*By Paola Villarreal y Daniela Dib
Latin America is living its moment in terms of raising capital in startups and creating new unicorns. More than US$15 billion of venture capital was placed in regional companies during 2021.
However, there is a very evident disparity in terms of gender. Let’s look at some of the numbers:
- In 2020, Latin American startups led by women received only 2.3% of the venture capital funds destined for the region, according to Crunchbase.
- According to a 2020/2021 report by the Global Entrepreneurship Monitor, Latin America is the region with the highest female representation in the industry worldwide, with 24% of women’s ventures in early stages. But of the more than 40 unicorns we have identified in the region, only three were co-founded by women: Kavak, Nubank and iFood.
- In a study carried out by the global consulting firm Gender Smart, it pointed out that in LatAm there is a gap of US$93 billion dollars in financing between men and women. That is to say: on average, women-led startups only raise US$500K, while those founded by men raise an average of US$12 million.
Why Is It Important to Talk About This?
This data and the dozens of articles that are made about gender disparity can be perceived as simple complaints from women about the world of venture capital and entrepreneurship.
But while there is widespread awareness of the problem and there have been significant advances – including, for example, more female investors actively seeking out more female entrepreneurs and being aware of the challenges they face – the data remains worrying.
It is not that there is a lack of women in the labor market. According to a World Bank report, women represent 41.6% of the economically active population in Latin America and the Caribbean. However, a large percentage of them work as the main breadwinner of their families, or are also responsible for childcare or relatives. This often means that they cannot take the risk of founding a startup with innovative elements that, as the very definition of a startup dictates, may or may not function.
Startup Chile throws up more interesting data. In Chile, 77% of women must use their own savings to found a startup and only 14% manage to access venture capital funds.
This information forces us to ask ourselves many questions as an ecosystem, for example: knowing these figures, why do startups founded by women still receive so little investment? Almost daily we see news of capital raising and new unicorns in Latin America, but why are so few of these companies founded or co-founded by women? What is the real role that women are playing in these companies? And the list goes on…
The change towards a placement of capital with greater parity will be slow, but in the meantime we need the ecosystem to continue turning to focus on more female entrepreneurship, to try to reduce the gaps that prevent more women from undertaking the risky path of entrepreneurship and that more women actively participate as investors.
Latin American Startups Led or Co-founded by Women That Have Received Investment, by Country
At Contxto, we believe that all startups are valuable. This is because they are contributing to an entrepreneurial ecosystem in which technological innovation benefits the region in different areas.
However, we also believe that giving visibility to companies that have been co-founded or are led by women is important because, as we have already seen, they continue to be a very small part of those who receive venture capital funding in the region.
If we are going to talk about Latin America being very attractive in terms of raising capital, it is worth taking a look at how it is being distributed. That’s why we made this little list.
*Note: we made an effort, but we know that the companies mentioned below are not all those that have raised capital in the region and that have been founded or co-founded by women. If you are a founder or co-founder who has raised venture capital in LatAm and you do not appear on this list, write to us at [email protected]
Workana (Eliana Bracciaforte, co-founder)
Workana is an online platform for freelance work in Latin America. It currently has almost 2 million registered freelancers and more than 1,000 job opportunities published every day. It was co-founded by Eliana Bracciaforte and has raised US$10.2 million so far.
Agrosmart (Mariana Vasconcelos, co-founder and CEO)
Agrosmart is recognized by the World Economic Forum as a pioneering company in technology. It operates through a software aimed at farmers that works with artificial intelligence to make a meteorological analysis and provide irrigation recommendations. Its CEO and co-founder is Mariana Vasconcelos. Its most recent fundraising was in 2019, when it received US$5.8 million in a Series A led by Banco Bradesco. It has a total of US$10.5 million in funds.
iFood (Simone Alves de Carvalho, co-founder)
iFood is an online food ordering and delivery platform. It operates mainly in Brazil and Mexico, after merging its businesses in Argentina. The company has managed to raise a total of US$591.1 million in funds.
Nubank (Cristina Junqueira, co-founder)
Nubank is a success story for all of Latin America. Two months after starting the process for its Initial Public Offering (IPO), this neobank rang the bells of the New York Stock Exchange and became the bank with the highest listing in all of Latin America. Its co-founder is Cristina Junqueira, and it recently raised US$1 billion in a post-IPO round led by Berkshire Hathaway.
