• M12, EQT Ventures and SVB Financial Group present the winners of their global startup competition for female founders
SAN FRANCISCO : On Tuesday (December 11), Microsoft Corp. venture fund M12, in partnership with EQT Ventures and SVB Financial Group, announced the two winners of the Female Founders Competition: Acerta and Mental Canvas. The companies and their founders, Greta Cutulenco (CEO and co-founder, Acerta) and Julie Dorsey (founder and chief scientist, Mental Canvas) beat out several hundred applicants to receive $2 million each in venture funding, along with access to technology resources and more to help progress the future of their businesses.
Earlier this year, M12 and its partners kicked off the global event in a bid to not only find and fund innovative female entrepreneurs, but also to spotlight the funding gap that exists and the need for more equitable distribution of capital. Hundreds of startups across North America, Europe and Israel applied, providing a glimpse into the potential opportunity and untapped talent in the market.
“Our goal for this competition was to clear a path to funding for more women entrepreneurs,” said Peggy Johnson, executive vice president of Business Development, Microsoft. “We were thrilled by the response we received and feel confident that we’ll see great returns on our two newest additions to our portfolio, but we also know there’s much more work to do. We plan to continue exploring other ways to close the funding gap using the lessons we learned from this competition: There’s no shortage of women entrepreneurs building for the enterprise, there’s more than one way to source an investment, and networking is essential to women founders’ growth and success.”
In early November, the VC firms narrowed the selection down to 10 finalists. Teams from each startup then pitched their company to a group of judges from M12 and the partner VC firms for one of two chances at the top prize: a total of $2 million in venture funding from M12, EQT Ventures and SVB Financial Group, and access to Microsoft technology. The winning companies include:
Waterloo, Ontario-based Acerta, founded by CEO Greta Cutulenco, provides an AI platform that ensures vehicle systems’ quality and reliability throughout a vehicle’s lifecycle. New York-based Mental Canvas, founded by chief scientist Julie Dorsey, reimagines sketching for the digital age by augmenting it with spatial strokes, 3-D navigation and free-form animations, all drawn with the ease of pencil and paper.
“At SVB, we have the good fortune to work with some of the most innovative companies around the world,” said Tracy Isacke, head of Corporate Venture at Silicon Valley Bank. “This partnership provided the opportunity to meet some incredible female founders, and we were truly inspired by the depth and breadth of innovation that they are bringing to the enterprise technology market. We are proud to support Acerta and Mental Canvas as they pursue their ambitious business goals.”
“The quality and number of submissions for the competition was incredible, and the EQT Ventures team would like to congratulate both Acerta and Mental Canvas,” said Alastair Mitchell, partner and investment advisor at EQT Ventures. “Our fund is dedicated to backing founders with the ambition, drive and vision to build a global success story, and this competition not only provides a great launchpad for Acerta and Mental Canvas, it highlights the fact that far more needs to be done to close the funding gap between male and female founders. The EQT Ventures team is proud to play a part in bridging that gap.”
Microsoft’s mission is to empower every person and organization on the planet to achieve more. With the help of its partners and competitions like this, the company is pushing forward in its efforts to ensure women are afforded an equal opportunity when raising capital.
More on the Female Founders Competition can be found on the Official Microsoft Blog.