Backing Ireland’s female entrepreneurs and women-led businesses

7 March 2023

Female entrepreneurs are scaling businesses like never before—and we’re keen to back them, says BGF investor Lauren Sharpe.

Recent research from Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) found that Ireland had one of the highest rates of early-stage female entrepreneurship in Europe, at 11%. Indeed, women are setting up and scaling businesses in Ireland faster than ever before. Chupi Sweetman is a good recent example, as the founder of fast-growing jewellery brand Chupi.

The amount that female entrepreneurs are raising to fund their businesses is also increasing. According to TechIreland, female-led startups secured twice as much funding in 2021 (€230m) than in 2020 (€105m). But this progress is from a low base, and still only 13% of tech investment in Ireland is deployed to female founders. Historically, it’s been tough for women trying to fundraise in an ecosystem that’s overwhelmingly male, both on the investor side and the entrepreneur side. Fortunately, this is changing.

There are some really great role models in the Irish ecosystem now—like Anne Heraty, who founded and scaled the recruitment firm CPL (becoming the first female CEO of a publicly quoted company in Ireland). Plus, the number of female investors working in the industry is rapidly increasing, with women making up 57% of new investment hires across BGF last year.

Meanwhile, we’re seeing more female-focused investor groups forming, such as Deloitte’s Women in Private Equity network events and Level 20, and impactful initiatives like Going for Growth and the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund’s plan to invest €50m through women-led PE firms over the next two years.

Across BGF, we’ve already deployed €470m to 57 female-founded businesses in new and follow-on investments. This network alone is a powerful support for female founders and CEOs in our portfolio, alongside the numerous knowledge sharing opportunities and events that we run.

The ScaleUp Institute has named BGF as the most active investor in female-led scaleups in the UK for three years running, and we’d love to replicate that in Ireland. Already, we’ve backed two exceptional Irish female entrepreneurs, through our investments into Brindley Healthcare and Tigers Childcare, and we’re in discussions with several other female founders.

Brindley, led by founder and CEO Amanda Torrens, was our very first investment in Ireland. We provided the nursing home group with a €10m investment in January 2019, to fund numerous acquisitions and expand its management team. Brindley was sold to a strategic acquirer in 2020.

As for Tigers, the company was founded by former teacher Karen Clince in 2003, after she saw high demand for quality after-school childcare. Now, 20 years on, the company has grown to 15 sites nationally, making it the third-largest childcare provider in Ireland. We invested €10.5m into Tigers in November 2021, to help Karen acquire further creches and deliver on her mission of supporting as many families as possible.

My advice for female founders raising capital is to find an investor that really understands you and your business. The right funding partner should both support and challenge you but also, most importantly, add real value for you—whether that’s via international expansion, acquisition or building out your team.

In Ireland, we’ve made great strides in levelling the playing field for female entrepreneurs and I’m confident we’re moving in the right direction. Investment firms like BGF have a big part to play and we’re always on the lookout for more women-led businesses. So, if you have ambitious growth plans and are seeking additional support, please get in touch.