Microsoft’s venture fund M12 partners with Mayfield and Pivotal Ventures to announce $6M competition for women-led startups

Now in its second year, the Female Founders Competition will help accelerate funding for women entrepreneurs and women-led startups globally.

Microsoft’s venture fund M12 partners with Mayfield and Pivotal Ventures to announce $6M competition for women-led startups

Monday October 21, 2019,

4 min Read

Women constitute only 14 percent of the total number of entrepreneurs in the country, according to the Ministry of Statistics and Programme Implementation.

Here's some good news for women-led startups in India to move forward with their unique concepts and ideas.


Microsoft’s M12, Mayfield, and Pivotal Ventures last week announced the second global Female Founders Competition to accelerate funding for women entrepreneurs developing business-to-business software-as-a-service and deeptech solutions.

Eligible women-led startups developing enterprise tech solutions in the United States, Europe, Israel and India can submit applications beginning from October 17, 2019. Four winning companies will receive a total of $6 million in venture funding, along with access to technology, resources, mentoring and other benefits.

“Last year’s competition helped highlight that there are innovative female entrepreneurs developing enterprise tech solutions, and they just aren’t getting equal access to capital,” said Peggy Johnson, Executive Vice President, Business Development, Microsoft Corp.

“The tech industry can’t afford to keep leaving women’s good ideas on the table. We need to level the playing field for female entrepreneurs, and together with Mayfield, and Pivotal Ventures, we aim to do just that with our second Female Founders Competition.”

Venture capital funding, particularly for seed-stage companies, is critical to power ideas from incubation to go-to-market. Venture funding for female-founded companies continues to be nominal in comparison with dollars invested in male-only-led teams. Last year, companies founded solely by women garnered 2.3 percent of the total capital invested in venture-backed startups, according to PitchBook.

Regardless of this disadvantage, female founders continue to deliver outsized returns. In a study conducted by MassChallenge and Boston Consulting Group (BCG), women-founded businesses delivered more than two times as much revenue per dollar invested than their male counterparts. If women entrepreneurs received funding on par with their male colleagues, BCG estimates the global economy could experience up to a $5 trillion boost. According to Gartner, “The enterprise software market will experience the strongest growth in 2019, reaching $457 billion, up nine percent from $419 billion in 2018.”

Investing in women-led enterprise companies is essential to economic growth and to closing the gender funding gap.

“As a firm with a 50-year history of people-first investing, we are always looking for new ways to discover bold entrepreneurs,” said Navin Chaddha, Managing Director, Mayfield. “We are thrilled to partner with M12 and Pivotal Ventures on this innovative Female Founders Competition, through which we will find and invest in women creating built-to-last enterprise companies. In addition to providing funding, we plan to share our playbook with competition winners on how to accelerate their journey from idea to iconic company.”

“I am delighted to partner with M12 and Mayfield on this important competition. Enterprise technology is shaping our world in countless ways, but it will never reach its full potential unless women and their ideas are equally represented within the field,” said Melinda Gates, philanthropist and Founder of Pivotal Ventures.

Submissions will be accepted from October 17, 2019 to December 15, 2019, and are open across Europe, India, Israel, Canada (excluding Quebec) and the US. Companies will be eligible to apply if they have at least one female founder, have raised no more than $5 million in combined equity funding and/or debt loans upon date of application, and offer or intend to release a product, service or platform addressing a critical business problem for a global market.

A live finals pitch competition will take place during March 18-19, 2020, with the announcement of winners to follow shortly thereafter. Two enterprise software startups will earn investment awards of $2 million each, and two deep tech startups innovating through substantial scientific and research advances will earn investment awards of $1 million each.

Full guidelines and contest information can be found at

(Edited by Evelyn Ratnakumar)