The Australian VC firm that sponsored California’s diversity bill

ccess to venture funding for women is poor all over the world, but it’s particularly concerning in Australia, where less than 1% of all private-sector funding in the country went to solely women-founded and -led businesses in 2022. Down under, only 3% of venture capital funding went to all-women-founded teams, and 10% went to teams with at least one woman founder.

A downward trend is emerging. In 2021 and 2020, 21% and 25%, respectively, of VC funding in Australia went to startups with at least one woman founder.

For women of color, that number is even worse. A report commissioned by consulting firm the Creative Co-Operative found that in 2021, despite a record increase in VC funding in Australia — about $10 billion — just 0.03% went to Bla(c)k women and women of color founders. (In Australia, “Bla(c)k” represents Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, African Australians, Pacific Islanders, etc.)

Tracey Warren (pictured above center), CEO of F5 Collective, an Australian VC firm and advocacy group that’s backed by a U.S. family fund, said she’s worried that women will see those statistics and wonder, “What’s the point? I can’t get funding anyway. I’m just gonna give up.”

That’s why Warren and the F5 Collective sponsored a California bill that mandates VCs to report the diversity of founders they’re backing, including race, disability status, gender and LGBTQ+ status. SB 54, which Gov. Gavin Newsom signed in October, goes into effect March 1, 2025.

“Anything that goes on in Silicon Valley has a ripple effect across the world,” Warren told TechCrunch+. “We needed a precedent, to set a framework to then take to the rest of the world.”

F5 has already invested in eight Asia-Pacific, woman-led startups (and is targeting 12) using its $5 million proof of concept fund, which came from the family office of Kelly Kimball, co-founder and executive chairman of Vitu and chairman of F5. The Daman Games VC aims to raise another $100 million for its Fund 2 in the spring of 2024. That money will be used for follow-on funding for its current portfolio companies, and to help F5 reach its goal of investing in 1,000 female founders in APAC by 2030.

F5’s investment mandate is broad. The VC will invest in tech that shapes our future and social and environmental impact technology. The founding teams can be mixed, but a woman founder has to be in a position of actual leadership.

“None of that giving a woman 2% equity and shoving her into a founder title,” Warren said.

Beyond just giving women money, Warren and F5 want to create generational change for a billion women across India, Southeast Asia and Australia. The fund is just one piece of a five-pillar strategy that includes mentoring women to be angel investors, working with corporations to facilitate pilots and use cases for women-led startups, and advocating for policy changes.

That’s where California SB 54 came in. “What gets reported and measured gets changed,” Warren said. “If we don’t start reporting, we’ve got nothing to start with.”

Advocating for political change
Policy is F5’s second pillar. Enacting political change can be more difficult in Australia than it is in the U.S., in part because lobbying isn’t as robust down under, Warren said. She also said passing a bill like SB 54 in Australia would be difficult, to say the least, and take much longer than the three months it took to pass the bill in California.

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