This New Boston Consulting Group Study Might Change How You Think About Startups

Which startups have the best chance of making money today? That’s the question MassChallenge, the globally ranked accelerator whose startup alumni have raised over $3B and created 80,000 jobs, asked the Boston Consulting Group (BCG). The accelerator offered five years of their data. It came to 350 startups, 25% of which were founded by women and 75% by men. BCG crunched the numbers on a quest to find the DNA of great deals.

The biggest predictor of value wasn’t a hot new technology.

Controlling for lots of variables, one trend emerged. Women-led companies averaged 10% greater revenue than the men-founded companies. Female founders achieved this while raising less than half, on average, of what the men raised. The so what? “For every dollar of funding, these [women-led] startups generated 78 cents, while male-founded startups generated less than half that–just 31 cents,” the authors wrote. They study is titled “Why Women-Owned Startups Are A Better Bet.”

That women-owned startups are more likely to play an outsized role in portfolio performance is a note that’s been struck before. First Round, for example, credited their female-led investments with outperforming by 63%. More recently Primary VC shared that while only 16% of their first fund was invested in female-led startups, 27% of the portfolio value was driven by those investments.

Takeaways for founders and investors

If you’re a female founder raising capital, the BCG/MassChallenge study basically said you’ll have to accept a biased, unfair and often uninformed process. But while you’re working within a broken system, work smart. Get coached by a VC on how to pitch. When you’re pitching, ask for more than you think you need. Don’t be modest about your business. Firmly handle investor feedback. If you don’t agree with the feedback, share the unique information you have rather than “playing nice” with the investor, who knows less than you do about your industry.

If you’re a VC investor–92% of which are male–the study authors encouraged investing outside of your comfort zone. “The lack of funding means that there is less competition for women-backed companies, and those companies, on average, perform better than those with all-male founders,” they wrote. The fact is, male founders are overfunded. All those stats about underfunding women can just as easily be read as overfunding something else. Capital is diving in because a deal looks “normal,” when extraordinary is the right bar regardless of gender.

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