If you knew nothing about a founding team, it would be a good bet to assume they were all male. According to Dealroom.co, 87% of all funding went to male-only teams in 2022. It has been 88% or 89% for the past five years, which is staggeringly consistent. Even though the tech sector is progressing, it is still a man’s world, especially in deep tech. According to reports, only 15% of deep tech startups are founded or co-founded by women, and women-led startups raise less funding than their male counterparts – only 2% of venture capital goes to all-female teams and 5% to mixed teams in Europe. When it comes to female founders of colour in the Europe deep tech ecosystem, these figures are even lower.
But still, there’s some light at the end of the tunnel and there are many initiatives that are being taken to improve these numbers. Recently, many female-founded startups from Europe such as Sourcerie, an online marketplace for skin care products, Instill AI that makes AI accessible to a broader audience, Deciphex which uses AI to address pathologist shortage and iOnctura BV, a clinical-stage biotech developing novel cancer therapies raised funding.
In addition to startups, Mendoza Ventures, a female-founded VC closed $100 million to back diverse teams and Sandbox Ventures secured €13 million to invest in early-stage deeptech investments across Europe. Besides these, there are dedicated VC funds that are focused on startups founded by black and female entrepreneurs.
Building or growing a deep-tech organisation is not for the faint of heart, and on the occasion of women’s day, TFN has listed a compilation of European deep-tech startups founded by women to honour them for their constant efforts and resilience.
ShareID (France): Sara Sebti, Sawsen Rezig
ShareID was founded in 2020 by Sara Sebti and Sawsen Rezig in Paris. It provides authentication as a service linked to the official ID document.
Sara Sebti from Morocco is a Financial and Statistical Engineer from Paris Dauphine. She has over 9 years of experience in risk-related regulatory requirements within financial institutions. Previously, she co-founded a couple of fintech startups and one of them was during the internal startup call at Société Générale.
Another co-founder at ShareID, Sawsen Rezig is from Algeria. She has a Ph.D. in computer vision from Centrale Lyon and extensive expertise in biometrics and personal data security, thanks to her experience as a researcher in different biometric labs as well as her 4 years working at Cisco’s Innovation Labs.
The idea behind ShareID was born out of Sara’s frustration when she changed her phone number as she couldn’t access to her bank account for 21 days. This is when they decided to work on a solution that enables businesses and users to create digital trust at each transaction that requires an ID verification or personal data sharing.
ShareID has already raised $1.9 million funding from NewFund, the 212Founders programme of CDG Invest, the investing arm of the CDG Group, and has plans to expand its AI skills centre in Morocco and continue deploying its solution in the US.
Einride (Sweden): Linnéa Kornehed, co-founder
Einride was founded in 2016 by Robert Falck, Filip Lilja, and women in tech Linnéa Kornehed, and soon the Swedish autonomous mobility tech became one of the world’s first companies to operate a truly driverless, autonomous, all-electric freight vehicle on a public road.
Prior to Einride, Linnéa worked as a Business Solutions Consultant at Forefront Consulting and had twice been on Forbes’ prestige list of Europe’s hottest entrepreneurs. Further, she’s also a TEDx speaker.
To continue revolutionising this sector with its Pod, recently, the Tesla truck rival snapped a whopping $500 million investment in a combination of Series C and debt round.
Wandelbots (Germany): Maria Piechnick, co-founder
A no-code robotics software firm, Wandelbots, making industrial robots accessible for everyone came into existence in 2017, when a group of researchers from TU Dresden came together including Christian Piechnick, Christoph Biering, Frank Fitzek, Georg Puschel, Giang Nguyen, Jan Falkenberg, Sebastian Werner and also Maria Piechnick.
Being an innovator and co-founder of Wandelbots, Maria Piechnick, studied media informatics at the TU Dresden and was a consultant for new technologies and startups in the Federal Ministry of Economics under Peter Altmaier. She has received the Saxon Founder’s Prize for her research and innovative development of automated technologies for industry.
Recently, Wandelbots opened a US headquarters in Chicago to expand its global operations and accelerate human-centered robotics solutions in the manufacturing industry and also raised over $84 million in a Series C financing round from Insight Partners, 83North, Microsoft, Next47, Paua, Atlantic Labs, and EQT.
Nyobolt (UK): Professor Clare Grey, DBE, FRS, co-founder
Nyobolt, the Cambridge-based 5-mins battery charging technology startup was cofounded in 2019 by Professor Clare Grey, DBE, FRS and Dr Sai Shivareddy to bring end-to-end fast charging solutions to applications ranging from power tools and home appliances to electric vehicles and industrial robotics.
While pursuing PHD in chemistry at the University of Oxford, Clare worked on nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) of tin materials and her paper appeared in the famed Nature Journal. She went to chemical giant, DuPont and was appointed as Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire for her services to science.
The fast-charging startup already picked up £50 million in Series B funding in 2022 led by H.C. Starck Tungsten Powders, a subsidiary of Masan High-Tech Materials, alongside existing deeptech investor IQ Capital. So far, the firm has raised around $90 million in funding.
The Exploration Company (Germany): Hélène Huby
The SpaceX rival from Germany, The Exploration Company, develops, manufactures, and operates modular and reusable spaceships and is founded by former Airbus and ArianeGroup employees including co-founder and CEO Hélène Huby. She has previously served in a number of positions including Director of Innovation with Airbus Defence & Space as well as VP – Space Strategy.
To commercialise the maiden space capsule, the European space tech company already raised €40.5 million in Series A funding from EQT Ventures and Red River West, among others in a record investment round.
Framework (London): Asha Haji (computer scientist), Riya Pabari
While Framework is an innovative on-demand business edtech from London, Asha, the co-founder is a WashU computer scientist turned Harvard MBA who has spent her career developing transformative experiences at the intersection of people, technology and education. Before joining startups in 2017, she spent nearly seven years in various leadership roles at EF Education First, the world’s leading international education company. It is Asha’s passion to foster cultures that are inclusive and highly collaborative, where people are empowered to achieve their full potential.
At the same time, Riya is a multidisciplinary product leader, who was previously Founders Academy, her career spanned macro investing, social enterprise, innovation consulting and tech startups. She holds an MA in Economics from Cambridge, an MSc from Cass Business School, and is a fellow of Makers Academy & On Purpose.
Ganymed Robotics (France): Sophie Cahen
This French deep tech company is a developer of computer vision software and robotics solutions for orthopaedic surgeons. Founded in 2018, by an engineer by training, Sophie is co-inventor of 4 patents, and received the “Woman Entrepreneur of the Year” award in 2021. She sits on France’s Ministerial Committee for Robotics.
Earlier this year, Ganymed Robotics also extended its Series B round with an additional close of nearly €15 million. The funds came from Bpifrance, Cathay Health, Crédit Mutuel Innovation, Kurma Partners and BNP Paribas Développement, among others. In total, the deep tech has received around $58.3 million funding so far.
Opensensors (UK): Yodit Stanton
IoT startup OpenSensors is helping large organisations by providing them with inexpensive hardware sensors to estimate the air quality, space utilisation, etc. so that they reduce costs and manage during uncertain times. OpenSensors’ technology helps anyone create a productive, safe, cost-effective, and agile workspace.
Born in Britain with Ethiopian roots, Yodit got the idea while she was researching the way environmental factors affected her daughter’s asthma. Late in 2020, OpenSensors picked up nearly £3 million in seed funding led by Crane Venture Partners.