Gupy (Mariana Dias, co-founder, and Bruna Guimarães, co-founder and COO)
Gupy is a recruitment and selection platform that uses artificial intelligence to make the process faster and more assertive. It recently raised US$92 million in a round led by SoftBank and Riverwood. Its co-founders are Mariana Dias and Bruna Guimarães; the latter also acts as COO.
Theia (Flavia Deutsch and Paula Crespi, co-founders)
Theia is an O2O health service built by and for moms that allows pregnant women or those looking to become pregnant to have access to certified doctors and specialists. It raised US$1.7 million in a pre-seed round. Flavia Deutsch and Paula Crespi founded and lead this company, Deutsch in her role as CEO and Crespi as COO.
Buk (Teresita Morán, co-founder)
Buk is a human resource management startup. It recently received a US$50 million Series A investment led by Greenoaks and with participation from Softbank. It is so far the largest Series A that a Chilean startup has received. Created in 2017, Teresita Morán is its co-founder.
Toku (Cristina Etcheberry and Francisca Noguera Astaburuaga, co-founders)
Toku is a software that companies can install and use to automate the monthly collections to their clients. It was founded by Cristina Etcheberry and Francisca Noguera Astaburuaga, who managed to enter Y Combinator and raise US$2 million.
Backstartup (Juana Barco, co-founder and CEO)
Backstartup is a 100% digital accounting firm focused on SMEs and startups. Co-founded by Juana Barco, in 2021 it acquired nearly 300 new clients and raised US$1.2 million for its growth.
doc-doc (Catalina Gutiérrez and Laura Gutiérrez, co-founders)
doc-doc is a telemedicine startup founded in Bogotá. It recently raised a US$500K seed investment round from various investors including Startup Health, 500 Startups and Seedstars. Catalina Gutiérrez and Laura Gutiérrez are part of the founding team.
Foodology (Daniela Izquierdo, co-founder)
Foodology works with everything related to dark kitchens (ghost kitchens) and their logistics. It builds and runs digital restaurant brands that do take-aways. It was co-founded by Daniela Izquierdo and last year raised a US$15K Series A round.
Hunty (Valentina Smith, co-founder and COO)
Hunty it is a platform with a support program so that unemployed people can find a job. It raised US$2 million in a seed investment round last year. The company was co-founded by Valentina Smith.
Laika (Manuela Sánchez Villamarín, co-founder)
Laika is an e-commerce startup for pets. It has been endorsed by Y Combinator, Streamlined Ventures and InQulab. In this same year, it raised US$48 million dollars in a Series B led by Softbank. Its co-founder is Manuela Sanchez Villamarin.
Ubits (Martha Helena Forero Sepúlveda, co-founder and COO)
Ubits is an edtech startup that recently raised US$25 million in a Series B led by Riverwood Capital fund. It was co-founded by Marta Helena Forero Sepúlveda, who also serves as COO.
Beek.io (Pamela Valdes, co-founder and CEO)
Beek is a subscription model audiobook platform for Spanish speakers. Pamela Valdes is its CEO and co-founder. Beek was part of Y Combinator’s Winter 2017 class and has raised US$7 million from various investors, including Greylock Partners and Accel Partners. Valdes is also an angel investor for other Latin American startups.
Ben & Frank (Mariana Castillo, co-founder and co-CEO)
Ben & Frank is a startup created in 2016, focused on changing the way people buy their glasses. It uses e-commerce as its main sales channel, but it also has pop-up stores and expanding stores. Mariana Castillo is co-founder and co-CEO. The company has raised up to US$480K from funds such as Dila Capital, Jaguar Ventures (Wollef) and Nazca.
Canasta Rosa (Deborah Dana, founder and CEO)
Canasta Rosa is a platform to buy and sell unique, artisanal and local products made by micro-entrepreneurs. Deborah Dana is the founder and CEO, and is also active as an investor in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. In 2019, Canasta Rosa obtained a US$3 million Series A investment round through the Elevar Equity fund.
Casai (María del Carmen Herrerías, co-founder and COO)
In 2020 the luxury hospitality company Casai raised a US$48 million round, which was one of the biggest series A in Latin America. María del Carmen Herrerías Salazar is its co-founder and COO.
