French unicorns: where are the women in entrepreneurship?

Nicolas, Cyril, Alexandre… In the list of founders of French unicorns, the first names of women are missing. Of these 26 companies, only one, Vestiaire Collective, was founded by a mixed group.

2 or 3% of projects led by women

Behind this assessment, hides a strong inequality between men and women entrepreneurs in access to funds to develop their projects.

This absence of women, Agnès Pannier-Runacher noted bitterly. “I regret that to date women are very much in the minority within these new companies, which constitute a structuring economic plan for the future”, deplores the Minister Delegate for Industry.

To reach the total of one billion dollars of valuation and win the title of unicorn, one step is essential: fundraising. And this is where the shoe pinches, entrepreneurs and entrepreneurs are not equal in this process.

Difficulties in obtaining financing

A barometer published in May 2021 by the collective of entrepreneurs Sista, the National Digital Council and the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) paints a gloomy picture in this area. All types of amounts combined, only 3% of the funds raised in 2020 were raised by all-female teams. The higher the amount, the less these teams are present: women entrepreneurs represent only 2% of projects between 15 and 50 million euros; beyond 50 million, they disappear.

Once the 100 million mark has been crossed, mixed projects are also absent and 100% of the funds are recovered by all-male teams.

“Access to financing is nevertheless essential when we want to create leaders in our sectors”, supports Céline Lazorthes, founder of Litchee, co-founder of the start-up Résilience and founding member of Sista.

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“Who will take care of the children? »

Behind these statistics are often similar situations, with questions about motherhood or the role of wife coming up almost all the time in the ten or so testimonies.

“An investment fund asked me for details about my children, who took care of them, things you would never have asked of a man”, regrets Julie Boucon, co-founder of the Holy Owly application. “They ended up refusing to invest in us because our husbands had not yet injected funds”.

On the investor side, while some admit a “sad situation”, they also point out that “female entrepreneurs tend to carry out B2C company projects more” (« business to consumer », i.e. consumer-oriented). However, according to these investors, such projects generate less growth than projects « B2B », that is to say between professionals. “France does not have a national market large enough to reach companies of extraordinary size” in B2C, tempers Pauline Roux of the investment company Elaia Partners.

Commitments to promote parity

To fight against these inequalities, some fifty investors, funds but also Bpifrance, the public investment bank, committed in 2019 to financing 25% of start-ups founded or co-founded by women by 2025. agreement pushed among others by the Sista collective and the National Digital Council.

Another movement initiated to remedy this problem, the promotion of female models of success. “When I took up my position, I was asked a lot if I was chosen because I was a woman”, says Clara Chappaz, head of the French Tech mission. “We hope to solve problems of self-censorship with role models like Maya Noël at the head of France Digitale or Roxanne Varza at Station F”.

In addition to “moral imperative” of a more feminine French Tech, the Secretary of State for Digital Cédric O calls for a transition to “a question of economic performance” : “The more diverse and plural the teams are, the stronger they are in the long term”, he said.