Companies in the report
Dealroom and Female Foundry worked together to identify over 12,000 startups, which forms the basis of insights provided in this report.
To be considered in the scope of this report, all companies must meet a number of criteria, including:
Being a startup, according to the Dealroom definition (see below), and practical implications and limitations therein.
Having at least one (co-)founder identified as a woman (see below);
Being based in one of the 18 countries which fall within the scope of this report:
Notes: The company’s primary location, or main center of business, is determined by a number of factors including: (1) the existence of a legal entity in the country (2) the location of the majority of its headcount and/or (3) the location of the majority of its management team, starting with its (co-)founders and/or CEO and c-level executives. Startups which were founded in one of the scope countries, which later relocated their main address (legal or executive, often to the United States) to another country, regardless of the purpose of relocation, are included in this report.
What is a startup?
Dealroom’s definition of a startup.
All companies in this report are startups. A startup is defined by Dealroom.co as a company designed to grow fast (either developing tech or using tech to operate its business). In practice, a startup is a company which:
Was founded in or after 1990 (i.e. it was founded in the information age);
Is currently active, i.e. the company’s website is active, and its online presence exhibits signs of activity, including recent headcount growth and/or recent (professional) social media activity, and/or significant traffic on its website. Exited, acquired or public startups are included in this report, so long as they maintain a distinct legal and/or effective existence from the holding company;
Has been identified by Dealroom.co as a company with a VC-backable business model, leveraging Dealroom’s industry taxonomy.
More on Dealroom’s startup definition HERE.
Categorisation, Industries and Taxonomy
This report uses the standardised categorisation and proprietary tech taxonomy developed by Dealroom.
Industries: startups, as well as capital invested in them, are categorised under minimum one, and up to two industries as defined in Dealroom’s industry taxonomy. Therefore the sum of investments made by industries (or verticals) should not be aggregated as double counting may occur.
Business focus: startups may be categorised according to one of two business focuses: B2B or B2C. Some startups may offer products qualifying them as both B2B and B2C.
eCommerce & Marketplace: A place connecting a buyer(s) and seller(s) where goods or services are bought, sold or exchanged.
Manufacturing: The making of goods by hand or by machine that upon completion the business sells to a customer.
SaaS: Software-as-a-Service, a method of software delivery and licensing in which software is accessed online via a subscription, rather than bought and installed on individual computers.
More on Dealroom’s proprietary tech taxonomy HERE.
Startups may also be categorised according to their founding year. All startups were founded in or after 1990 (information age). The founding year of a startup is determined by the startup themselves (self-reporting) on Dealroom.co directly, in publicly available content (news article, interviews), or as reported by the companies’ (co-)founder(s), investor(s) or backer(s).
On growth stages, funding and VC backing
Stages, rounds and maturity.
In this report, startups are categorised in two main ways:
Early-Stage - companies that have raised less than €5m in total funding.
Growth-Stage - companies that have raised €5m or more in total funding.
Out of those which are VC-backed, startups are categorised according to the latest funding round disclosed. Categorisation is not based on the startups’ (self-)reported round label. Instead, this report uses the disclosed amount as leading factor, following Dealroom’s standardised approach:
Pre-Seed: all startups with a disclosed VC-type funding round of <1M US$
Seed: all startups with a disclosed VC-type funding round of min. 1M and up to 4M US$
Series A: all startups with a disclosed VC-type funding round of min. 4M and up to 15M US$
Series B: all startups with a disclosed VC-type funding round of min. 15M and up to 40M US$
Series C: all startups with a disclosed VC-type funding round of min. 40M and up to 100M US$
Mega(round): all startups with a disclosed VC-type funding round of min. 100M and up to 250M US$
Mega(round) plus: all startups with a disclosed VC-type funding round of over 250M US$
Funding rounds which are not classified as VC-type, including grants, debt, and other forms of funding, are excluded from reported VC investment figures. However these may be used to qualify a startup’s most adequate stage when no other form of funding has been disclosed.
Round stages and cutoffs are based on US Dollars. This report uses the Euro (EUR) as standard reporting currency. For those transactions in US$ or any other currency in circulation in scope countries, Dealroom.co applies a fixed conversion rate as follows:
Funding v. VC-backing
In order to grow fast and amplify their impact, many startups receive third-party support. This support may come in various shapes and forms.
The main route is to be VC-backed, i.e. to receive growth capital in return for a share of the company’s equity. Growth equity provided to startups by Venture Capital funds, as well as other types of investors, so long as the (stated) goal is to accelerate growth or finance business expansion, is considered VC. However not all startups are VC-backed: in fact only about 50% of startups in this report are.
All VC-backed startups are funded by definition. Additionally, some startups are classified as funded only, meaning that they have received a form of third-party support, often in the form of funding, but are not (yet) VC-backed. Funding in this context includes equity-dilutive as well as non-equity dilutive financial support, the most common such types being loans/debt and grants. Funding may also include in-kind support, or a mix of financial and in-kind support, including being part of an acceleration or incubation programme, being a corporate or academic spinout (or spinoff), or receiving other forms of backing, including media for equity, or other undisclosed forms of support (support program). In this report, the majority (7.3K) of startups are funded according to this Dealroom definition. However fewer than 1K startups are funded but not VC-backed.
Bootstrapped and undisclosed funding
All other startups, or about 5K (~40% of the total) are either Bootstrapped or have received third party funding without disclosing it. These startups are overwhelmingly early-stage companies: 40% were founded in the last 5 years, 80% in the past 10 years. The vast majority of these startups are believed to be bootstrapped, i.e. to self-fund their growth with generated revenue, without third-party funding or support.
