Nicole Junkermann on the future of female-led businesses

Employment & Skills | Latest News
Nicole Junkermann

Nicole Junkermann is an international entrepreneur and investor, and the founder of NJF Holdings, an international investment company with interests in venture capital, private equity, and real estate. Through NJF’s venture capital arm (NJF Capital), Nicole oversees a portfolio across Europe and the US similar in size to a small venture fund, including in healthcare, fintech, and deep tech. 

I have always felt very fortunate to be a female investor in the modern world, especially given the challenges faced by previous generations. While I am excited about the future of female-led businesses in the coming years, my experience and recent studies have shown that there is still a long way to go before women have equal investment opportunity.

A recent JP Morgan study is an example of this. The study – building on the UK VC & Female Founders Report commissioned by former chancellor, Philip Hammond, and undertaken by the British Business Bank – showed that in the UK, only 9% of funding to new businesses is to female-led UK start-ups, and from venture capital funding, this figure is only 1%.

Further, the Alison Rose Review of Female Entrepreneurship identified that female-led businesses receive less funding than businesses led by men at every stage of the fundraising life-cycle, in particular the review found that women launch their businesses with 53% less capital on average than men.

Therefore, it is essential that women, on both the entrepreneurial and investment side, need to be supported and encouraged to move into this industry, and the wider investment community must continue working in this area.  Initiatives such as RBS’s Female Entrepreneurs Fund of £1bn launched in January this year with the aim to create at least 50,000 new female-led businesses are a step in the right direction, but we must not relent on ensuring we have the right eco-system in place to enable female-led businesses to reach their potential.

From within our NJF Capital portfolio, we are proud to support three female-led businesses each tackling relevant problems across the world. We have Swarm Technologies, a California-based start-up which aims to enable global connectivity with the world’s lowest cost satellite network of micro-satellites around the Earth.  The company was founded in 2016 by Dr. Sara Spangelo, who herself worked on small satellites and autonomous aircraft at the University of Michigan and was a lead system engineer at both NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab (JPL) and Google X.

Second is a company still in stealth mode seeking to fight climate change by studying and optimizing the energy needs of large industries. And third is Elvie, co-founded by Tania Boler in 2014, and one of the early pioneers of the rapidly growing “Femtech” sector.  In fact, the rise of “Femtech” – technology geared to improving women’s lives and which is a market expected to be worth $50bn by 2025 – is crucially one where female-founded businesses are flourishing and at the front of this disruption.

Clearly there is a lot of work to be done in addressing unconscious bias, structural inequalities and equal opportunity for women in business. While it is crucial to fight for diversity and ensure less represented groups enter into the investment world, it is also essential that investment decisions are made on the individual and their ability. At NJF Holdings, we are committed to evaluating all our investment opportunities equally. We focus on skills, ideas, experience and vision as some of the key characteristics we are looking for in an entrepreneur and it is important that the decisions we reach are based on individual merit alone. I always say, when I invest, I invest in people first.

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