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Melinda French Gates invests in Female Founders Fund’s new $57 million fund

July 13, 2021, 12:00 PM UTC

Since the May announcement of her divorce from Bill Gates, Melinda French Gates has continued her work as a philanthropist and investor aiming to address gender inequality. Her latest endeavor is backing a new fund raised by the venture firm Female Founders Fund.

French Gates, through her firm Pivotal Ventures, is one of several limited partners investing in the firm’s $57 million fund, its third. The philanthropist also backed its $25 million second fund in 2016. The third fund brings Female Founders Fund’s total assets under management to $95 million.

“I firmly believe we are missing out on transformational ideas by not putting resources behind women,” French Gates said in a statement. “I’ve invested in the Female Founders Fund because we need women founders and funders at the table if we want to build a more prosperous and inclusive economy for everyone. New and innovative ideas come from everywhere; we can’t keep looking in the same old packages.”

Adds Female Founders Fund founding partner Anu Duggal: “Melinda has been incredibly vocal and supportive of really moving the needle to ensure we are seeing true gender equality in tech. We were one of her early investments at Pivotal, which was formed to address this gap in the market. She’s been really excited about what we’re building, and we’re excited to have her continue to support in fund three.”

Anu Duggal-Female Founders Fund
Founding partner of Female Founders Fund Anu Duggal.
Courtesy of Female Founders Fund

Duggal launched Female Founders Fund with a $6 million fund in 2014, aiming to invest in women-founded businesses that were not being backed by traditional venture capitalists. Funding for female founders has significantly improved over the past seven years, but women-only founding teams still received just 2.2% of total U.S. venture capital money in 2020.

Since 2014, Female Founders Fund has backed about 50 companies, including the women’s health business Maven Clinic, weddings platform Zola, razor startup Billie, and mental health startup Real.

With this new fund, Duggal plans to pursue more companies in the digital health and “alternate communities” spaces. (Examples of the latter include the motherhood social network Peanut and the queer community app Lex.) New areas of interest for Female Founders Fund include the creator economy, climate, and workplace efficiency tools—especially addressing the future of hybrid work from home and the office.

Other investors in the firm’s third fund include 23andMe founder Anne Wojcicki and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, Houseparty CEO Sima Sistani, Goldman Sachs, and Twitter.

“For us, it’s not just about putting capital to work,” says Duggal. “It’s also about building an ecosystem that really didn’t exist.”

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