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Quarterly Startup Fundraising Trends from DocSend’s Fundraising Network (DFN)

We've reviewed more than 2,500 Pre-seed, Seed and Series A pitch decks through the DocSend Fundraising Network. Stay on top of the latest fundraising trends with quarterly updates to this blog.

Since launching the DocSend Fundraising Network (DFN) in June of 2020, we’ve received over 2,500 pitch decks from Pre-seed, Seed, and Series A startups looking for funding.

Our pitch deck analyzer (which is the application mechanism for the DFN) has evaluated decks from all over the world and delivered personalized, data-driven feedback to founders looking to improve their pitch. And thanks to our Deal Flow Newsletter, we’ve helped hundreds of founders get their pitch deck in front of dozens of VCs and made it easy for VCs to request introductions to those founders with the click of a button.

What’s even more exciting? The connections we’ve forged through the DFN have led to a few deals! Read our case study about how UserGems raised their $2.4M seed round from Uncork Capital and over 60 investors with the help of the DFN.

Thanks to this round-the-clock activity of the DocSend Fundraising Network (as well as our Weekly Fundraising Trends) we like to think we’ve got a strong finger on the pulse of the startup fundraising ecosystem. Accordingly, we’ve unearthed a handful of interesting findings that paint a more detailed picture about the kinds of companies that have sought funding through the DFN each quarter. Below are some data-driven insights into the companies that have applied thus far—the gender composition of their leadership teams, the countries where they are based, and the industries in which they operate.

Industry trends in startup fundraising 

Q2 2021: Future of Work Still Innovating: While the DFN saw steady representation from a wide range of industries, companies in the future of work and HR tech space stood out this quarter (making up the highest percentage of submissions). This trend makes it clear that we’re still in the beginning stages of figuring out how to best adapt to our new post-pandemic working conditions. Consistent with past quarters, we also saw higher submission numbers from companies spanning a wide range of other industries, including those in travel & tourism, cybersecurity, real estate, and business intelligence.

Industry Insights from Previous Quarters:

  • Q1 2021: Retail, Beauty & Fashion Dominate: Consistent with previous quarters, the decks that came through the DFN in Q1 were dominated by companies in fintech. But consumer goods companies (retail, beauty, etc.) and the ecommerce marketplace space were the other two industries that made up the top third or so of DFN applicants. As online shopping surged in 2020 amidst the pandemic, it became clear that we might never return to the pre-pandemic status-quo of in-person shopping. Accordingly, we saw many companies experimenting in the ecommerce space, whether that be through establishing a D2C brand or improving the online shopping experience with a new B2B saas idea.
  • Q4 2020: Ecommerce and Future of Work Emerge: The decks that came through the DFN in Q4 were dominated by companies in the health and fintech space, but we also saw an uptick in innovators in the ecommerce/marketplace and future of work/HR tech space. Still in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic, founders were focused on tackling relevant problems that emerged as we grappled with a socially-distant, remote environment.
  • Q3 2020: Fintech and Healthcare came out on top: Fintech and healthcare accounted for the majority of applicants to the DFN this quarter. Wellness, food and beverage, media, and retail/beauty/fashion innovators were also frequent. A common thread here was around targeting a market that is sheltering at home — remote healthcare, remote wellness, and D2C goods.

Gender breakdown in startup fundraising

Q2 2021 Insight: 33% of teams that were accepted into the DFN in Q2 had at least one female on the founding team. This percentage is on par with, and even slightly higher than, the rate at which they applied (31%). Our data-driven deck analysis aims to even the playing field for founders, so in a year when female founders have received less funding, we’re excited to bring strong companies led by women and other underrepresented founders into the DFN.

Team Insights from Previous Quarters: 

  • Q1 2021: One third of teams accepted into the DFN had a woman in charge: DFN submissions from female-led companies slipped from the previous quarter to 11%. Mixed gender teams applied in slightly lower numbers as well (at about 18%, down from 19% last quarter). Despite their lower representation in submissions, however, about one third of the teams accepted into the DFN had at least one female member on the founding team.
  • Q4 2020: Female founders applying in higher numbers: DFN submissions from female-led companies jumped up to 15% during Q4, a 5% increase from last quarter.
  • Q3 2020: All-female teams were accepted into the DFN more frequently than all-male teams: Teams with all-female leadership had a higher acceptance rate into the DFN (29%) than teams with all-male leadership (17%). This trend is consistent with other data that has emerged outside the realm of the DFN. Research has shown that female-led companies tend to outperform male-led companies, yet they still have a more difficult path toward funding and are underrepresented in c-suite positions.

Geographical insights in startup fundraising

Q2 2021 Insight: Europe Dominates Submissions: In Q2, about 58% of deck submissions came from the United States while 42% came from other countries around the world. We saw companies headquartered in Australia, Africa, Asia, Latin America, and the Middle East, but we received more decks from the EU than anywhere else, making up close to 50% of non-US submissions. Following closely behind was the United Kingdom with 40%. This quarter we’ve added significantly more global VCs to serve this demand, but we’re always looking to expand further. You can find more information about joining as a VC (or founder) here.

Geographic Insights from Previous Quarters: 

  • Q1 2021: International startups made up about one fourth of companies in the DFN: About 23% of companies that were accepted into the DFN in Q1 were international, contributing to an already strong presence of international companies that have been a part of the DFN since its inception. Taking into account our accepted cohort of international companies from previous quarters (26%), this means that just about one fourth of companies in the DFN are international.
  • Q4 2020: Most submissions came from the US: A majority of the strongest decks that have applied to the DFN have consistently come from the US. In Q4, that majority only increased. Strong decks from the US jumped from just over two thirds in Q3 to over three quarters in Q4.
  • Q3 2020: Impressive decks came from across the pond: 30% of the strongest decks that applied came from outside the US. The highest number of these submissions came from the UK, accounting for 31% of decks. Following closely behind was the EU (26%) and Asia (15%).

One of the primary reasons we created the network was to expand access to venture capital to founders who have quality ideas, but who might be without easy means to get in front of the right investors. We’re ecstatic to see our data-driven approach has identified quality startups that deserve VC attention and to remove some of the common biases in the fundraising process, and that the DFN consistently represents a strong diversity of industries, founders, and company locations.

How to join the DocSend Fundraising Network

Investors can find out more here and email us at [email protected] in order to gain access to our deal flow newsletter. And founders can find out how to apply to the DFN here. (Please note, due to demand we only allow one submission per company.)