Lugano, Switzerland-based venture capital fund Privilège Ventures just launched its fourth fund. The CHF 20 million fund (a little over $20 million) is earmarked for women-led startups at early stages across Europe.
“We don’t want to just support women,” Jacqueline Ruedin Rüsch, founding general partner of Privilège Ventures said in an interview with TechCrunch. “Data shows women in the driver’s seat produce better ROI.”
The company says its investment thesis is based on statistical evidence that women perform better than men in leadership roles.
“The numbers are staggering. It’s not just about ethics and doing good: global GDP would grow 6% if the rate of entrepreneurship were equal between men and women,” said Lucian Wagner, general partner founder of Privilège Ventures in a statement to press.
The company’s thesis is supported by Boston Consulting Group research on investment and income data over a five-year period. The study also showed that startups founded and co-founded by women received less than half the average investment of companies led by men, even though female-led startups generated 10% more revenue over time .
“There is a lot of money worldwide dedicated to backing female founders, and despite the rapid growth of the VC industry the percentage of female or gender-diverse-led teams is falling,” said Rüsch. “I started my professional life in the banking sector in Switzerland: this was, and partially still is, a very male-driven sector. I was used to being one of the few women in large conference rooms and I didn’t even pay much attention to it . But when I got pregnant the first reaction from my former colleagues was, ‘When are you going to stop working?’ This was very shocking, I must admit.”
As Alex reported back in July, PitchBook data suggests that the percentage of venture capital deals that include at least one female founder fell from 19.4% to 18.2%. In Europe, the numbers are even more terrifying. Privilege suggests that in Europe, female founders receive barely 1% of total VC investment.
Privilege Ventures’ LPs are primarily high net worth individuals and family offices, the firm says, and the fund aims to write 15-20 early-stage checks, with initial investments in the $250,000 range.
“I really like investing in founders at the beginning of their journey. Often we meet them even before they have incorporated their company and we follow them, train them and see how they take the first steps in the entrepreneurial journey. Given our focus in the seed stage, we feel it is key to be as close as possible to our companies and for this reason we have a preference for our local market, Switzerland, and the surrounding European countries,” Rüsch explained. “We do not specialize in a specific sector but we have some preferences, namely in med\tech, deep tech and in general for the digital economy. We like to get in as early as possible, even pre-seed, and we’re happy to continue investing in the best companies all the way to Series A.”
The company says it would like to see more companies trying to solve “real” problems – solutions that can save lives, preserve the planet and products that are not just “nice to have” but “must have.”
“Our overall portfolio already counts more than 30% of companies with a female co-founder. As we aim to invest only in top-performing teams, we need to guarantee a high deal flow and for this reason, we will look at only in Switzerland but also in Europe with a greater focus on certain countries such as Italy, France and Germany, they were closer to us,” says Rüsch, explaining why investing specifically in women continues to make sense for the fund. “Some will point to the simple fact that having different points of view in the room leads to more thoughtful decision-making – some will point out that women have fought through a lot of trouble to get where they are. We see ourselves that women push them. tackle problems that have been neglected in technology – but can have a profound impact on the world. We already have startups in our portfolio with female founders or leaders working on the use of neurotech to improve sleep, fungicides to improve food and biomarkers to continuously measuring proteins and hormones to prevent and control health conditions, just to name a few.”