M12, Microsoft Corp.’s venture fund, last week announced the Female Founders Competition, seeking to accelerate funding for women-led startups focused on enterprise technology solutions. Two winners will share $4 million in venture funding, as well as access to technology resources and mentoring.
Submissions will be accepted from July 26, 2018, to Sept. 30, 2018, and open across three regions: Europe, Israel, and North America (U.S., Canada, and Mexico). Companies will be eligible to apply if they have at least one woman founder, have raised less than $4 million in combined equity funding and/or loans at the day of application, and offer or intend to release a product, service or platform that addresses a critical business problem.
Microsoft says that women entrepreneurs receive a disproportionately small amount of venture funding, with only 2.2 percent of the total invested in 2017 going to women-founded startups. Studies have shown that investing in companies founded by women delivers significantly higher returns than the market average.
“We formed M12 to make smart bets on innovative people and their ideas, and the Female Founders Competition is an extension of that mandate,” said Peggy Johnson, executive vice president of Business Development at Microsoft. “This isn’t about checking a box; it’s an opportunity to remind the VC community that investing in women is more than just good values, it’s good business.”
Up to 10 finalists will pitch in person for the chance to be one of the two startups that earn a $2 million investment as well as access to technology resources, mentoring and additional support.