Women Who Tech supports healthtech innovation in Europe with new challenge

Ten women-led, early-stage healthtech startups will be selected to pitch in Paris in October to win a $50,000 equity-free grant.
By Leontina Postelnicu
09:45 am

Last year saw record amounts of investment be plugged into European tech startups, according to the 2018 State of European Tech from investment firm Atomico.

However, 93% of that funding went to startups with all-male founding teams, and the findings resemble data compiled by market research firm Pitchbook in the US, which indicates that women-led ventures secured just 2.2% of venture capital investment in 2018.

To tackle gender bias in the field, Women Who Tech, a nonprofit organisation launched in 2008, has now opened applications for the European Women Startup Challenge.


This year, the competition focuses for the first time on healthtech innovation, and is hosted in partnership with Johnson & Johnson Innovation JLABS, Craig Newmark Philanthropies and the Office of the Mayor of Paris.

It will see ten early-stage women-led startups be selected to pitch in October in Paris in front of a jury.

Elena Fernandez-Kleinlein, interim head of Johnson & Johnson Innovation JLABS, EMEA, Jean-Louis Missika, deputy mayor of Paris, and Eamonn Carey, managing director of Techstars London, are three of the judges already confirmed to be taking part.

Prizes include an equity-free grant of $50,000 (€43,900 approx.), as well as mentoring services and resources to help startups accelerate growth.

US- and Europe-based ventures eligible to participate need to have a footprint in Europe, at least one woman founder or cofounder, and have until 1 August to submit their application.


"Only 9.7% percent [according to Rock Health] of investor funding goes to women-led healthtech startups,” said Allyson Kapin, founder of Women Who Tech.

"Put simply, progress for funding women-led startups is moving at a glacial pace. We need to change this narrative for good. Innovations that are literally saving lives are being left underfunded and we are on a mission to change the ratio."

Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist and Craig Newmark Philanthropies, and a member of the Women Who Tech advisory board, cautioned that investors needed to invest more in healthtech startups founded by women.

“We can't continue to solve healthcare problems around the world without engaging diverse backgrounds and experiences," Newmark added.


Ada Health, Natural Cycles, Clue and Elvie are only a few of the European healthtech startups led by women that have drawn the attention of investors in the past few years. Initiatives have also been launched to promote diversity in the space, including through the One Health Tech community in the UK and Women in Digital Health in Switzerland.

But in addition to the discrepancy in the investment secured by women-led ventures, the Atomico report, published in December last year, also found that over 45% of women had experienced discrimination in the tech industry in Europe.

Earlier this month, HIMSS, owner of MobiHealthNews, released the 2019 Women in Health IT survey results, which indicated that over 80% of women in the industry surveyed felt that their contribution to the industry was not being valued.

Furthermore, over 60% said they had experienced gender discrimination in the workplace, reporting fewer chances of promotion, salaries or training opportunities.

“There is a need for further support within organisations, and in my opinion that can only work if women who have ‘made it’ are mentoring and supporting other women, taking this responsibility and making change sustainable, on a societal level, not only fight for themselves as individuals," Sunjoy Mathieu, founder of Women in Digital Health, told MobiHealthNews sister publication HITN at the time.


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