Diversity & inclusion

Backing female-founded firms

Industry members share their investments supporting women entrepreneurs

Women entrepreneurs launched more than 140,000 businesses in the UK in 2022 – a record figure that is growing by more than a third each year.

Female founders are now making up 20% of new firms each year, another record high, and proportionate growth is now outstripping male counterparts. The findings from The Rose Review Progress Report 2022, authored by Alison Rose, CEO of NatWest, show remarkable change since 2019, when the review was launched, and “exceptional resilience” following the pandemic and despite the macroeconomic challenges and cost-of-living crisis.

The government has committed to increase the number of female-founded businesses by half by 2030 and the Rose Review has a number of ongoing initiatives to support this including funding through the Investing in Female Entrepreneurs Code, mentorship and networking opportunities, access to experts and the launch of new investment vehicles backing women-founded firms.

Here, on International Women’s Day, members of the investment industry show how they are backing female entrepreneurs:

Backing healthcare and hospitality

Bethany Dudley, director, head of strategic partnerships at Foresight:

“We are seeing an increase in the number of female-founded companies we invest in across our VCT funds, particularly in the healthcare sector.

“A notable example is HomeLink Healthcare, which was founded by Jill Ireland, CEO and clinical director. Formed in 2015, it has provided ‘hospital-at-home’ services since 2018. HomeLink employs highly qualified and experienced nurses and rehabilitation teams to support the NHS – by providing services to patients in their own homes. These services deliver a range of clinical interventions, including wound care, intravenous therapies, physiotherapy and rehabilitation.

“Another example is Hexarad, founded by CEO Farzana Rahman, which is an early-stage, high-growth healthcare technology company, providing teleradiology services to NHS Trusts and UK private healthcare customers. Headquartered in London, the company was founded in 2016 by a group of NHS consultant radiologists and differentiates through its clinical leadership and technology-led proposition.

“Another female-founded success story we exited earlier this year is leading Indian restaurant brand, Mowgli. Working in partnership with founder Nisha Katona, Foresight saw Mowgli grow and broaden its footprint from three to 15 restaurants across the UK. The partnership with Nisha was strengthened by the common passion for building sustainable businesses. At Mowgli, each restaurant has a ‘sustainability sergeant’, with the team organising local fund-raising events, focusing on energy usage, and sustainable sourcing.”


Pollen Street Capital looks to promote diversity in its investee companies

Phoebe Stone, head of sustainable investing, LGT Wealth Management:

“As part of our private markets proposition, clients can allocate capital to private equity (PE) funds that invest in unquoted, earlier-stage businesses to complement their liquid discretionary holdings. Increasingly, many of our clients want to align their private market investments with their values by backing purpose-led businesses. To help meet this objective, we have recently launched environmental and social impact-focused funds from Anterra Capital and Lightrock.

“In addition to looking at funds that are specifically set up to invest in these areas, we are also increasingly keen to support fund managers who bring an impact and values-based approach to other sectors of the economy. One such business, Pollen Street Capital, run by managing director and CEO Lindsey McMurray, is a purpose-led asset manager in the banking and finance sector, that specifically integrates the promotion of diversity deeply within the investment and selection process as well as ensuring that investee businesses have a demonstrable company purpose, linked to relevant UN Sustainable Development Goals.

“Pollen Street Capital, through its investment in PE portfolio companies, looks to promote diversity in particular, setting a target for investee companies of 25% women on portfolio boards or in executive leadership positions by 2025.”

‘A whole new ecosystem of innovation, talent and ideas’

Jamie Kramer, chair of Project Spark Investment Committee at J.P. Morgan Asset Management:

“With the need for more diverse managers across the alternative investment industry, we launched Project Spark back in 2021, which has committed $140m of JPM balance sheet capital to invest in 32 funds managed by female, veteran and diverse managers including managers J2 Ventures, Capstar Ventures, HartBeat and TMV.

“As chair of Project Spark’s investment committee, I wanted to make sure that beyond a financial commitment, we also offered the full resources of JPMorgan Chase to support and build a network of diverse managers, offering our brand and expertise to the managers we’ve invested in. We recently, for example, hosted our first Spark Connect conference, where Spark managers met each other and senior leaders from across JPM, mingled and shared best ideas and investment insights.

“We have seen the power a programme like Spark can have in generating a multiplier effect where the diverse managers we are investing in are often investing in diverse founders themselves. This helps to generate a whole new ecosystem of innovation, talent and ideas that otherwise may have gone untapped.”