Talent is equally Distributed but Opportunity is Not

Artesian, has launched the $100 million Female Leaders VC Fund in partnership with leading female-focused angel investor group, Scale Investors. The Fund has attracted $45M of cornerstone investment from industry super funds, Hostplus and legalsuper.


The Female Leaders VC Fund will exclusively target Series A and B rounds of high-growth female-led ventures across the Asia Pacific region.


Artesian and Scale recognise that talent is evenly distributed across male and female founders (as well as investors, employees, and board members). However, there is material inequality between the opportunity available for male and female founders in the startup ecosystem.



For example:

  • startups with male-only founders receive >85% of global VC funding

  • 95.2% of VC investment partners are male

  • male founders and employees own 89% of total startup equity

  • startups with female-only founders receive <3% of global VC funding

  • average deal size of female-founded startups is <0.5x that of male-founded startups

  • female founders and employees own only 11% of total startup equity


This endemic gender inequality has resulted in asymmetrical capital distribution and a relative value pricing opportunity. The Female Leaders VC Fund will address this market failure and target strong returns by providing financial and strategic support to the unique perspectives, unexplored business opportunities and under-invested talent of female founders in Australia, NZ, and the broader Asia Pacific region.


Artesian has developed a proprietary Gender Diversity Assessment Score (GDAS) to be used during the sourcing and deal pipeline process to establish which startups are eligible for potential investment from the Fund. Artesian hopes that the GDAS will be adopted more broadly, across the ecosystem, to benchmark gender diversity in early-stage companies, provide greater transparency, and a means by which to measure future impact and progress.



Artesian is the investment manager for the Female Leaders VC Fund, which has a predominately female investment team including Partners Mei Lee and Vicky Lay, as well as portfolio managers, analysts and legal/operations staff including Ali Clunies-Ross, Melody Zhang, Fiona Zheng, Carol Lu, Channing Chen, Kate Robinson, and Jenny Chu.



Artesian Female Leaders VC Fund Portfolio Manager, Ali Clunies-Ross states, “Artesian is a global alternative asset manager looking for market failures that result in mispriced or undervalued assets. Female-led startups suffer underinvestment not due to a lack of talent, but from the lack of opportunities caused by cognitive biases and pattern recognition in an industry where 95.2% of VCs are male. Artesian has recognised the chance to invest in an opportunity hiding in plain sight – female led startups raising Series A and Series B funding. Artesian relishes our role as first-movers and ecosystem builders and believe that you do not have to sacrifice market leading returns while delivering transformational change.”


Scale Investors leads the Fund’s community engagement, mentorship and education for female founders and investors across Australia. Scale was co-founded in 2013 by Susan Oliver, Annette Kimmitt and Carol Schwartz. With day-to-day operations run by co-CEO’s Samar Mcheileh and Chelsea Newell and the Scale Board, chaired by Catherine Robson, Scale Investors’ angel syndicates have participated in over 23 female-founded startup investments, including a highly successful 30x exit from Trademark Vision in 2020.


Scale Investors Chair, Catherine Robson says, “Since 2013, Scale Investors have been activating investment activity for early-stage female founded companies to close the entrepreneurial gender gap. We are committed to building innovation skills in Australia. Our work today is creating the jobs and companies of the future. The need for women to participate and to succeed is critical to deliver real equality. The Female Leaders VC Fund is an extension of our efforts and provides later stage funding for the best female-led startups here and across the region.’


Hostplus has been a major supporter of the startup and innovation ecosystem in Australia, helping kickstart the renaissance of the VC market since 2015 by backing venture firms including Blackbird, Square Peg and Artesian across multiple funds. CEO David Elia noted that Hostplus’ AUD$25 million investment into the Female Leaders VC Fund “recognises the compelling investment opportunity presented by the Fund and sends a strong signal regarding Hostplus’ commitment to female economic empowerment. The Female Leaders Fund’s investment strategy is complementary to our existing VC exposure, capturing opportunities that are sometimes underrepresented or overlooked. We believe that the Female Leaders VC Fund can become a beacon for the best female founders across the region and a platform to encourage engagement, mentorship and education for female founders, investors, management and board members”.


legalsuper has unique understanding and connection with the legal community, enabling the fund to hone its support, services, and product offerings to meet members’ unique needs. legalsuper has very high female membership (71% of total membership) and has joined Women in Super – an organisation advocating for a super system devoid of gender-based inequality – by working on behalf of its members and women generally with government, unions, employer organisations, regulators, and superannuation funds. Chief Executive Andrew Proebstl states that “Addressing financial security for all our members is critical. We recognise that currently women in Australia are retiring with almost half as much as men, despite their longer life expectancy. Closing this super pay gap requires addressing a range of inequalities including the wage gap, unequal caregiving burden, flexible work options and economic participation of women in the workforce. Our investment in the Female Leaders Fund reflects the compelling financial opportunity while also recognising the necessity to address gender imbalance at founder, investor, management and board levels in Venture Capital and the broader investment ecosystem”.



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