Plans to establish fund to back women entrepreneurs revealed

AwakenHub looking at a hybrid fund involving crowdfunding and angel investment

AwakenHub, a network of more than 1,000 members that was established during the pandemic to promote and support female founders, is weighing up plans to establish an investment fund to back women entrepreneurs.

Mary McKenna, one of the co-founders of the network, said the proposed AwakenAngels fund is looking at making investments at pre-seed stage with sums of between €20,000 and €50,000.

She said the fund has “the potential to democratise the investor landscape for women investors and founders across Ireland”.


Ms McKenna previously co-founded Derry-based e-learning company Learning Pool. Now primarily an angel investor, she said the proposed fund is keen to support sustainable women-led businesses that are capable of generating revenues and employing people.


“We’re looking potentially at a hybrid model that could include a mix of angel investment and crowdfunding so that some successful women investors might put in a sizeable sum while also allowing everyone, no matter how much they have, to participate in backing businesses,” she said.

Female-founded tech companies in Ireland raised more than €100 million in funding last year for the first time. However, such deals represented just 10 per cent of the total funding secured in 2020. Moreover, at a global level, female founder funding fell 27 per cent versus 2019.

“Access to funding for women entrepreneurs lags and there is also very little investment done at pre-seed stage either so we think AwakenAngels could have a huge role to play in terms of supporting women entrepreneurs,” said Ms McKenna, who was awarded an MBE for services to digital technology, innovation and learning in 2014.

Since leaving Learning Pool, which is currently on the market for an estimated €160 million, Ms McKenna has focused on supporting “tech for good” initiatives, particularly ones led by women entrepreneurs.


Among the companies she has backed is Elemental Software, a company led by Derry-based Leeann Monk-Ozgula and Jennifer Neff, which has developed a digital platform that connects patients, care professionals and community health and wellness providers.

Ms McKenna has served as an adviser to among others the European Commission and SXSW. She is also entrepreneur-in-residence at a local girls school in Derry and is involved in Donegal Scale-X, a new accelerator programme that launched this week.

AwakenHub wouldn’t be the first to establish a fund focused exclusively on women entrepreneurs, although there aren’t too many of them.

The best known is the Female Founders Fund, which was established in New York in 2014. It has closed two funds to date and counts more than 40 companies in its portfolio, including the likes of Rent the Runway.

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor

Charlie Taylor is a former Irish Times business journalist