ScaleUp Female Founders Index 2023

The number of visible scaleup and scaling businesses with at least one female founder continues to grow. This year’s Female Founder Index identifies 623 scaleups and pipeline scaling female-founded businesses that have crossed the threshold of £10.2m turnover and/or £5.1m in assets. This is broken down by 454 scaleups, which represents a 70% increase in female-founded scaleups since last year and 169 pipeline scalers – almost triple the number in 2022. This year’s combined cohort employs 158,996 people – with female-founded scaleups more than doubling their employees since last year. Their collective turnover is £20.1bn and the companies have raised £3.7bn of investment.

7 in 10 are located outside London. They range from drug development to jewellery design, computer games to candle making, motor insurance to waste management. Firms such as PensionBee, Starling Bank, QuantuMDx and Elvie are transforming their market sectors. There is also a healthy pipeline of those scaling up beyond 10 percent per annum which we hope will reach the full scale up stage in coming years – we will be tracking their progress.

Our Scaleup female founders are resilient: in the face of challenging economic headwinds, 9 in 10 expect to grow turnover and/or employment in 2023. Widely distributed across the UK, female founded scaleups are twice as innovative as typical firms and invest 38% of the raised capital towards R&D. They are international champions with half of them either currently exporting or planning to export not only to the traditional markets of Europe and US but further afield to Asia, the Indian Subcontinent, Australasia and the Middle East. That said despite the range of dynamics to increase capital for female founders evidence shows that the average deal size of VC investment for female-founded scaleups is half that of their male counterparts and they consider themselves more likely to be turned down and funding being too South East centric. So we still need to redouble efforts in this area through the various initiatives including Rose Review and Investing in Women Code. Female founded scaleups still cite even more significant barriers to further growth on gaining access to markets both act home and abroad and talent. In particular domestic markets are hard to crack which is why BuyWomenBuilt is so important.

Our female founders want to be known and proactively relationship managed – that’s why the SUI publishes this yearly Index so that you can get to know them and engage with them and know how you can support them. With confidence at an all time low, now more than ever we need to get behind them so they can scale beyond frontiers. We must develop our clusters; hubs; championship and dedicated services to our women led innovation scaleup heroes. In 2023 let’s MAKE IT SO!