Female founded “unicorns” to hit record in 2019

Global Business

By some measures, now is a better time than ever for female entrepreneurs. 2019 is poised to witness the rise of a record number of female lead “unicorns” – private compares valued at a billion dollars or more. But at the same time funding for female startups remains as challenging as ever. CGTN America’s Karina Huber has more.

The co-founders of luggage company “Away” are the latest female entrepreneurs to join an exclusive club dominated by men.

They have created a “unicorn”—a private company valued at a billion dollars or more.

Another female-founded brand that hit that mark this year is fashion retail company—Rent the Runway.

2019 is on track to be a record year for unicorns founded by at least one woman. Last year there were a record 12 of them globally. Less than half the way into this year, there were ten of them.

According to a recent study, New York was the best place in the world for female entrepreneurs to start a business until this year when the San Francisco Bay Area snagged the top spot.

A few Chinese cities made the top 50 on the 2019 Women Entrepreneur Cities Index. Hong Kong came in at 23, Beijing at 38 and Shanghai at 47.

While things appear to be looking up for female entrepreneurs, it’s still an uphill battle.

“I don’t think the basic facts of growing a business have gotten easier but I think a lot more women are open to the conversations and open to mentoring others to lift the next generation up, so in that sense it may be a little bit easier, but I don’t think business has gotten any easier,” said Maggie McGrath, Editor of ForbesWomen.

According to data from Pitchbook, startups by women in the U.S. only received around two percent of the total venture capital funding in 2018.

NYU Stern Associate Professor Deepak Hegde thinks part of the problem is bias.

“There are stereotypes that women don’t tend to take risks as much and a large part of entrepreneurship is kind of risk taking. Now just because you’re a risk taker doesn’t mean you’re a better founder, but that can unfortunately end up propagating these biases as well.” said Hegde.

Many believe the only way to really turn things around for female entrepreneurs is to have more women making financing decisions at venture capital firms.

Arlan Hamilton talks about the value of diversity in venture capital

One key factor behind the rise of female-led unicorn companies, is VC firms dedicated to financing women- and minority- run businesses. Backstage Capital is one of a few such firms. Its founder Arlan Hamilton arrived in Silicon Valley without a college degree or a background in finance. She was also homeless when she launched Backstage Capital in 2014. Five years on, she’s raised more than $10 million for over a hundred companies. CGTN’s Karina Huber spoke to Arlan at this year’s Forbes Women’s Summit