The Bangladesh Women Investors Network: fostering female entrepreneurship in Bangladesh

In 2017, the Dutch Good Growth Fund supported Aavishkaar Capital to conceptualise and implement the Bangladesh Angels Network (BAN). In partnership with local start-up ecosystem leaders in Bangladesh, BAN makes it easier for early-stage, technology enabled entrepreneurs to access risk capital. Since its launch, the network has invested in 44 start-up companies in Bangladesh and has helped to facilitate more than USD 7M of investments into the start-up sector in the country. This represents almost 26% of all domestic start-up investments in Bangladesh in the last four years, with 1 in 3 start-up deals having participation from BAN.

The challenge of enlarging impact

The group boasts a portfolio that spans the full spectrum of digital sectors within Bangladesh, and currently contains more than 400 members, not only in Bangladesh, but from the Bangladeshi diaspora across five different continents.

Nevertheless, BAN also faces challenges to enlarge its impact, for example regarding fostering female entrepreneurship. Indeed, the current ratio of women investors within the network stands at 15%, and 25% of the companies within the portfolio is women-led. To move the needle on both metrics, BAN launched a sister chapter in early 2022; the Bangladesh Women Investors Network (BWIN). This network specifically puts a spotlight on women start-up entrepreneurs, encourages more women to become angel investors, and helps to create a platform and community that brings both together through its own programmes separate from, but complementary of, BAN's.

Image: ©The Financial Express

Extending the BWIN network

BWIN is led by an all-women advisory board and analysts, carved from within BAN's existing governing board and team. All members of BWIN get automatic access to BAN, and BAN members are encouraged to get their partners, relatives, and colleagues to join BWIN in order to explore angel investing. Currently, the aim for BWIN is to spin out of BAN, as its own self-sustaining independent entity, focused wholly on investing in women entrepreneurs and creating the gender lens ecosystem in Bangladesh.

Support and new initatives

Since its launch 2022, BWIN has supported six women-led companies raise close to USD 700K. Furthermore, by the end of 2022, BWIN launched WeScale, a cross-regional digital accelerator to support 100 women-led, digitally enabled companies in South Asia to raise their first funds and scale regionally. Besides, it is working with Sweef Capital and the Aspen Network of Development Entrepreneurs to apply a "Gender ROI" framework and analysis for BAN's portfolio - the first time an angel network has done so.

In the second half of 2023, BWIN aims to design and launch two complementary programmes. On the one hand, a "Bloom Fellowship" programme, aiming to place 300 to 500 young women graduates into employment in the start-up ecosystem in Bangladesh over the next five years, to build the long-term talent pipeline for the sector. On the other hand, an online "Angel Academy" programme, to teach would-be and aspiring women entrepreneurs and angels the basics of angel investing, built on BAN's knowledge and expertise developed over five years of pioneering the angel ecosystem in Bangladesh.

The Gender Lens Strategy of the Dutch Good Growth Fund

Through the support of Aavishkaar and BAN, the Dutch Good Growth Fund encourages female entrepreneurship in countries like Bangladesh. In addition, we have been supporting the Aavishkaar Frontier Fund through our Intermediary Funds facility since 2015. As increasing the access to finance to female entrepreneurs is a strategic priority of DGGF, we will continue to work towards this in the coming years. More information on how DGGF addresses this work can be found in our Gender Lens Strategy.