Two women talking A woman on a laptop

The State of Black Women Founders


ProjectDiane2018 is a biennial demographic study authored by digitalundivided that provides a snapshot of the state of Black Women Founders, and the startups they lead, in the United States

ProjectDiane2018 is supported by:

JP Morgan Chase logo
Ewing Marion Kaufman Foundation logo
Case Foundation logo
Separator line


Where are the Black Women Founders?

Close to 50% of all Black Women–led startups are located in two states: California and New York.

Learn more about where Black Women founders are located by making a selection from the dropdown below and interacting with the map.

There are 2x more Black women–led startups...

The number of startups founded by Black women has more than doubled since 2016, yet the percentage of Black women–led startups is far less than the percentage of Black women in the U.S.

In 2017, there were...


funded startups led by at least one woman founder.

Of these startups...

< 4%

were led by Black women

Black women make up 14% of the U.S. women’s population

Digital Undivided watermark

But we’ve got a long way to go to ensure these companies are funded

Since 2009, Black women–led startups have raised $289MM in venture/angel funding, with a significant portion of that raised in 2017. This represents .06% of the $424.7 billion in total tech venture funding raised since 2009.

Amount Raised by Black Women–Led Startups by Year

A chart

Source: ProjectDiane 2018

Digital Undivided watermark

The $1MM Club is growing...

The $1MM Club are Black women who've raised over $1MM in outside venture funding. $1MM was chosen as a goal because the median seed round raised by companies is approximately $600,000, so $1MM raised would indicate the startup has been able to raise additional funding post their seed round. Usually, to raise additional funding after the initial significant seed investment requires the startups to show some progress in the development of the business.

Number Who Raised Over $1MM in Venture Funding

A chart

Black women

2015: 12

12 dots

2017: 34

34 dots

Digital Undivided watermark

But the average funding raised by all Black women is $42,000

While there is a growing number of Black women crossing the $1MM venture threshold, a majority of Black women–led startups do not raise any money.

The average raised by those who raised less than $1MM is $42,000, a 15% increase since 2016. According to Crunchbase, the average seed round was $1.14MM.


Average among Black women who raised less than $1MM


Average seed round for all startups

Digital Undivided watermark

Howard beats Harvard

Over 95% of the founders in ProjectDiane2018 have a bachelor’s degree and 50% have a Master’s or a PhD. This is higher than the national average of startup founders with bachelor's degrees (92%). One noteworthy data point: At the undergraduate level, Howard University, a historically black college and university (HBCU) in Washington, D.C., produced more Black women–led startups than Harvard University.

Universities with the Highest Number of Black Women Founders

Rank Undergrad Total # of Startups with a Black Woman Founder
1 Howard University 7
2 Stanford University
Harvard University
3 University of California, Berkeley
Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Rank Grad Total # of Startups with a Black Woman Founder
1 Howard University 10
2 Stanford University 9
3 Northwestern University 5
4 University of Pennsylvania
Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Digital Undivided watermark

But being STEM focused is not an indicator of startup/founder success

Black women with non-STEM related undergraduate or graduate degrees were able to raise, on average, 2.5 times as much as those with STEM degrees. Furthermore, prior work experience at a major tech company is often a factor used by investors in assessing a startup. Yet, only 18% of the Black women who’ve raised over $1MM reported working for a tech company, and less than half (38%) of the Black women in ProjectDiane2018 worked for a tech company.

Average Amount of Funding Raised by STEM vs Non STEM Degree

BA Degree Type Ave. Funding Raised # of Companies
Did not indicate degree $346,153.85 13
Non-STEM $1,516,763.40 144
STEM $627,291.10 70

Digital Undivided watermark

How to Use ProjectDiane2018 to Impact Change

Numbers don’t lie. Here are a few suggestions for ways to use ProjectDiane to inspire and impact the future of entrepreneurship for Black and Latinx founders.

1. If you’re not a founder, consider starting your own entrepreneurial journey. Learn more about digitalundivided’s programming, by visiting us at digitalundivided.

2. If you’re a founder, stand up and be counted. ProjectDiane is an ongoing data initiative that helps informs global and national policy for entrepreneurs of color. Make sure you’re counted by adding yourself to our database.

3. Founder or not, support the startup ecosystem. Become an investor. Mentor a founder. Sponsor a founder. Attend startup events in your area. Underwrite programs and research.

There are endless ways to support a startup ecosystem near you and the inclusive entrepreneurship movement in general. For more ideas, connect with digitalundivided on Facebook and/or Twitter and check out digitalundivided.


ProjectDiane is a demographic study that provides a snapshot of the current landscape for Black Women in the innovation space. ProjectDiane2018 covers the two year time period of November 2015- November 2017. A team of 10 data collectors reviewed over 8,000 U.S.-based startups and companies located in the Crunchbase, Pitchbook and Mattermark databases as well used updated data from the ProjectDiane2016 database. digitalundivided also reached out to top organizations working with Black and Latinx entrepreneurs and startups via email, social media, and word of mouth and employed an online survey to collect additional data. Once a startup was entered into the database it went through a verification process, and for those indicating raising over $250,000 in outside funding, digitalundivided conducted additional verifications process including written confirmation from investors, clips/links from major press coverage, and letters from legal representation.

About digitalundivided

digitalundivided (DID), a hybrid social enterprise founded in 2013, takes an innovative approach to community-level economic empowerment by encouraging high potential Black and Latinx women (BLWE) to own their economic security through entrepreneurship and technology. digitalundivided has demonstrated core competencies in building and scaling successful data-driven programs that remove barriers and create a pathway for women of color into innovation entrepreneurship and has served as a singular force in moving the needle on inclusion in the innovation economy as a whole.

To learn more about the digitalundivided mission, visit here.

Want more insights on the state of Black women in tech entrepreneurship in the United States?

© 2020 digitalundivided | All Rights Reserved.

Back to top arrow