Conekta (Cristina Randall, co-founder and CGO)
Conekta is an online payment platform that helps banks and financial institutions to secure and optimize their processes. Cristina Randall is co-founder and Chief Growth Officer. Together with her team, she has managed to raise a total of US$21.7 million in approximately 7 rounds. Her most recent fundraising round was a Series B in March 2019.
Homely (Melina Cruz, co-founder and CEO)
Homely designed a technological proposal to request cleaning services for homes and businesses on demand. Co-founded and directed by Melina Cruz, the company has managed to raise US$250K so far.
Jefa (Emma Sánchez Andrade Smith, founder and CEO)
Jefa is a digital bank for women that offers access to savings accounts, loans, insurance, easy payments, debit and credit cards. Its founder and CEO is Emma Sánchez Andrade Smith. In 2021, she raised US$2 million.
Kavak (Loreanne García Ottati, co-founder and CPO)
Venezuelan-born Loreanne García Ottati is the Chief People Officer and one of the founders of Kavak, which is a platform to purchase and sell pre-owned vehicles. What’s more is that it was the first company to achieve unicorn status in Mexico. It is also the second most valuable company in Latin America, with a valuation of US$8.7 billion.
Luuna (Laurène Maire, co-founder and CFO)
Luuna is a bedding company that is focused on changing the way bedding products are purchased and distributed throughout Mexico. It has developed and produced an innovative mattress in Mexico. Within its founding team is Laurène Maire, who also serves as the CFO.
Runa (Courtney McColgan, co-founder and CEO)
Runa is a 100% cloud-based payroll and human resources platform for companies in Latin America. It has managed the payroll of 100,000 employees in companies throughout the region. Runa was founded by Courtney McColgan, a Californian based in Mexico who was previously the CMO of Cabify. Currently, the company is valued at US$75 million.
Troquer (Lucía Martinez-Ostos and Ytzia Belausteguigoitia, co-founders)
Troquer is an online marketplace for second-hand luxury clothing and accessories that was co-founded by Lucía Martinez-Ostos and Ytzia Belausteguigoitia. This startup raised US$600K in a capital round led by Redwood Ventures.
Vinco (Lissy Giacomán, Sofía Sada and Miriam Fernández, co-founders)
Vinco is a Mexican edtech co-founded by three women: Lissy Giacomán, Sofía Sada and Miriam Fernández. The project arose from the effects that the pandemic caused in the country’s workforce. It has raised a total of US$3.9 million since its inception.
Worky (Maya Dadoo, co-founder and CEO)
Worky is a comprehensive solution in the cloud for SMEs to manage human capital without paperwork and with agility. Maya Dadoo is co-founder and CEO. Its fundraising totals US$3 million in a round led by QED Investors and LEAP Global Partners.
Yana (Andrea Campos, founder and CEO)
Yana is a Spanish-speaking application that accompanies people on the path to emotional well-being. It uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy tools and presents them in a friendly way to help anyone who wants to manage their emotional state, on any day and at any time. Andrea Campos created and directs Yana, and has managed to raise US$315K in funds with 500 Startups, Magma Partners and Hustle Fund.
Crack The Code (María Vélez, founder and CEO)
Crack the Code is a Lima-based edtech startup of online programming courses for children and adolescents. Colombian-born María Velez is the founder and CEO of this company, which began in Peru and has expanded to other Latin American countries including Mexico, Colombia and Central America. It recently secured an investment of US$2.7 million.
Fitco (Andrea Baba, co-founder)
Fitco is a gym management software and online training platform. It was co-founded in 2016 by Andrea Baba and has raised US$500K in a seed round.
Manzana Verde (Larissa Arias, co-founder and CMO)
Manzana Verde is a healthy food delivery startup that recently announced a US$1.5 million seed round. Larisa Arias is co-founder and CMO of the company.
Talently (Domenica Obando and Roxana Kern, co-founders)
Domenica Obando and Roxana Kern founded Talently in July 2019 as a career accelerator. The company provides a program that guides the developer with blended courses and instructors to improve their technical English and learn the necessary skills to master job interviews. In 2021, it closed an investment round of US$600K.
PleIQ (Nastassja Palmiotto, co-founder and director of operations)
PleIQ creates smart educational solutions based on AR/VR for early childhood education. Within its founding team is Nastassja Palmiotto, who is also director of operations. This startup focused on empowering children’s creativity through augmented reality has raised US$500K.
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