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Find Out How Women Founders in Tennessee Navigate The Rocky Road to Capital

Less than 10% of female founders receive VC investment; here’s how they hack their way to accessing the capital and other resources they need. Plus, find out why we need a stronger women support network

The most consistent thing women founders say they need to grow is better access to capital. And it’s no wonder. CB Insights found that VC money goes to only 8% of female founders, and in 2017 only 2.2% of venture dollars went to all-female founding teams. Minority founders are further underrepresented, raising only 1% of venture capital.

Why? Because investors source deals through their personal networks, which are overwhelmingly homogenous (read: white, wealthy and based in NY or CA), meaning women and minority founders struggle to access these networks, decreasing the likelihood that they’ll be able to get a meeting to pitch for investment.

And even when women do pitch investors, they experience significant bias. According to an MIT and Harvard study, when investors heard the audio of a presentation in which researchers had secretly swapped a male voice for a female one, 68% chose to fund ventures voiced by men and only 31% chose those voiced by women. Worse, questions are framed differently for gender, with men getting questions about how the company will generate returns while women are asked about how they won’t lose an investor money.

Our Tennessee trailblazers are working every day to reverse these trends. Find out what they say they need to grow (spoiler: it’s not just capital).

What is the one thing you think we need in Tennessee to get more women in the startup ecosystem?

“[We all need] more direct access to capital and capital networks at the angel/seed stage to move business more efficiently to the growth and scale stages of their companies.”

 Ashlee Ammons & Kerry Schrader, Mixtroz 

“As a new mother, I believe we can provide more support for mother entrepreneurs. I firmly believe that parents are the ultimate entrepreneurs and mothers especially have to think creatively to solve problems that arise daily. Yet in the startup culture, it is a common expectation to grind 24 hours a day and network at happy hours. While this may work for some, I believe there are more ways to be an entrepreneur where I can win at my business and win with my family. It would be wonderful to see more companies like MomSource Network and work/play centers pop up to support this.”


— Kayla Graff, SweetBio

“We still have an opportunity to increase the visibility of our women-led startups.  Shining a light on the great work they are doing and creating opportunities for those women to support the growth of others will lead to exponential growth.”

— Courtney Jones, MomSource Network 

“It would be great if more talented female leaders in Tennessee step up as role models and mentors for young entrepreneurs. Also, the Tennessee startup ecosystem may benefit from additional organizations that connect women entrepreneurs with investors.”

— Sinead Miller, PATH EX 

“Access to capital is crucial! We need to open up funding networks to the robust pipeline of women-led companies — JumpFund has seen over 300 in the past three years and invested in 21 to date.  It is still a very male-dominated game, especially in the Southeast. JumpFund is part of a national effort with the Angel Capital Association called Growing Women’s Capital which is focused on expanding the funding network and encouraging other angel groups and networks to consider more “intentional investing” practices.”


 Kristina Montague, The JumpFund 

“Male or female, entrepreneurship is not for everyone. And the thing I love most about entrepreneurship is that it does not discriminate!! But we can provide an environment that eliminates some of the known barriers for women, like funding. Even though women-owned businesses represent about 40% of all US firms (more than double over the last 20 years), their percentage of revenues and job creation has been relatively stable and that’s because of the obstacle of capital funding.”


Van Tucker, Nashville Fashion Alliance

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