Women represent one of the biggest untapped resources in business and it’s a billion dollar opportunity going begging. That’s the view of Roshni Mahtani, CEO and Founder of Tickled Media, the publisher of South East Asia’s largest parenting website with 12 million monthly users.

“If you’re a venture capitalist or investor, you’re trying to look for the next unicorn. The gap right now is really in the women market space,” she said.

“This is a huge opportunity for anyone in the investment space because it’s completely overlooked.”

Speaking on the main stage at Startcon 2017, Mahtani described the under investment in female-led organisations as “the most overlooked billion dollar opportunity”. Despite women outperforming men in many areas they were not receiving anywhere near comparable VC funding, she said.

Based on her analysis, female-led businesses in Asia and the US are attracting comparatively “dismal” funding.

“Even though 40 to 45 per cent of companies set up in Singapore were run by women, only about five per cent were receiving VC funding. In the US it’s about 38 per cent and between two to six per cent receive VC funding.”

Roshini Mahtani speaking at Startcon

Mahtani then turned her attention to discovering why the female funding numbers were so low. While many of the businesses were small or difficult to scale there were still 18 to 25 per cent of the female run business in Singapore were tech enabled “that could become billion dollar opportunities.”

It means the VC funding percentage should be closer to 18 per cent, not its current five per cent, she said.

“If you say that women are not running companies that are sexy for VCs, that’s not true.”

This then raised the question of the impact of bias, or at least unconscious bias, according to Mahtani. While that is difficult to prove, the numbers and women’s track record in business suggest it could be a factor, she said.

The gap in funding is made more perplexing by data which suggests women run better businesses, according to Mahtani.

According to research cited in Mahtani’s presentation, women run companies deliver a greater median total shareholder return and have outperformed their male counterparts in three of the last five years. Increasing female representation in leadership roles also correlates with increased net revenue margin, she said.

A slide from Mahtani’s Startcon presentation

Mahtani conceeds the data alone does not assure women run better businesses, but there is none yet to the contrary.

“There has been no data that proves that women run worse businesses than men. But we are not getting the funding. There’s a huge opportunity out there.”

Mahtani is also a cofounder of Female Founders, a non profit aimed at accelerating the female founders ecosystem in Singapore , Indonesia and Japan by increasing the number of female funded start-ups from five per cent to 20 per cent by 2020.

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