avectas, which secured €18.5 million in funding. The cell engineering technology business, which was spun out of Maynooth University, was also behind the biggest round in 2019, when it secured €12 million in investment.

Other female-founded companies to secure investment last year included Silvercloud Health, MicroGen Biotech, Shorla Pharma, Soapbox Labs, Payslip, TriviumVet, Proverum Medical, VR Education and Vela Games.

The increased in funding last year was driven largely by later-stage companies, the study shows.

Healthtech was by far and away the most popular sector for funding, with 17 female-founded companies in the space raising a combined €63.5 million. Enterprise Solutions was second with 16 companies securing €21.3 million, while agritech and edtech were also popular.

Martina Fitzgerald, chief executive of Scale Ireland, said "the record level of funding will encourage and inspire more women to pursue their ambitions and build their own tech companies. However, the overall picture is stark in terms of the total number of female founders and the level of funding they are receiving".