Aspect Ventures, a female-owned lending company, announced Tuesday that it has raised an unprecedented $181 million for investing in early-stage startups. Melinda Gates, a major backer in Aspect’s second fundraiser, said her interest in backing the company stems largely from the founders’ savvy business decisions and inclusive funding attitude.
“Jennifer and Theresia are extremely talented investors. They see opportunities where others don’t – including backing diverse entrepreneurs whose potential the venture capital industry has long been blind to,” said Gates, expressing her confidence in Aspect’s founders.
Among Aspect’s startups, 40% have a female co-founder, 50% have an immigrant or first-generation citizen, and about 30% have a co-founder from a racial minority. These numbers are uncommonly high in a market that’s had its problems with lending to female small businesses.
In fact, companies with exclusively female founders received only 2% of venture capital in both 2016 and 2017. Those founded by men, on the other hand, received about 16x more money. One of the reasons given for this anomaly is that male investors have a harder time relating to ideas proposed by women.
If this is the case, it’s imperative for lenders like Aspect to continue receiving support. Especially because 40% of U.S. entrepreneurs are women. Empowering women to start businesses by giving them access to capital is crucial to the health of the economy.
According to a study done by UBS, “if women participated and were paid in the workforce at ‘best in region’ rates, global GDP would climb 11%.” That’s a serious economic boost that Americans can’t afford to miss. “If women entered, and stayed, in the workforce at a pace in line with Norway, the U.S. economy would be $1.6 trillion larger than it is today.”
Forward-thinking marketplace lenders and venture capitalists recognize the vitality that women bring to the workforce and are making strides to fund female-owned small businesses. Aspect Ventures is one of many, but they represent a shift in the workplace towards equal lending opportunities for all who have caught the small business bug.