Fintech Rises as Most Equitable Field for Female-Founded Startups

Fintech Rises as Most Equitable Field for Female-Founded Startups

by May 14, 2024

In a world where the tech industry is predominantly male-dominated, female entrepreneurs in Southeast Asia are slowly but surely making their mark. 

The year 2023 has seen significant strides in the right direction, with startups having at least one female founder raising $1.41 billion in equity funding, accounting for 18.3 percent of the total private capital secured during the year.

 This marks an increase from the 12.6 percent share garnered by female-founded startups in 2022, according to comprehensive research that included company websites, LinkedIn, and DealStreetAsia’s insights.

Among the various sectors, fintech has emerged as the top vertical for female-founded startups in Southeast Asia. This growing trend highlights the increasing influence and success of women entrepreneurs in the region’s tech startup ecosystem.

As female founders continue to break barriers and secure significant funding, they are paving the way for a more diverse and inclusive future in the industry.

A closer look at the funding dynamics in Southeast Asia

The research paints a detailed picture of the equity funding scene, examining over 700 deals to uncover the nuances of investment trends.

While companies led by all-women teams secured 6.6 percent of the equity funding, their male counterparts accounted for a dominant 81.2 percent. This disparity underscores the ongoing challenges and emphasises the strides made toward closing the gender gap.

Singapore stood out as the epicentre of activity for female entrepreneurs, with nearly US$998 million raised, showcasing the city-state’s vibrant ecosystem that supports diverse founders. 

Vietnam followed, with its female founders raising US$268.6 million, leading in terms of the proportion of capital raised by women, a testament to the country’s inclusive growth trajectory.

The funding climate and prospects

Female Founders

The analysis reveals a nuanced picture of the funding climate for female-founded startups. 

While the overall private funding for Southeast Asia’s startups declined by over 51 percent in 2023, female-founded startups witnessed a lower correction in deal value, indicating resilience and potential for growth.

The increase in the share of funding for female-founded startups from 12.6 percent in 2022 to 18.4 percent in 2023 is a promising sign of changing investor attitudes and an increasing recognition of these entrepreneurs’ value to the ecosystem.

Fintech sector emerges as the top vertical among female-founded startups

The fintech sector emerged as the top vertical among female-founded startups, with US$464.4 million raised in 2023. 

This was highlighted by significant fundraises for companies such as ANEXT Bank, Advance Intelligence Group, and Youtrip, emphasising the growing influence of female entrepreneurs in reshaping the fintech landscape.

Image: DealStreetAsia

Industrial Products and Education/Edtech followed closely, with deal values of $139.4 million and $133.5 million, respectively.

Other sectors that attracted substantial investments in female-founded startups included Financial Services ($132.7 million), Media & Entertainment ($110.5 million), and Consumer Products ($108.9 million).


Female Founders

Image: DealStreetAsia

Singapore led the top markets in deal value, significantly boosted by substantial funding rounds for companies such as ANEXT Bank, which secured US$188 million, and Singlife, with US$132.7 million in funding.

ANEXT Bank was co-founded by Su Mei Toh, and Pearlyn Phau the Group Chief Executive Officer of Singlife, showcase the impactful contributions of female entrepreneurs in the region’s vibrant startup ecosystem.

Vietnam’s impressive 53 percent share of funding to female founders underscores a regional openness to diversity in entrepreneurship.

The Philippines and Malaysia also showed significant engagement, with female founders capturing 23 percent and notable shares of their respective markets.

MADCash and Saladin Founders’ Journey 

Nuraizah Shamsul Baharin of MADCash

Nuraizah Shamsul Baharin

The narratives of Nuraizah Shamsul Baharin of MADCash and Vivien Van Le of Saladin provide invaluable insights into the motivations, challenges, and achievements of female founders in the region. 

Nuraizah’s transition from engineering to entrepreneurship highlights the diverse paths leading women to the startup world, emphasising the importance of leveraging one’s strengths and overcoming gender biases through logical decision-making and empathy.

Vivien Van LeFemale Founders

Vivien Van Le

On the other hand, Vivien’s story shows how economic reforms and personal experiences across Southeast Asia fuelled her entrepreneurial spirit.

Her success in leveraging technology to solve sector-specific problems in Vietnam underlines the critical role of female leadership in driving innovation and economic growth.

Gender biases and solutions

Despite these successes, female founders encounter significant obstacles, from societal expectations to biases in the fundraising ecosystem. 

The challenge is compounded by a skewed perception scrutinising a female entrepreneur’s personal life and professional capabilities.

Female Founders

Addressing these challenges necessitates a multifaceted approach. Mentorship is crucial, offering guidance, support, and networking opportunities that can lead to funding and partnerships. 

The stories of successful female entrepreneurs underline the value of having mentors who can navigate the intricacies of the startup ecosystem and provide strategic advice.

Strategic partnerships and building a solid support network are equally important. Collaborations with other businesses, industry leaders, and investors can provide the necessary resources, knowledge, and exposure to propel a startup forward. 

The journey of Nuraizah and Vivien illustrates how fostering relationships and leveraging networks can significantly impact a startup’s growth trajectory and fundraising success.

Towards an inclusive future

The progress made by female founders in Southeast Asia in 2023 is a testament to their resilience, innovation, and leadership. However, the path to gender equality in the startup ecosystem is fraught with challenges that require collective efforts.

Investors, policymakers, and the entrepreneurial community must work together to create a supportive and inclusive environment that encourages and nurtures women-led businesses.

Encouragingly, the increasing visibility of successful female entrepreneurs and their contributions to the region’s economy is challenging stereotypes and inspiring a new generation of women to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. 

These trailblazers pave the way for future female founders and contribute to Southeast Asia’s more diverse, equitable, and dynamic startup ecosystem.

Paving the way forward

2023 marked a significant milestone in closing the gender funding gap in Southeast Asia’s startup ecosystem. 

While the increase in equity funding for female-founded startups is a positive sign, it also highlights the need for sustained efforts to address the underlying challenges that hinder gender equality in entrepreneurship. 

The stories of resilience, creativity, and success among female founders underscore the immense potential of women to drive economic growth and innovation.

 As Southeast Asia continues to evolve as a vibrant hub for startups, empowering female entrepreneurs will be crucial in shaping a more inclusive and prosperous future for the region.

Featured image credit: Edited from Freepik