On identifying founders, co-founders, and their gender identities
Startups are founded by individuals who embark on the entrepreneurial journey in various ways. In the context of this report, a founder or co-founder, as there is no hierarchy between the two, is defined as an individual who self-identifies as such. Identification is primarily sourced from a company's legal filings, its website or the website of its (VC) investors or backers. It may also be retrieved from (professional) social media, media or blog articles published, edited or featured by the startup or the founder(s) themselves.
Other forms of official communication issued by the startup, its investor(s) or backer(s), or reported in media articles may also be used.
Generally, a founder may be defined as an individual who started the company.
However (co-)founders may join a company at a later date: there are cases where an individual’s impact on a startup, usually at a very early stage, has been pivotal in a way that allows them to describe themselves as (co-)founder. Thus, there may be cases where not all (co-)founders were involved in the company’s operations from the start, but the vast majority of founders have played a foundational role in setting up the company. Conversely, (co-)founders may leave the company but will remain (co-)founders even if they are no longer part of the management team of said company.
Therefore, while not all (co-)founders hold a position of significant influence at present in the startup which they founded, the majority of them do. Startup (co-)founders usually hold a “c-level” position in their respective startups, usually in their capacity as CEO (Chief Executive Officer) or CTO/CSO (Chief Technology Officer / Chief Scientific Officer). Other active (co-)founders may exert influence in their capacity as strategist, or in honorary functions or non-executive functions, in particular for those startups which have been acquired, have excited, or have gone through extensive restructuring. In this regard, while founders usually retain a significant (or majority) equity stake in the company which they have founded, there is no minimum ownership or equity-holding percentage applicable in the context of the identification of a (co-)founder in this report.
Not all startups disclose the identity of their founders. Not all startup founders, whether current or past, wish or decide to (self-)identify as such. In spite of our best efforts, not all disclosed identities may be captured, and therefore associated with active startups. When founding teams are identified, they are assumed to be complete. However it cannot be excluded that (former) (co-)founders, or (co-)founders with a more limited online presence or level of involvement in the startup, may have been omitted.
Founder gender is retrieved in two main ways.
In the case where an identified (co-)founder has self-identified on the gender spectrum publicly and explicitly, either directly, on the Dealroom platform, or one of its partner ecosystem platforms, or indirectly, by submitting gender (self-)identification data to one of Dealroom’s data partners, then the gender of the individual who is identified as a (co-)founder will serve as a base to identify the startup as (co-)founded by a woman.
In the case where none of the identified (co-)founders has self-identified on the gender spectrum, then Dealroom may have identified the founding team as (1) gender-diverse, or as (2) an all-women founding team which is constitutive of Dealroom’s Woman Founder categorisation. Identification of founding teams is based on a variety of factors including news coverage of a startup and its founding team, the participation of individual (co-)founders or of the startup itself in women-entrepreneurship (support) programs, or the backing that the startup may have received from investors and support programs tailored for women entrepreneurs.
On the State of gender diversity in European venture survey
In the context of our study, Female Foundry conducted an online survey targeting five key demographic segments:
Female Founders - Restricted to female entrepreneurs operating in Europe.
Female Emerging Fund Managers - Also gender-restricted, operating. This category includes fund managers who have not yet raised a fund but are in the process of doing so, extending up to those who have successfully closed their third fund.
Venture Capital investors - Open globally to VC investors of all levels of seniority who have made at least one investment into European companies.
Limited Partners - Open globally to Limited Partner investors of all levels of seniority who have made at least one investment into a European fund.
Angel Investors - Restricted to angel investors based in Europe.
The Survey Period
The survey was conducted over an eight-week period, beginning on October 11, 2023, and concluding on December 6, 2023.
Validation of Responses
To ensure data integrity, we conducted a thorough vetting process for each survey response. This included the exclusion of responses that failed to meet specific criteria, such as appropriate geographic location (Europe for female founders, angel investors and emerging fund managers), and the necessity for a valid, disclosed email address, alongside other identification methods, using Linkedin and other platforms, such as Crunchbase and Dealroom. The verification process was manual, with a strong emphasis on maintaining data confidentiality.
Responses that were dubious in terms of their authenticity were excluded from the analysis.
Overall, the survey received 1,202 responses. After the meticulous validation process, 1,168 of these responses were confirmed as valid and reliable. These responses were then included in our final analysis and the insights drawn from the survey.
On investors, funds and their managers
Data pertaining to individuals who are (angel) investors or fund managers in their capacity as partner or general partner are included in the scope of this report. The gender of individuals, whether in their capacity as founders or investors, follows the same rationale (see “On identifying founders, co-founders, and their gender identities.”).
In the context of this report, “Funds” refer to disclosed (investment) vehicles. The Fund is dated to the first public disclosure of the vehicle. The amount associated with the Fund corresponds to the highest amount which has been publicly disclosed, regardless of date of final close.
Funds are managed by investors (i.e. investment firms). Analysis on people data focuses on individuals who are part of the (management) team of investment firms (self-)described or categorised as (i) Venture Capital (ii) Corporate Venture Capital (CVC) (iii) Private Equity, insofar as at least one fund under management is classified as VC, and (iv) Family Offices.
On 50 Top Rounds List
When compiling the list of the Top 50 Rounds in 2023, we used publicly available data to confirm the identities of founders involved in the biggest European rounds. Where we had doubts about the identity, education, or demographic profile of an individual, we excluded that person from our analysis.
Company and round data
We tried to allocate just one sector per company, which we understand has its limitations. All the rounds were converted into € using average currency exchange rate of 2023.