Equity crowdfunding platform Microwd launched for female-led startups

Equity crowdfunding platform Microwd launched for female-led startups

Finley Capital Partners head of equity crowdfunding Megan Owen.

A new equity crowdfunding platform has launched in Australia with the goal of increasing visibility for women-led startups and helping founders gain access to capital in a space where females are notoriously underrepresented.

Owned by Brisbane-based investment software company Finley Capital Partners, Microwd is being led by Megan Owen - the firm's head of equity crowdfunding - and will cater to early-stage growth companies in agritech, healthtech, fintech, retail, and consumer services.

The platform is a revamped version of its predecessor PledgeMe Australia, which was established in 2019 and allowed founders from all verticals to sign up. 

Speaking with Business News Australia, Owen said the shift in focus was a deliberate move to provide "a major tangible solution" for "women-led companies and female founders" seeking capital. 

"The reason we rebranded with a focus on women is that we hope to make a real difference, which is why we're putting everything behind it and really focusing on amazing companies," she said.

“Women-led companies are known to harness inherent strengths to deliver benefits alongside investment return.

"While there is a tangible shift within the investment ecosystem, globally, to actively support women-led companies, it is no secret that there has been a disconnect in funding outcomes for women.”

The State of Australian Startup Funding 2021 report by Cut Through Venture and Folklore found the share of total capital invested in startups with at least one female founder dropped from 28 per cent in 2020 to 22 per cent last year.

The report also highlighted a confidence gap between men and women when considering their likelihood of successfully raising capital during their next crowdfunding round. In a survey of 380 early-stage founders, 63 per cent of men felt 'highly confident' they could meet their goals while only 10 per cent of women echoed the same sentiment. 

While women make up approximately a quarter of Australian tech employees, only 16 per cent of founders within the sector are women.

According to Birchal’s crowd-sourced funding (CSF) 2020 Yearbook, approximately a quarter of businesses that used CSF were founded or co-founded by women. Those companies also raised three times more compared to businesses without a female founder, averaging $756,000 per raise.

Owen – who has worked for multinationals such as Ernst & Young, Deutsche Bank, NAB, ANZ, Telstra and AGL – believes the modern-day investor has “broad-reaching criteria” with “expectations that surpass a high rate of return on investment alone.”

“Retail investors seek investment opportunities in companies that resonate with them, they desire engagement and to feel part of the solution,” she said.

“We are harnessing this sentiment to attract inspiring women-led companies to the platform which are grounded in quality and innovation, and a desire to achieve other benefits such as environmental, social or community, alongside financial return.”

She adds it is no secret that women-led companies excel in customer experience, efficiency, culture, retention, social and environmental outcomes, and engagement, on the journey to growth and return.

"Investors know this. Microwd aligns stellar women-led companies with investors that consider the totality of the company, its impacts, as well as the potential," Owen says.

While there is a Madrid-based B Corp of the same name that allows Latin American women to seek out microloans from investors, Owen says it has no connection to the crowdfunding platform launched by Finley Capital Partners.

Microwd is also owned by PledgeMe New Zealand – a CSF platform that has delivered more than 1,500 successful campaigns and seen more than $60 million pledged since launching in 2012.

CheeHoo founder and River City Labs general manager Pauline Fetaui has come on board Microwd's selection committee, and is "pleased" the platform "is launching to support female founders at such a pivotal stage of their startup journey." 

“The platform will help mature Australia’s pre-seed and seed investment ecosystem, while also being a catalyst to help close the funding gap for female founders and women-led, early-stage growth companies.”

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