2021 Set Fundraising Record For Woman-Powered APAC Businesses

Amanda Cheesley Deputy Editor 9 March 2023

2021 Set Fundraising Record For Woman-Powered APAC Businesses

JP Morgan Private Bank this week released its Asia-Pacific focused Top 100 Women-powered, High-Growth Business report, which analyses women’s representation in the high-growth businesses segment for the region based on various sectors.

Despite the impact of Covid-19, JP Morgan's report found that 2021 was a record fundraising year for women-powered businesses with $12 billion raised, accounting for 32 per cent of aggregate fundraising by these companies since incorporation. 

In particular, women-powered businesses attracted $41 million per round in 2021, a fourfold increase from $10 million per round in 2017, the report shows.

However, although fundraising has made progress, the study also revealed that out of the region’s 15,000 high-growth private businesses across 12 APAC markets, no more than 5.7 per cent are founded, co-founded, led or managed by women. This represents 848 companies – indicating that the number of women-powered, high-growth businesses has remained relatively flat over the past five-year period. Given the velocity of successful fundraising by women-powered businesses to support their growth, companies in APAC may benefit from greater representation of women in business leadership, the firm said.

Interviewees from the top 100 women-powered, high growth businesses ranking identified the need for further support through inclusive networks, mentoring and closer collaboration among women to build stronger professional community networks and outreach. 

The report was issued in the week that saw International Women's Day, a programme of events around the world to highlight the issues, challenges and achievements of women in all walks of life. The wealth management industry has traditionally been a male-dominated space.

While APAC continues to re-open and the pandemic recedes, the region faces continued challenges amid an uncertain global economic environment. Initiatives to promote the development of women-powered businesses can support the continued success for high-growth companies in overcoming economic challenges and having greater representation of women in leadership across the region, the report found. 

Top three sectors with the highest proportion of women-powered businesses
The sectors with the highest proportion of women-powered businesses in the high-growth segment were technology at 22 per cent, consumer goods and retail at 19 per cent and healthcare at 16 per cent respectively. These top three sectors received the most funding and investment flows, the report found.

In particular, APAC women-powered companies in the financial services sector raised $2.4 billion in 2021, representing 52 per cent of total funds raised for that sector. The rebound in average per round funding for women-powered, high-growth businesses in APAC also reflected the Covid-19 pandemic-induced market opportunity, particularly for technology start-ups, which benefitted from the accelerated adoption of digital technologies during the pandemic.

Top five markets with the most funds raised by women-powered businesses
The top five markets with the most funds raised by women-powered businesses in the report are China, Singapore, Australia, Indonesia and South Korea.

China led the region with outsized inflows of $27 billion, accounting for 72 per cent of funds raised, whilst the latter four markets collectively achieved $7.1 billion of investments into businesses powered by women, the report shows. Regional initiatives are also emerging that are driving accessibility, opportunity and independence among women in the start-up ecosystem across APAC.

Investors have also been using ESG standards to evaluate potential performance. The report shows that several of the top 100 women-powered, high-growth businesses have developed purpose-led and mission driven businesses. They include Triastek, which uses 3D printing for small-scale medicine production, paving the way for personalised therapies, while using raw materials more efficiently and avoiding toxic waste.

They also include TurtleTree, a Singaporean cell-based milk maker, which ranked 41 out of the top 100 businesses. “Animals are not part of the production process, so there is no animal cruelty or methane emissions,” Fengru Lin, founder and CEO of TurtleTree said. “We placed the production site near big cities, which shrinks the carbon footprint from transportation and provides access to renewable energy. We are looking at technologies that enable zero liquid discharge, so that all water output would be recycled, purified and circulated back to the plant,” she added. 

“I imagine that in the next five to seven years, TurtleTree will have a footprint in most food products. There are so many opportunities under this umbrella to build new ventures,” she continued.

Brighte, a Sydney-based company, which ranked in the top 10 firms, meanwhile provides sustainable financing solutions for the installation of rooftop solar systems across households, the purchase of electric vehicles or installation of charging stations. In assisting individuals to overcome upfront costs to power their lives with renewable energy, Brighte said it has helped to save more than 930,000 metric tonnes of CO2 emissions each year.

“When you give up a great career to start something completely unproven, people often think you are impractical. I had moments where I doubted myself, so support networks were essential to help with that self-belief and focus,” Katherine McConnell, founder and CEO of Brighte, added.

Top 10 women-powered companies
The top 10 ranking features five companies based across various cities in China. Airwallex, an international payments technology and platform enterprise based in Hong Kong, is the top women-powered, high-growth company. Three were from Southeast Asia: aCommerce from Thailand ranked third and two FinTech unicorns, Xendit in fourth place, a simplified payment solutions company for business across Southeast Asia, and Ajaib was in tenth place, an online brokerage trading platform for equity products targeting Gen-Z and Millennials from Indonesia. 

South Korean e-grocery giant Kurly, which ranked fifth, rode the pandemic wave and saw its revenue increase threefold at the end of 2021. Last but not least, Brighte ranked eighth, a company with an ESG mission at its core, offering Australian families affordable access to solar energy installation in their own homes.

Kam Shing Kwang, chief executive officer for JP Morgan Private Bank in Asia and vice chair of Investment Banking for Greater China, said: “There is a clear correlation with successful organisations that have a diverse workforce. Over a long period, as a firm, we’ve directly benefited greatly from being inclusive and promoting diversity. I’m also very proud that the private bank leadership team in [the] region has equal representation.”

“This report seeks to augment the ongoing efforts and create industry-leading networking opportunities to bring together like-minded women and those with a shared vision to exchange ideas,” Kwang continued.

The report was produced using a proprietary methodology designed by Ernst and Young with distinct weightage on funding – combining the ability and the frequency to raise capital and investments and the measure of investor confidence in the assessment of the companies for the ranking. Data and statistics up until 30 April 2022 were used in the analysis. The report also celebrates women business leaders who made it to the Top 100 list of women-powered, high-growth businesses in APAC.

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