London, April 10, 2024 – UBS announced the launch of Project Female Founder 2024, 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 award program for enterprise tech and fintech female founders in collaboration with UBS Next, the firm’s venture and innovation unit, and aims to help address the gender funding gap. The annual award recognizes the next generation of women-led companies and provides them with access to the UBS venture ecosystem.

Now in its third 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 series A capital, as well as how to create a custom funding strategy in alignment with the right opportunity. As part of the investor readiness program, participants will be mentored by UBS Client Advisors and have access to the global 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.

Uniquely as an accelerator program, as well as working with Client Advisors, UBS invites ‘mentors’ from the worlds of venture capital, crowdfunding, private investors and the law to guide and support these founders. The mentors come from UBS’s own entrepreneurial ecosystem and are those keen to share their expertise to support the founder’s growth. For 2024, we have seen a 70% rise in applications by female founders to the program and also from our own advisors who can see the opportunity the program offers them to build their own networks. The total number of founders is 75 and of UBS Client Advisors is over 60 for 2024 and they come from across the world, from LATAM, the US and Canada to Europe, the Middle East and APAC.

“Now into our third year of Project Female Founder, we can see how exposure to our own entrepreneurial networks within UBS and guidance from our own specialists can lead to new opportunities for mentorship and funding opportunities” said Emma Wheeler, Head of Women’s Wealth at UBS Global Wealth Management. “This structure provides a real step-up for founders on their growth journey, which combined with investor readiness training, is vital to their success. As a wealth manager, we may not always have the financial solutions to support at this early-stage of growth but having the chance to build relationships beyond conversations around financing is of significant value. It also provides an opportunity for our Client Advisors to build their venture ecosystems and position UBS within these as entrepreneurs exit and for our Investment Bank for those seeking to IPO. Providing personal financial planning guidance for early-stage founders can ensure that they are financially resilient in preparation for exit, and in some cases this can extend the time of exit to realize further growth.”

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 those led by 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. “The Fortuna Funding Investor Readiness program helps women access that critical, early-stage capital. Given market conditions these past few years, it is more important than ever for female founders to understand the fundamentals of raising aligned capital, regardless of where in the world they are based. Project Female Founder uniquely provides this education, as well as access to a global network of peers and investors.”

Ana Mahony, Founder and CEO at Addition Wealth and winner of the 2023 UBS Female Founder Award, said “I’m proud of the strong community of women supporting and building our organization, including the women venture capitalists who wrote our first checks and continue to invest in us”. Addition Wealth is a financial wellness company dedicated to making personal financial expertise inclusive and accessible for all individuals.