Investing in Women-Led Ventures: The gender gap and what we can do to fix it.
Updated: Jun 29, 2021
Looking at the number of women in the agri-food-tech sector, there is a major discrepancy between men-led and women-led agri-food initiatives; 65% of academic discovery is led by women, but agri-food startups are missing women leaders.
A report from Agfunder, displaying the discrepancy in female-only fundraising at Series A stage.
"According to data from Pitchbook in 2017, just 2.2% of venture capital funding went to female-founded businesses. In 2019, those numbers are only marginally better," says Jessi Devenyns of FoodDive. She adds that the disparity stems from the implicit bias of those with the power to make investments. Despite the discrepancy in funding received between male and female entrepreneurs in the agrifood-tech industry, women-led businesses are still some of the fastest to grow, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Although it seems that there is a huge difference in male and female success stories in this industry, women continue to push the boundaries and create unique, innovative, and successful agri-food startups.
Looking at other Israeli women leading the agrifood-tech sector, Hamutal Cohen Yitzhak, co-founder, director, and CEO of Else Nutrition is a successful entrepreneur and has a portfolio of patents and innovative foods under her name. In the past few years, Hamutal has been a trail-blazer in this industry and has challenged the global infant formula industry by developing and producing natural clean foods, focusing on the transparency of ingredients and manufacturing processes to provide the cleanest and healthiest products.
Hamutal also founded “HEART” vegan baby snacks, changing the face of the Israeli baby food industry, by crafting 100% plant-based, clean, and nutritious baby food snacks. Hamutal holds a BSc with honors in Psychology and General Science and MBA from Tel Aviv University. She is a mother of four and currently lives in Tel Aviv.
Female-led Innovations in Israel
Taking a deeper look at women's contribution to agrifood-tech in Israel throughout 2020, there has been over $13 million raised collectively in Series A by three women-led startups in Israel: BioMilk - $3.6M million in October, Zero Egg - $5M in November, and Phytolon - $4M in September.
Over the past few years, Israel has seen numerous women-led startups gain exposure and recognition. Racheli Vizman, the CEO of Savor Eat, a 3D plant-based printed burger that can be tailored for an at-home experience, made history by listing on the Tel Aviv Stock Exchange (TASE) at the end of 2020, with a company valuation of $13M.
Rachel Yarcony is the Co-founder and Co-CEO of MyAir, a personalized and plant-based nutrition product to handle stress. To date, MyAir has raised $4M in seed funding.
Dr. Anat Binur, Ukko's a co-founder among many successful female-led startups. Ukko's goal is to engineer the proteins found in foods like wheat and peanuts, which contain common allergens and make them without the component that people are allergic to.
Looking at other Israeli women leading the agrifood-tech sector, Hamutal Cohen Yitzhak, co-founder, director, and CEO of Else Nutrition is a successful entrepreneur and has a portfolio of patents and innovative foods under her name. Hamaul has been a trail-blazer in this industry and has challenged the global infant formula industry.
Hamutal also founded “HEART” vegan baby snacks, changing the face of the Israeli baby food industry, by crafting 100% plant-based, clean and nutritious baby food snacks.
What can we do to fix this gender gap?
Women of the Agrifood Nation is a project that supports the growth of early-stage agri-food startups led by women, initiated by Carmit Oron, Co-founder at ACT FOODTECH and COPIA Agriculture & Food Technologies.
The six finalists took the stage after months of hard work, training, and professional guidance to make the best pitch possible in front of senior judges from academia, high tech, and the food & agriculture industry.
The winning venture received a benefits package, including a $200K investment from COPIA Agriculture & Food Technologies, strategic consulting, desk workspace, and more.
A photo of Ifat Hammer, winner of the 2021 competition, along with the panelists of judges and other competition finalists.
Ifat reflects on her competition experience, remarking, "We have been supported by devoted business mentors who are experts and leaders in their field. This has helped us in strengthening our business plans and in better presenting our strengths and value proposition. Understanding the needs from the eyes of an investor helped us in better communication of our story."
Dr. Anna Melkov, CTO and head of R&D at BugEra and a finalist of this years' competition spoke up about her experience as well. "I do not consider being a woman as a restraint, weakness, or excuse. However, I realize that the way we treat and educate our daughters should change fundamentally. Before initiating my way into the business world, I did not even understand the real meaning of women's discrimination, since I didn’t face it myself. Recently, I have been participating in numerous meetings and I find myself in a conference room as the only woman present. So, to date, the term is very evident to me, as women are under-represented in the world of business. One of my mentors, Ravital Kramer, said that I should embrace and appreciate every woman I meet on the way. I think that’s the main lesson I’ve learned and I’m going to implement it on my journey."
In summary, female founders offer amazing contributions to the Agrifood technology sector. It is our duty to highlight and support women in academia or who have not been encouraged to join the entrepreneurial route. The Women of Agrifood Nation 2021 finalists are trailblazers in the field, we are impressed and amazed by their contribution; Valeria Kogan of Fermata, Adi Pollack of IncrediBowl, Dr. Anna Melkov of Bugera, Ifat Hammer of Bioptica, Yosefa Ben Cohen of Yo-egg, and Maya Otmazgin Ashkenazi of Maolac. Keep up the amazing work in your ventures and in inspiring the women that will follow in your footsteps!