Women-founded companies in Southeast Asia witnessed a substantial drop in investments in 2022, plummeting by over 32% from 2021, showing greater gender disparity in startup funding.

Southeast Asian startup funding recorded a significant decline in 2022, however, the phenomenon majorly impacted companies that were led by at least by one women founder in the region, accounting for a 32% drop in fundraising from 2021’s US$4.3 billion. A new report by Data Vantage on the gender investment gap in SEA showed that women-founded businesses raised an accumulated value of US$2 billion in equity grants in 2022, which tallied at 12.6% of all private capital raised during the financial year.

In 2021, women-led companies’ funding made up over for over 17.2% share of total equity and debt investments.

Gillian Tee, the founder and CEO of Homage, a healthcare service provider based in Singapore, stated, “Only 23% of VC firms in Southeast Asia had female partners. With the industry’s overall low turnover rate and preference to maintain the status quo, there is no impetus to shift the gender imbalance. Inevitably, this has had ripple effects as firms tend to back founders who look, think, and act like them.”

On a positive note, startups with women-founding teams raised higher-valued reserves, increasing their overall share of total capital procured in 2021.

For women-helmed startups their accumulated private funding comprised of up to 5.2%, attracting over US$960.6 million. Indonesia was lauded as the most favoured residency for female-founded companies, surpassing Singapore, however, the country ranked second in the overall closure of deals.

E-commerce startups founded by women entrepreneurs took the lead, having the highest capital boost in 2022 by raising US$488.6 million. FinTech came second, procuring up to US$475.4 million.

The report also featured interviews with women founders and entrepreneurs in SEA to share the challenges and biases within the startup ecosystem in the region: “I once had a VC ask my co-founder in my presence why I was doing the talking instead of him,” said Utari Octavianty, the Co-founder & Chief Sustainability Officer of Aruna.

Another woman Co-founder and the CEO of Vietnam-based HealthTech platform, Docosan, expressed, “Peer-reviewed research shows that recessions and downturns hit women and minorities harder. Funding is not an exception to this rule.”

Women entrepreneurs and founders are expected to meet with tougher implications, as SEA investors and VCs continue to tighten their strings amid growing regulations and market restrictions.


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