London, 13 April 2023 – UBS announced the launch of Project Female Founder 2023, a year-long, global investor readiness, networking, and mentorship program, that arms early-stage female founders with fundamentals to support their access to aligned capital. With partners, Fortuna, Coralus, and Live True, Project Female Founder is a direct call to action to UBS’s Female Founder Award, UBS’s annual in collaboration with UBS Next, the firm’s venture and innovation unit, and aims to help address the female funding gap. The annual award recognizes the next generation of women-led companies and provides them with access to investor-readiness training, mentoring, and networking opportunities that will help them take their company to the next level.
Now in its second year, Project Female Founder consists of Fortuna Funding’s tailor-made, eight-week, investor readiness and pitch practice program which addresses all aspects of raising capital, as well as how to create a custom funding strategy in alignment with the right opportunity. Following the readiness program, participants will be mentored by UBS Client Advisors and have access to the Coralus network (previously SheEO and founded by Vicki Saunders, a UBS Global Visionary), an ecosystem of early-stage female founders focused on mentoring and connectivity, to develop meaningful relationships that will give them the support they need to succeed.
This year for the first time, Project Female Founder will work with Gail Wong, Founder of Live True, a consulting and coaching practice in Singapore, to ensure that the program is culturally responsive for founders on the ground in Asia Pacific. Gail will also help to drive deeper engagement in the local ecosystem for the founders in the program and is a certified coach, conscious investor, and business advisor, operating at the nexus of finance and spirituality. She has over two decades of experience in corporate finance, investing, financial healing and lasting behavior change.
“When creating Project Female Founder, we established early on that investor readiness training was only the start of helping to support these women in their journey as founders,” said Emma Wheeler, Head of Women’s Wealth at UBS Global Wealth Management. “Having access to an ecosystem of support and mentoring, as well as having the chance to build relationships beyond conversations around financing is vital to their success. It was important to create the program with this in mind, and uniquely for an accelerator having our client advisers involved, to make sure that we support and set-up these founders for long-term growth to help boost our global economy.”
In 2021, UBS published a report entitled, “The Funding Gap: Investors and Female Entrepreneurs”, which examined the reasons behind the funding gap discrepancy between men and women entrepreneurs, and identified ways this can be narrowed. The report highlighted that if women and men participated equally as entrepreneurs, global GDP would rise by 3-6% or USD 2.5-5 trillion. The findings also outlined why investing in women-led businesses is a good opportunity for investors, as on average, they generate 78 cents of revenue per dollar invested, compared to 31 cents for men.
According to the report, having a strong network in the venture capital space also plays a critical role in deal sourcing, deal syndication, and decision-making. The research showed men are more likely to be part of a social network that included other men, while most of the non-investing women did not know any female peers or role models who were angel investors. This shows that male entrepreneurs are more likely to receive or have access to relevant guidance from their network, resulting in higher motivation and validation of their thinking and business model, more useful information around vendors and clients, as well as useful inputs in their business plans.
The existence of a robust social network is a key determinant of entrepreneurs and founders’ future success. Tackling the funding gap for female founders and entrepreneurs is a potential boost for the economy and a powerful untapped opportunity for investors.
“Throughout my 20-year career in the capital markets, I have advised many companies on early-stage funding strategies, from bootstrapping to IPO,” said Delilah Panio, Founder and CEO at Fortuna. “Seeing a significant gap for female founders at each stage of the funding ecosystem, I created the Fortuna Funding Investor Readiness program, to help women access that critical, early-stage capital. Regardless of where a startup is based, the fundamentals of raising aligned capital are the same and I’m proud to share the program with this year’s cohort from around the world.”
“The Female Founder Award and Program has been one of the most transformative experiences for myself as a leader, but also for my company,” said Kimberley Abbott, CEO and Founder of Vested Impact, winner of the UBS Female Founder Award 2021 and participant of Project Female Founder 2022. “My company has had an extremely successful 12 months, thanks in part to the exposure, networks, and support from UBS. The global nature of Project Female Founder broadened my networks; particularly with other amazing female entrepreneurs and the investor readiness training was a useful component to help successfully raise a small investment this year for my company to aid its growth.”
Learn more about Project Female Founder.
Notes to Editors
UBS convenes the global ecosystem for investing, where people and ideas are connected and opportunities brought to life, and provides financial advice and solutions to wealthy, institutional and corporate clients worldwide, as well as to private clients in Switzerland. UBS offers investment solutions, products and impactful thought leadership, is the leading global wealth manager, provides large-scale and diversified asset management, focused investment banking capabilities, and personal and corporate banking services in Switzerland. The firm focuses on businesses that have a strong competitive position in their target markets, are capital efficient and have an attractive long-term structural growth or profitability outlook.
UBS is present in all major financial centers worldwide. It has offices in more than 50 regions and locations, with about 30% of its employees working in the Americas, 29% in Switzerland, 20% in the rest of Europe, the Middle East and Africa and 21% in Asia Pacific. UBS Group AG employs more than 72,000 people around the world. Its shares are listed on the SIX Swiss Exchange and the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE).
About Fortuna Funding
Fortuna Funding is a practical and intentional guide to accessing aligned capital. Fortuna Funding’s proprietary Investor Readiness Program is unique in addressing the key components to be ready to take on external capital, to understand the various capital options, and to create a custom funding strategy to accelerate success and be in alignment with the right capital.
Coralus (formerly known as SheEO) is a radically generous community supporting women and non-binary people working on the World’s To-Do List. Launched in 2015 in Canada and now also with venture programs in the US, Australia, New Zealand and UK, this visionary model is emerging as a leading global innovation for transforming how we fund small and medium sized businesses. Rather than trying to fit women into the existing models and systems and level the playing field, we are creating an entirely new field. To deliver, Coralus works with ‘Activators’ globally who gift their capital, buying power, networks and expertise as an act of Radical Generosity to support; and ‘Ventures’ led by innovative women working on the UN Sustainable Development Goals through a 0% interest loan. Ultimately, Coralus is creating a $1B Perpetual Fund with over one million activators supporting 1000s of Ventures globally, working on the World’s To-Do List.
About Live True
Live True is a consulting and coaching practice founded by Gail Wong, a certified coach, conscious investor, and business advisor operating at the nexus of finance and spirituality. Gail’s prior experience advising financial and technology companies on >$10bn of M&A/ financings at Morgan Stanley informs her cross-disciplinary work today: guiding purpose-led leaders and businesses to make transformative financial decisions aligned with their values. Trained in healing financial trauma, she coaches individuals and advises regenerative investment vehicles, including Angels of Impact, Circulate Capital and Coralus, that are directing capital to build a world that works for all. A gender-lens angel investor and ex-VC in Asia, Gail’s portfolio is over ¾ women-led and/or impact-driven.