Minority women in business meeting

VC Funds Closing the Gender and Ethnic Gap

7 min read • Mar 09, 2020 • Mary Kate Miller

There’s a funding gap in venture capital (VC). We know this. And yet knowing it doesn’t immediately lead to change. To change that gap, VC firms need to take active steps towards equity, and entrepreneurs need to know about it. We’re sharing this article in service of the second goal. By informing entrepreneurs about funding access that may be available, we support the work toward a more equitable market. 

What are Women- and Minority-Focused VCs?

Venture capital provides early-stage financing to companies with enormous growth potential. Women-focused and minority-focused VCs look to fund companies that are overlooked by the existing model—and are founded by or serve to meet the needs of women, people of color, and other underserved groups. 

Pipeline Angels

Pipeline Angels is determined to close the gender funding gap. How do they aim to do it? By helping women invest in other women. While that might sound like any other vague platitude floating around social media in various recycled iterations, Pipeline Angels has an actionable path to make it happen. Think crowdfunding, but bigger. Pipeline is working to “change the face of angel investing” by helping women invest in other women and non-binary femme entrepreneurs.

In addition to funding, Pipeline Angels is dedicated to providing an entry point for aspiring angel investors. They have a network of more than 300 members who receive training via their angel investing boot camp before funding startups. So if by chance you’re an aspiring venture capitalist moved by this mission, you can learn more here

Pipeline Angels Investment Criteria

To secure funding through Pipeline Angels, you must present at one of their pitch summits. Criteria for participation are as follows:

  • At least 1 cofounder is a woman or femme (per their website, “We encourage anyone who identified with womanhood—cis, trans, non-binary—to apply.”)
  • For-profit company
  • A mission that’s social or environmental
  • Based in the US

Harlem Capital

Harlem Capital doesn’t believe in small goals. At least, that’s not the impression you get from their stated mission “to change the face of entrepreneurship by investing in 1,000 diverse founders over the next 20 years.” That averages out to almost 1 entrepreneur per week, giving Harlem Capital a real chance of facilitating a social and economic shift through its mission. What types of companies is Harlem Capital interested in funding? They’re looking for products that match the marketing and operational expertise they offer in addition to “revenue-generating tech-enabled products.”

Harlem Capital Investment Criteria

You don’t have to belong to a certain demographic to qualify for Harlem Capital funding. You will have to meet the following criteria

  • $100k (or greater) revenue
  • At least 1 full-time founder and a solid management team
  • A high-impact business model
  • A product or service that solves “an important business problem”
  • Market size potential
  • “Attractive valuation in prices or capped Seed or Series A Round (5–10% ownership target)”
  • 4- to 7-year expected timeframe for investment realization

If you meet all those criteria, the last is maybe the most important: Harlem Capital needs to see that it can offer some real value to the business. 

Aspect Ventures

It always benefits a company to have help from someone with access to capital and a high level of influence. That’s the theory behind all of venture capital, and Aspect Ventures got to live that story. In 2018, none other than Melinda Gates helped the female-helmed firm raise more than $181 million. Today, the companies they’ve funded include BaubleBar, Trulia, and TheRealReal. 

Aspect Ventures Investment Criteria

Aspect Ventures doesn’t publically list their investment criteria, but you can get in touch via their website. 

SoGal Ventures

Pocket Sun and Elizabeth Galbut, the cofounders behind SoGal Ventures, have already achieved a first. SoGal Ventures is the first female-led millennial venture capital firm. They understand that not all businesses with enormous potential are funded equally, which is why they set out to meet the capital needs of minorities, with a specific focus on funding companies targeting millennial and Gen Z women. If you fall into a similar demographic, you’ve probably seen some of the companies they’ve funded on Instagram. SoGal has invested in Everlywell, the company that offers health testing kits for food sensitivity, Vitamin D levels, thyroid levels, and a metabolism test. They’ve also championed Winky Lux, the false lash company endorsed by Tinsley Mortimer of Real Housewives fame. 

SoGal Investment Criteria 

You’ll have to reach out to SoGal ventures for their full list of investment requirements. As a baseline, your company may be a match if the following are true for you: 

  • Based in the US or Asia
  • Target customer is a millennial or Gen Z woman
  • Company is building the future of how we live, work, and maintain health

Founders First Capital

Who doesn’t love a VC firm that’s willing to put its money where its mouth is? Founders First Capital aims to leverage its capital to close wage gaps. Their stated aim “to empower underrepresented founders to become leading premium wage job creators within their communities” supports research that shows community-based organizations are essential to improving economic and social opportunities within those communities. 

Founders First Capital Investment Criteria

Companies that hit the following points might be a good fit for Founders First Capital:

  • Company is service-based (think subscription models)
  • Based in the US
  • Have enormous growth potential
  • Have existing B2B contracts with recurring monthly revenue
  • Are open to additional funding rounds down the line

Ada Ventures

If you want to make change, you’ve got to come in swinging. That’s why Ada Ventures is dedicated to “bold investment for overlooked founders and markets.” Unlike most of our other entries, Ada Ventures funds companies based in the UK, so if you live and work on the other side of the pond, they may be for you. 

Ada Ventures Investment Criteria

Nothing warms a financially-underserved heart like reading that Ada Ventures believes “that talent is evenly distributed but, at present, opportunity is not.” To even the playing field, Ada Ventures has put together a robust framework of criteria. You can read the full requirements on Medium because they believe in full transparency. Nice


Mary Kate Miller

Mary Kate Miller is a writer based in Chicago, IL. She specializes in covering finance (personal and business), investing, and real estate. Her mission in life is to give readers the confidence and the knowledge needed to grow their wealth by making financial topics more accessible. When she's not writing about topics like business loans, you can find her playing armchair financial advisor to the Real Housewives.